Looking to find a pool of light amid the current political darkness can seem a hopeless exercise, but last week, there it was, as if somehow a beam of pure sunshine was penetrating into the depths of Washington’s damp and dreary cave. Former Attorney General Sally Yates testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Ted Cruz decided it would be fun to beat her up over her refusal to defend Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban in the courts, before The Donald had her sacked.
Now, Ted is a very clever boy, a skilled debater and a knowledgeable lawyer. He’s also a smug, smirking, bullying advocate of every conceivable injustice, and so confident of his prowess that he figured he’d try out some lawyerly debating tricks on Ms. Yates. You could feel him gloating internally as he set her up for the knockout blow, quoting law at her, and preparing to take his bow when he was through running circles around the poor woman. Oh, how he relishes these opportunities to be cruel. In his oily, smarmy way, he was like George Foreman bounding into the ring to beat the living stuffing out the latest in a long line of hapless opponents.
Except he bounded face first into the debate club’s version of Muhammad Ali, and she wasn’t even going to prolong things with the rope-a-dope.
She was calm, and so very cool. She had an answer for his quotation from statute, by quoting another, apparently countervailing statute. There are technical legal arguments that might invalidate some aspects of her statutory interpretation, but Ted clearly didn’t know that. Anyway, she said, resolving a contest between the provisions of various federal statutes wasn’t the point. Whatever sweeping authority any law might grant the President to restrict entrance to the United States, all statutes, whether they make it express or not, are to be interpreted as starting with the words “Subject to the Constitution,…”. See, the travel ban was unconstitutional. Unconstitutional, get it, Ted? She was the highest law officer in the land. As such, it wasn’t her job to fight tooth and nail to defend flagrantly unconstitutional executive orders in the courts. After all, if memory served, she once took some sort of oath to uphold and defend the principles enshrined in the document with which The Donald was now so keen to wipe his ass. She might have made this all clear in advance if anyone had told her about the order before it was put into effect, with that big, stupidly grandiose Trumpian signature scraped in at the bottom.
Golly, Senator, is this your ass? Here, let me hand it to you.
Throughout her testimony it was obvious that Sally Yates was the very archetype of the honourable public servant, cerebral, preternaturally well-versed in all the pertinent information, and impossible to cow. Everything in her almost patrician bearing communicated vast integrity. If Teddy-boy possessed any ability to take an accurate measure of his opponent, he would have realized in short order that this one was not to be messed with. He would have sensed, in the sheer precision of her testimony, her extreme and special dedication to the truth and the provable facts that support it, that the usual intellectual intimidation tactics wouldn’t work this time.
But nope, he was determined to throw rocks at a tank, and the big turret traversed until the dummy was looking right down the barrel, at which point she put a round right where it would do the most good. You could see how nonplussed he was. He mumbled something and left the hearing a little while later. Skulked away like a sulky little third-grader. He probably went back to his office and threw a tantrum, abusing staff and kicking waste baskets. I just bet it especially browned him to have been sliced and diced by a woman.
My wife, a gifted lawyer herself, tells me that owing to her history with Trump, Yates would be precluded by principles of natural justice from serving as Special Prosecutor, if one were to be appointed. I dunno – having her put the investigative screws to Trump and his merry band of colluding cretins seems reasonably like some sort of natural justice to me, but what do I know? It’s a frigging shame, though.
Please, God, we haven’t seen the last of Sally Yates. She’d make a fine Senator. Maybe springboard from there to the White House. A fellow can hope, yes?