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World’s ‘Greatest Deliberative Corpse’

There was a time when the United States Senate was regarded by many, and referred to by some, as the “world’s greatest deliberative body”. Nowadays, however, one can handle deliver that phrase with a straight face while also stifling a bitter chuckle, since the “body” is decomposing at an alarming rate these days.

Barely a day after the stunning news of Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s death (and, presumably, before the justice’s body was even cold) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that “[t]he American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” (Forgetting, apparently, that giving “people a voice” is ostensibly why Americans hold elections and vote for people like him in the first place.)

Not generally known for his sense of humor — or grasp of irony, for that matter — the very deliberate meaning of this announcement by the Senate’s only half-human/half-tortoise was Senate-speak for “We’ve spent seven years pretending the president doesn’t exist, and we’re not about to any differently in the next 11 months just because of some nit-picky words in the Constitution!” As Andy Horowitz wrote in The New Yorker, McConnell might have also added: “‘If the President has trouble doing nothing, we will be more than happy to show him how it is done’.”

But, then, adding the latter invented statement to the former actual one would be what is also known around the halls of “deliberative bodies” as a “gaffe” (that is, inadvertently speaking the truth).

Christopher Luhn


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