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Political Musical Chairs (a summer fantasy)

July 24th, 2022 by dk

Why should Mike Doonesbury be the only newspaper character allowed a summer fantasy? I submit for your enjoyment a breezy beach read about rearranging power and politics. It starts where too many real stories lately have ended — at the Supreme Court. It’s hard not to worry about its politicization — and loss of legitimacy.

We may be bothered — even outraged — by recent court decisions, but it won’t consume us. Chief Justice John Roberts is not so fortunate.

He fought to keep his court above the fray. And lost. He and his colleagues are now surrounded by fray. It gets in your teeth when there’s the slightest breeze. It can ruin your dinner, as Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh recently learned. Activists are mobilizing for flash mob protests, denying anyone a moment’s peace.

Roberts must know that things will only get worse. This desperate spiral needn’t tarnish his place in history, but only if he acts quickly. He has rebuked his conservative associates with words, but not with a singular deed. Here begins my daydream. If Roberts resigns immediately, he can have his own summer fantasies.

President Biden can then replace Roberts, but the dominoes must fall quickly. He should appoint Merrick Garland as Chief Justice, because It’s Only Right. This won’t change most outcomes, but it will change the face of the court. It may taunt conservatives and soothe liberals, but it would also give Garland the job for which he is most suited.

Garland’s measured approach to everything in life could restore the reputation of the court. It would also create a vacancy at the top of the Justice Department, to be filled by someone who knows the importance of occasionally prosecuting with urgency.

Who better to replace Garland than Biden’s current vice president, Kamala Harris? She has the bona fides for keeping criminals off the streets. She could serve her nation best by keeping one criminal away from Pennsylvania Avenue, permanently.

Some will complain that the Justice Department must not be politicized. The bad faith demonstrated by Trump and nearly all Republicans in Congress has shown this concern to be naive. Both sides must play by the same set of rules. “Left or right” must not be allowed to obscure “right or wrong.”

Once Harris is allowed to return to her law-enforcement roots, Biden can claim a mulligan and make a second VP choice. For all her strengths, Harris has not inspired voters and citizens, for Biden’s benefit or her own. Biden should choose somebody who can win national elections. Stacey Abrams? Gavin Newsom? Keisha Lance Bottoms?

Whoever he chooses, Biden should be unequivocal: “This is the future of the Democratic Party, and I hope the future of America.” He should endorse his choice to follow him into the Oval Office. He should not be coy about who or what — only when.

If Democrats suffer the anticipated drubbing in the midterms, Biden should follow Roberts and complete this game of musical chairs by announcing his own retirement. Not immediately, of course, but also not waiting until the end of his term.

If he retires on January 22, 2023, his chosen successor would have almost two years of incumbency before the next presidential election. He or she will remain qualified to run for two full terms. Biden could exit the stage as the bridge between past and future, as he promised. But also as the consummate deal-maker he believes himself to be.

Out of the spotlight for the first time in 50 years, Biden will have time for leisurely lunches. His first invitation should go to former Chief Justice John Roberts. They can watch a better future unfold together. Who doesn’t daydream about that?


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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