In the movie The Darkest Hour, about Winston Churchill’s early days as British prime minister at the start of the war with Germany, there is an entertaining scene.
Churchill is having a loud disagreement with Lord Halifax, one of his leading doubters, in the British equivalent of the White House situation room.
Churchill, in the middle of this exchange, says, “Stop interrupting me while I am interrupting you.”
It is not clear whether Churchill actually said this or whether it is just some good screenwriter’s imagining of what he might have said.
In any event, the exchange certainly seemed applicable to the hearings that have taken place involving the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
They have been out of control, with no decorum and much exaggeration. Overall, they have been an embarrassment to the Senate.
Most of the chaos has been initiated by the audience, which appears to have been peppered with people who think anarchy is the best form of government.
But unfortunately for the Senate and its alleged status as the world’s greatest deliberative body, a considerable amount of the demeaning disruption has been carried out by senators.
The first-term senator from California, (D), shouted at the chairman of the committee throughout his rather benign opening remarks, insisting she wanted the hearing stopped.
She interrupted him in a manner that made it appear she thought she was serving as some associate professor at UC Berkeley, participating in one of the school’s numerous, mindless and tasteless street protests.
She was followed by Sen. (D), the junior senator from New Jersey.
Booker decided that Senate rules on confidentiality of information should be unilaterally ignored. He proclaimed he was releasing a memo or email that had been given protected status by the Senate because he wanted to do so.
With great self-righteous chest-pounding, he proclaimed his violation of Senate rules a just cause.
Ironically, it turned out he did not even know the documents were no longer listed as confidential.
This, however, did not change the fact that he was willing to aggressively step on the traditions and ethics of the Senate for self-promotional purposes.
One of the great senators of the post-war period was Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican from Maine.
Essentially alone, she stood up to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), whose demagoguery and meanness had cowed the rest of the Senate.
In her courageous speech “Declaration of Conscience,” she said the Senate had “too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.”
She went on to declare, in her rejection of the antics of McCarthy, that the Senate should not become “a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism.”
Her words, and more importantly her courageous actions, should come back to haunt those senators on both sides of the aisle who must be appalled by the demeaning of the institution that has occurred during the nomination hearings of Judge Kavanaugh.
Opposition is appropriate. Destruction of the elevated status of the Senate is not.
It is time for the leadership of the Senate from both sides of the aisle to call a special session.
It should be held in the old Senate chamber. This is the chamber which is used only when grave issues involving the role and purpose of the Senate are to be taken up.
The object of the meeting should be to reaffirm the comity of the Senate. The session should set forth an understanding that enough is enough; that the status and stature of the Senate will be reasserted.
Little more needs to come out of this meeting.
Its conclusion is obvious: an agreement by all the members of the Senate that the chamber stands for more than the individuals who serve in it.
The Senate stands as the most extraordinary democratic body in the history of free peoples.
It is a role and institution worth protecting.
Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.