A Harvard University constitutional law scholar raised eyebrows on Thursday when he tweeted that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was a “flagrant dickhead,” and at least one of his peers in legal academia was “alarmed” by what he saw. Georgetown University Constitutional Law Prof. Jonathan Turley took a moment on his blog to lament to loss of civil discourse.
As Law&Crime noted Thursday, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University Laurence Tribe, 77, was not about to let McConnell slide for promising to fill a potential Supreme Court vacancy in 2020. McConnell, of course, never allowed former President Barack Obama‘s Supreme Court nominee D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals chief judge Merrick Garland to get a hearing in 2016, citing the closeness to the election.
Thus, McConnell was immediately slammed for hypocrisy.
After then-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, McConnell said the vacancy “should not be filled until we have a new President.”
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” McConnell said. Scalia was replaced by Neil Gorsuch. After Anthony Kennedy retired, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, shifting the balance of the court.
Tribe was clearly not happy about what McConnell’s 180, so he called McConnell a “dickhead.” Tribe’s tweet ended up getting attention from a few other outlets. Turley saw it, and Turley responded with a shaming.
Turley began by pointing out that President Donald Trump is often criticized for the offensive things he says. Turley was unsettled, however, by Tribe flouting a “tradition” among academics “of civility in discourse.” Turley said that while name-calling and ad hominem attacks are the norm these days, Tribe should not have said what he did, given that he is a “renowned academic” and one of the “nation’s leading academics.”
“I certainly understand Tribe’s frustration but people of good faith, and particularly professors, need to try to restore civil discourse in our public debates,” Turley opined. “Otherwise reasoned debate will be replaced by mere ridicule. Democratic candidates have already started to return personal insults from Trump. That may be a way to appeal to the extremes of our politics but it will do little to convince people on the merits of these issues.”
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