Chapter 02

Equal Justice Under Law

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Justice: Chapter 02

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SUMMARY: The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is dead. Now, with control of the Court hanging in the balance for the first time in years, the race is on to fill this critical vacancy. Who will the President nominate? Will a closely divided Senate approve his choice or will partisan politics derail the nomination? Only one thing is certain. There will be winners and losers and the balance of power may shift in the country depending upon the outcome. In the process, careers will be affected, reputations made and lost, and friendships tested. But which side will ultimately prevail is far from clear. Please note that italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.

WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.

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NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.

JUSTICE

Chapter 2

Having arrived at Reagan National Airport in Washington, Senator Paul Jennings made his way through the terminal and took his place in the line waiting for cabs.

Most Senators would have had one of their staffers back home call ahead and have someone from the Washington office pick them up, but Senator Jennings didn’t want to subject his Washington staff to that during the morning rush hour. He had never been one to take advantage of rank and the line was short in any event.

“Where to?” the driver asked when the Senator reached the front of the line and entered his cab.

“The Russell Senate Office Building,” Paul Jennings replied.

Although getting across the bridge from Virginia to the District of Columbia was often difficult at that hour of the morning, Washington’s traffic was also fickle and today the Senator had lucked out. It was quickly apparent the trip to Capitol Hill would be easier than usual.

As he sat there relaxing, Senator Jennings recalled the conversation he had had earlier that morning with the Boston cab driver who had driven him to Logan Airport for his flight to Washington.

So what do you think, Senator?” the cabbie had asked.

Think about what?” Jennings replied.

About Justice Saviano’s death.”

I was surprised,” the Senator responded. “He was relatively young and had a lovely wife and four sons. I met them once at some gathering and they seemed very nice. I feel bad for the family.”

It was an appropriate response, but one designed to conceal what the Senator actually thought.

Yeah, I hear you, Senator,” the driver said, “but personally I always thought the guy was full of himself; kind of a jerk, you know. But I guess that’s the way most people in Washington are; full of themselves.”

Uh, well, he was controversial, no doubt about it,” the Senator replied, cautiously. “America changed on his watch and he may have lost touch with what was happening at some point. Maybe we all do. We want things to stay the same, but they don’t and we have to adapt to that. In any event, we live in interesting times, that’s for sure.”

Like his initial response, this one was bland as well. But the Senator had been raised not so speak ill of the dead and was determined not to do so, at least on a Wednesday morning when America was just waking up to find the Chief Justice of the country they loved was dead.

I guess,” the driver said, “but I could do without all the gridlock. I drive these roads every day for a living and they keep getting worse. But I’m not just talking about the roads when I talk about gridlock. The whole country is gridlocked and you know why that is? I’ll tell you why. It’s because everything in Washington is so political these days. Nothing ever gets done what with all the partisanship.”

You should do something about that, Senator,” the cabbie added; “and a few more bucks for the roads would be appreciated as well.”

Uh, well, thanks,” Jennings responded, not surprised that a Boston cabbie would feel free to share an opinion with his Senator. “I’ll see what I can do about both of those things, but partisanship has been festering for a long time in this country. I’m not sure how we get out of the corner we’ve painted ourselves into.”

Maybe you should burn the place down,” the cabbie said, dropping the Senator off at Logan. “I hate Washington and everyone else in the country hates the place as well.”

Having arrived at his destination in Washington, the Senator paid the tab and quickly made his way to his office.

“Welcome back, Senator,” his receptionist, Amy Bridges, said, smiling at him.

“Good morning, Amy. Could you buzz Eric and ask him to join me?”

“Certainly,” she replied.

****

Informed the Senator wanted to see him, Eric Long pulled on his suit jacket, grabbed the papers he had been working on, and made his way to the Senator’s office.

“Good morning, Senator. You wanted to see me?”

“Yes,” Senator Jennings responded. “I assume you heard the news this morning.”

“I did,” Eric replied. “I got to the office early and drafted a brief statement to use with the press; plus a longer statement for the Senate floor this afternoon. Do you want to see them?”

“Sure,” Senator Jennings responded, taking the documents from Eric.

Leaning back in his chair, he read the press statement first.

Statement of Senator Paul Jennings on the death of Chief Justice Saviano

Like most Americans, I was shocked to hear of Justice Saviano’s death. The Chief Justice was a towering figure in American legal circles and the many decisions he authored over the years have shaped our nation profoundly.

Although best known for the public role he played as leader of the Court, Justice Saviano cherished time away from the bench with his wife and four sons. Knowing how much they loved him, I want to express my deepest condolences to the family.

I understand how painful today must be and my thoughts and prayers are with them at this difficult time.

“That’s fine,” Senator Jennings said, handing the piece of paper back to Eric after scratching out a couple of words and adding a word or two of his own.

“You can give that to Gerry to use with the media. I’m sure the Globe, the Herald, and some of the other papers back in Massachusetts will appreciate having it, but I doubt any of the national media will care one way or another. They’ll be looking for responses from bigger fish than us.”

Taking a look at the longer statement Eric had prepared for the Senate floor, Paul Jennings was impressed with just how carefully his young staffer had navigated the shoals members of Congress faced at times like this.

On the one hand, you wanted to be sympathetic because many people loved the Chief Justice and would be distraught by his death. But you had to be careful to avoid overdoing it.

People understood Saviano was controversial and knew the Senator hardly ever agreed with the man. You had to walk a narrow path at times like this and most politicians were instinctively good at that.

Usually congressional staffers were less adept in doing so. But Eric had done an excellent job in the statement he had prepared for the floor. The Senator wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time rewriting it. Jennings was grateful for that. He considered Eric his best Washington hire.

For someone without formal legal training, Eric was quick to grasp the complex issues they dealt with on the Judiciary Committee. He understood Washington politics and the media as well, probably better than Gerry Miller, the Senator’s press secretary; and having attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Eric even understood their home state as well. That was a plus.

What made him different than others, however, was that he understood Senator Jennings himself. They had similar views on virtually everything and their approach to their respective jobs was similar as well. They worked all the time, from dawn to dusk, sometimes twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year.

It was a rare thing in Washington for a member of Congress and one of his staffers to be so attuned. For that reason alone Senator Jennings was determined never to lose Eric. He was an excellent staffer, one whose talents were already in demand elsewhere.

“This is very good, Eric,” the Senator said, having read the longer document. “When we’re finished, give me a few moments to make a couple of small changes. Nothing major; you’ve captured exactly what I want to be saying today, but I may add a point or two.”

“Sure,” Eric said, realizing the Senator needed to make the document his own while also knowing any changes would likely be minor.

Eric was confident he had done a good job. If the Senator hadn’t liked it, he would have said so.

“I also pulled together some questions you may be getting from the media today and my suggested responses,” Eric added, handing still another document to the Senator.

He stood there silently as the Senator glanced through it.

“You know, Eric, you should plan on not telling the media if I ever die. Just hide me away somewhere and do this job yourself. Sometimes you scare me with your capacity to know exactly how I’ll respond to a question. It makes me wonder whether you’ve tapped into my brain somehow and downloaded whatever’s up there.”

Eric chuckled.

He was used to the Senator saying things like that by now, but it never failed to amuse him. Of course, he also realized the Senator was stroking him. Unlike many Hill staffers, Eric didn’t need a lot of praise. But he needed some and was always delighted when the Senator gave him a pat on the back.

“Did you kill any more trees on my behalf this morning?” the Senator asked, grinning at Eric.

“No; I only had a couple of hours before you got here, Senator. Though I’m sure we’ll be killing a few more in the days to come.”

“We will,” Senator Jennings agreed.

“Listen,” the Senator added. “I had a call from Bill Cahill this morning. He wants to talk to me. Do you have any idea what might be on his mind, Eric? I don’t.”

“Me either,” Eric answered, surprised to hear the Chairman had called his boss. “Perhaps he’s looking for your opinion about who the President should nominate to replace Saviano.”

“That would be flattering if true, but I doubt it,” Senator Jennings responded. “If he is, who do you think I should recommend?”

“Uh, well, that’s a tough one,” Eric said. “I mean, politically, Judge Carroll would be the smart choice. He’s probably the only choice to be honest about it. The base loves the man. They were annoyed when the President passed him over for Emily Liu and even more agitated when he chose Yesica Alverez to fill the second vacancy.”

“But they understood Liu and Alverez were replacing the two female Justices Obama placed on the Court years ago. That made it easier to live with those nominations. I don’t know what they’ll do if he chooses someone other than Judge Carroll this time around; especially since we’re talking about Chief Justice. He could have a revolt on his hands if he did something like that. The base loves Carroll.”

“So that’s who you think I should recommend then, Vaughn Carroll?” Senator Jennings responded.

“If it was me, I would choose Franklin Saiers,” Eric volunteered.

“Why?” his boss asked.

“Because he isn’t just another Washington prima donna like Carroll,” Eric replied. “But there’s another reason as well. We’ve just finished twenty-one years with a Court headed by a conservative ideologue. Do we really want to turn around and subject the country to another decade or two of a liberal one?”

“I mean, turn around is fair play I guess, and God only knows the Republicans would be only too happy to place another partisan like Saviano on the bench if they could. But how are we ever going to end the polarization in the country if we keep putting ideologues on the courts?”

“And you think Saiers would be better?” his boss asked.

“From what I’ve seen, Saiers’ instincts are as progressive as Carroll’s, but he seems to work harder to accommodate the views of those who disagree with him on his court. Plus the guy tries to defer to the political branches of government whenever he can and to wrap his decisions in existing precedent where possible.”

“Substantively, I’m not sure the end result would be very much different between Carroll and Saiers on most issues, but I think there’d be less drama if Saiers was the one writing the decisions.”

“That’s my reaction as well,” the Senator responded. “Not that I think it’ll make much difference with the President. He owes progressives big time with an election coming up so I think he’ll go with Carroll.”

“Agreed,” Eric said, nodding his head.

“And I don’t really think either the President or Bill Cahill are interested in our opinion one way or the other,” the Senator added. “Cahill’s never sought me out for anything except the most menial tasks up until now. I wish I knew what he wants to see me about.”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Eric responded. “Is there anything else you need, Senator?”

“No; thanks for everything you’ve done this morning, Eric. You anticipated nicely and did your usual fine job.”

****

At his hideaway office in the U.S. Capitol, a place very few people knew about and fewer still were invited to, Senator Bill Cahill patiently awaited the arrival of the junior Senator from Massachusetts, Paul Jennings.

Cahill liked Jennings. He reminded the Senator of himself when he was younger, which was a very long time ago since Cahill was rapidly approaching his seventy-sixth birthday. Reflecting back on his life as older people are wont to do, the Senator took satisfaction in everything he had accomplished over the years.

The son of Pennsylvania factory workers, people whose lives had been disrupted long ago when the last of the steel factories closed and the good paying jobs they provided disappeared, Bill Cahill had grown up in a small community not too far from Pittsburgh.

His early life had been uneventful; although now, many years later, he had a tendency to view it as an idyllic boyhood.

He had been a normal boy with normal friends who had grown up doing normal things. He had planned on going to college rather than taking a job in the factories because that’s what his parents wanted him to do. But then Vietnam had come along and he had ended up serving two tours of duty in that misguided conflict.

Bill Cahill had never thought about politics very much before Vietnam. The war changed that.

Returning home, he had enrolled at Penn State University and chosen to major in political science. The science part of the discipline didn’t appeal to him very much. He was more interested in politics as a practical discipline, a way of assuring that other young men would never have to experience the horrors he had gone through in Vietnam.

And for what? the Senator mused now all these years later.

Vietnam was a mistake, a colossal mistake. Every one of the politicians who supported the war originally came to realize that eventually as the conflict unfolded. But all of them were cowards, afraid to tell the American people the truth.

Year after year they refused to fess up to their mistake while young men fought and died because older men were unwilling to admit they were wrong.

Of all of them, Cahill hated Richard Nixon the most. He knew the war was unwinnable the day he took office, but he and his asshole toady, Kissinger, had diddled around for four years because he didn’t want to risk his reelection in 1972. No American President had ever lost a war. Nixon wasn’t about to be the first.

Who does that? the Senator thought. Send the children of others off to fight and die in a war they know is a mistake; a war that can’t be won?

So Nixon had waited until after the 1972 election before biting the bullet and negotiating what he knew would only be a temporary truce before the South Vietnamese government, riddled with in-fighting and corruption, would collapse like the empty shell it was and always had been.

Realizing how cynical Nixon and Kissinger were, Bill Cahill had gone on to a small law school back home, joined the Democratic Party and then worked his way up the ranks; first State Representative, then State Senator, and finally, at 36, election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

He had served four terms before challenging an incumbent Republican Senator. People had told him it was a mistake, that the man was popular and would wipe the floor with Bill Cahill. But Bill Cahill knew something they didn’t. He knew the incumbent had lost touch with the people of Pennsylvania; that he had become more interested in national issues than the mundane work Pennsylvanians expected of their elected representatives.

And so at the tender age of 44 Bill Cahill had been elected to the United States Senate where he proceeded to keep his head low and work hard and patiently wait for seniority to move him up the ladder to his present position as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Five terms in the Senate, capped by reelection to a sixth only the year before, Cahill had been the most senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for almost fifteen years now, sometimes serving as the Ranking Minority Member but more recently as the Chairman.

As a loyal Democrat, Senator Cahill had moved hundreds of Presidential nominees on to the courts and he was proud of every one of them. But this nomination, the nomination of a successor to Chief Justice Anthony Saviano, would be the crowning achievement of his career.

It would provide him with the chance to reshape America in a way few members of Congress could ever hope to achieve. It wasn’t going to be easy though. Senator Cahill knew that.

Nominations to the Supreme Court were always a political battle and this one would be a life and death struggle because it would reshape the Court for years to come.

The stakes were high.

It didn’t help the President was going to nominate Vaughn Carroll to fill the vacancy. The President hadn’t told him that yet, but Bill Cahill was certain he would soon enough and he knew just how much most Republicans hated Vaughn Carroll.

Not that the Senator blamed them especially. Carroll was flamboyant, a man who loved rubbing your nose in the dirt with the sheer brilliance of his legal reasoning. The man was smart, no doubt it, and he was eminently well qualified as well, having served as the Chief Judge of the most important of the Federal Appeals Courts for many years now.

But he was also in love with the sound of his own voice. You could never shut the man up. And he was progressive as well, which wasn’t a crime after all. Bill Cahill was a progressive too. But Carroll went out of his way to let people know how little regard he had for those with opposing opinions.

So the Senator knew this fight would be the toughest one he had ever engaged in. But he took comfort in the words of his favorite philosopher, Mr. Dooley. Looking up from the desk where he was seated, Bill Cahill examined the comic drawing with the full quote on the wall.

“Sure, politics ain’t bean-bag. Tis a man’s game, an’ women, childer, cripples an’ prohybitionists ‘d do well to keep out iv it.”

Looking at the words made the Senator smile.

Carroll added to the problem, but he wasn’t the only problem. Senator Morgan McBride, the Senate Minority Leader, was a problem as well. In Bill’s not so humble opinion McBride was a cancer on the American body politic, someone exclusively focused on winning and losing.

He was a man without core principles, no scruples or conscience; someone willing to sell the country out if that’s what it took to win whatever fight he happened to be in at the moment.

What was it Boehner said years ago about Ted Cruz? Cahill thought. “Lucifer in the flesh . . . a miserable son of a bitch.”

That was actually too generous for Morgan McBride in Senator Cahill’s opinion.

McBride didn’t care what was right for America, just what was right for Kentucky; or at least right enough for enough Kentuckians to get his sorry ass reelected every six years.

And God only knows how he does that, Bill Cahill thought, because no one likes Morgan McBride, not even the Republicans who reelect him as their leader every two years because they’re too scared to vote against him.

Senator Cahill shook his head.

As much as he was glad to see the man gone, the death of Chief Justice Saviano had opened a can of worms. Take one nomination to fill a Chief Justice vacancy and mix in a dose of Carroll and McBride. That was a sure recipe for what would be one of the nastiest political battles in years.

Hell, even getting Liu and Alverez confirmed will look like cakewalks once this battle is over, Cahill thought.

But it was a battle he was determined to win by any means, fair or foul; and while he knew he would have the backing of his Leader, Jack Durning, whose political skills he greatly admired, Senator Cahill also realized he would need more than the Majority Leader.

He would need the help of Senator Paul Jennings as well because Jennings was younger and understood the younger members Bill Cahill and Jack Durning had lost touch with as they grew older.

Hearing a knock on the door, Senator Cahill stood up and opened it.

“Thanks for coming over, Paul,” he said. “I appreciate it very much.”

****

Having seated his visitor and offered him a drink, an offer Senator Jennings politely refused given the early morning hour, Senator Cahill came straight to the point.

“So what do you think, Paul?” he asked. “Who should the President nominate to fill Saviano’s seat?”

“I’m more interested in your opinion than mine, Mr. Chairman,” Jennings replied, deferring to his more senior colleague. “The President isn’t interested in my opinion, but I’m pretty certain he’ll be asking for yours.”

“Yes, indeed, I expect he will,” Bill Cahill said, chuckling. “And when he does, I plan to suggest Vaughn Carroll.”

“Any special reason why?” Jennings asked.

“Because that’s who the President will want me to recommend,” Senator Cahill replied.

“How do you know that?”

“Because he knows Morgan McBride will rant and rave about how he shouldn’t nominate Carroll when the President invites us down to the White House next week and asks for our opinion; and knowing how strongly McBride will oppose Carroll, the President will be looking for a little support from me and Jack Durning. So that’s why I’ll be recommending Judge Carroll, Paul.”

“But is Carroll your preference?” Jennings asked, pressing the point. “From everything I’ve heard, he’ll be a controversial choice to say the least.”

“He will be,” Cahill responded. “But, then again, anyone the President nominates will be controversial. It’s not like the old days when Supreme Court nominees could get eighty or ninety votes in the Senate. Naked partisanship has pretty much ruled the roost ever since the Republicans denied Merrick Garland a hearing and vote back in 2016, then changed the rules in 2017 to eliminate the filibuster and put Gorsuch on the bench.”

“You can debate whether that’s a good or bad thing until kingdom come, just like you can debate who’s to blame. It is what it is; and that being the case, the President doesn’t have much choice heading into an election year.”

“Carroll is the candidate who will keep our different constituencies the happiest; blacks, Hispanics, gays, women, working people, what have you. Keeping them happy is important if we want to hold on to the Presidency and strengthen our majorities in the Senate and House. In short, Carroll’s the best candidate for rallying the base whether he’s confirmed or not.”

“So you think the Republicans may be able to defeat Carroll then?” Jennings asked, picking up on the Chairman’s hint it wasn’t a foregone conclusion Judge Carroll would be confirmed.

“Possibly,” Cahill said. “We control the Senate, but only by the slimmest margin, 51 to 49; and I’m pretty certain that at least three of our Democratic colleagues will never vote for Carroll. He alienated them during his last confirmation hearing to head the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

“That being the case, we’re going to need some Republicans to confirm the man; three preferably, but definitely two. If we get two, the vote should end in a tie, 50 to 50. If that happens, the Vice President can cast the deciding vote to confirm Carroll.”

“Are you worried about that?” Jennings asked. “Getting two or three Republicans to support Carroll, I mean.”

“Worried is probably the wrong word,” Cahill responded. “Truth be told, we might be better off in some ways if we didn’t get the votes and Carroll’s nomination was defeated. That would certainly excite the base.”

“But we need to try,” the Chairman quickly added, realizing he was falling into the kind of cynicism Richard Nixon would have appreciated. “That’s where you come in, Paul.”

“Me? I don’t understand.”

“Well, then, let me explain,” Cahill responded. “I’ve talked to the Leader about this and I’m going to put you in charge of managing this nomination through committee and on the floor. He and I can help, especially with making sure we don’t suffer any more defections on our side. But we’re going to need Republican votes to win and there are only a couple of realistic possibilities.”

With that Senator Cahill proceeded to rattle off the names of several Republicans who he thought might be persuadable. None of them came as a surprise to Senator Jennings. He had gone through the same calculation as Bill Cahill during his flight back to Washington and come up with much the same list.

If you were a politician interested in getting things done, that’s what you did. You counted votes.

“Besides being Republican, the only thing all of them have in common is that they’re younger like you, Paul,” Senator Cahill continued. “I know you’re friends with some of them. Do you think you’ll be able to persuade them to vote for Carroll?”

“I don’t know,” Jennings replied. “It won’t be easy.”

“What about Marianne Peasley of New Hampshire?” the Chairman asked. “You’re her next door neighbor. Like you, she’s up for reelection next year. I don’t think she would be happy to have you campaigning against her obstructionism with all those folks who live along the Nashua corridor the two of you share in common. Those people love you.”

“True enough, but I wouldn’t count on Peasley,” Jennings replied. “She’s the nastiest woman I’ve ever met in my life and ambitious as hell. I think she has her eyes set on knocking off Morgan McBride as Republican leader in a few years. I doubt she’ll vote for someone as progressive as Carroll unless she’s convinced that voting against him would cause her to lose next year. I don’t think it will.”

“Okay, then, what about Sam Warren of Colorado?” Cahill asked, anxiously. “Is he a possibility?”

“Maybe,” Jennings responded. “Warren talks moderate, but he’s pretty hardline when you dig below the surface. I can work on him, but I doubt he’ll come around.”

“To be honest, I think you’re probably spinning your wheels with most of the others you mentioned as well, Mr. Chairman,” the Senator added. “The only two I think might be persuadable are Kirk Marshall of Illinois and Haley Quinn of Arizona. Marshall is pretty progressive, but it’ll take more than words to turn him around.”

“What do you mean?” Senator Cahill asked.

“Like I said, he’s pretty progressive as Republicans go,” Jennings responded. “Coming from Illinois, he has to be. But he’ll be worried about how much pain Morgan McBride can inflict on him if he breaks ranks on a vote like this. That’s the bad news.”

“The good news is Kirk loves to tout all the bacon he brings home to his constituents. He’ll listen to me, but at the end of the day we’ll need to get the White House to ply him with goodies; roads, bridges and whatever else is on his mind at the moment. I think we can get him if we give him enough. But it’s going to cost the American taxpayer an arm and a leg.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem,” Senator Cahill replied, nodding his head. “I’m sure the White House will do whatever needs to be done. But that’s only one vote. We need two at a minimum. Do you really think you can get Haley Quinn to vote with us, Paul? He’s from Arizona and about as conservative as they come from what I’ve seen. He’s the last person I would have thought of.”

“Haley will be hard, no doubt about it,” Jennings said, “but he’s a thoughtful guy and we’re good friends. He’s not an ideologue. He’s a small government conservative with a libertarian streak and some interesting ideas. I know he also shares my concern about how toxic this place has become. But he might ask me to reciprocate if the shoe is ever on the other foot. Could you and Senator Durning live with me breaking ranks and voting for a Republican nominee if that happens?”

“You’re going to be doing most of the heavy lifting on this,” Cahill responded. “If that what it takes to get his vote, you should do it. Circumstances change. Who knows what the future will bring. We can cross that bridge when we get to it.”

“In the meantime, like I said, Jack and I can help keep the Democrats in line,” Senator Cahill added. “But you have the tougher job and need to do whatever is necessary to get us some GOP votes. In any event, I’ll be letting the press know you’ll be managing the nomination once it’s made. Jack and I will come up with some special title for the job.”

“I don’t need a title to help out, Mr. Chairman,” Jennings replied.

“It’s not just a title, Paul, and it’s not much of an honor either. We need someone the younger members respect like you to win. I appreciate your willingness to help out and I’m sure the Leader does as well.”

“We’ve been talking about you, you know,” the Chairman added. “We think you have a very bright future in the Senate. We like it when we find someone old-fashioned like you; someone who keeps his eyes open and his mouth shut. This will be a real feather in your cap if you can help us pull it off, Paul.”

“Thanks, Mr. Chairman,” Jennings said. “I didn’t know anyone was keeping an eye on me, especially you or Senator Durning.”

“We keep an eye on all the young boys and girls around here,” Cahill said, smiling. “As much as we might like to believe otherwise, we’re not indestructible or indispensable either. We want to leave the Senate in capable hands when our time comes.”

****

With their meeting over, Senator Jennings returned to his office and filled Eric Ford in on what had happened.

“That’s something to be proud of; that the Chairman has that kind of confidence in you,” Eric volunteered.

“I suppose,” the Senator responded, “but it bothers me we never got around to discussing the merits of some of the potential nominees; their strengths and weaknesses, how they might manage the Court, things like that. We spent the entire time strategizing about how to get someone confirmed; not talking about whether they should be confirmed.”

“To paraphrase Lincoln, except for the honor of the thing, I’d just as soon the Chairman tapped someone else to manage the nomination,” Jennings added. “No good deed goes unpunished in Washington, Eric. Given how contentious this nomination is going to be, nothing good will come of this.”

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