As the hearings for consideration of the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court went into their third day, I continue to focus on behavior over opinion. I ask myself “Who are the leaders in this room?”
Is it the senators who are trying to move the hearings along to a vote they believe is already won? The one’s asking questions that really don’t provide the quality of information that will make a difference? How about the ones who are challenging the rules, as they believe there is a real attempt to bypass meaningful committee work to rush the vote and get it all done ahead of the upcoming Supreme Court term? Is it the citizens who stand in protest?
Leaders, in my experience, behave as leaders when they model the behavior they would be willing to tolerate in others, and when they challenge behaviors that are in the way of doing the right thing.
Today, Senator Booker was called out for his behavior. He announced that he would act in defiance of the rules of the committee (I think on the basis that the Republicans themselves were using the rules to protect information from dissemination) even if it meant his expulsion from his job. He was then accused of grandstanding and of “behavior unbecoming of a senator”. Interestingly, the thing he was promising to do in violation of the rules – release some previously withheld emails – wasn’t necessary as they had been approved for release. Grandstanding might be the right word in that case.
But, I wondered, what is appropriate Senatorial behavior? Do we look to a book of norms, or do we look at what is slowly devolving to least common denominator? It appears that the behavior is wrong if it is perceived as a threat by those with opposing views. Or as we may as well say in the US today, those from the other side.
Republicans and Democrats alike frequently call our President’s behavior “un-presidential”. We know that will not bother the president, and we know that other leaders will look at that and think that maybe they don’t have to behave according to some norm either. So when I read that the Senator from New Jersey was called out for behavior “unbecoming of a senator” it dawned on me that there are probably very few non-criminal behaviors that could be considered as unacceptable at this point.
I posted about this on Facebook today, hoping to open a discussion about leadership behavior. It immediately moved to political commentary and Booker bashing. Not what I intended, I was interested in having people step back from the situation and assess the behavior: senatorial or not? Some folks IM’d me that while they may not like the Senator, someone has to speak up in these hearings to assure all the people are represented, not just the ones trying to push to the vote.
So, was he grandstanding? Was he taking the moment to show how much he is for his constituency, and how ready he is to stand up to the status quo? Or was he trying to assure an opposing viewpoint is heard, and bring a balance to the information available? Because if it is the latter, that is what senatorial behavior looks like to me. Our president does not follow the rules of order; why, in this environment, should anyone else.