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From this Perch: Heartbreaking and ugly

Can something be both heartbreaking and ugly at the same time?

We now know the answer is yes, as we witness the brutal confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh grind on.

As I write this, that nomination is on a one week "pause" as the FBI looks into sexual assault allegations from Judge Kavanaugh's past.

Maybe the work of the FBI will shed important light on the allegations — one way or the other — but we will soon return to the scene of political gladiators (also known as Senators) all too willing to entertain us in the arena (also known as the Senate Chamber).

Our Constitution tells us how we are supposed to do this: the President has the power to appoint people to the Supreme Court, but that power comes with a hitch: the Senate has to give "Advice and Consent."

The civilized notion of a president saying to the Senate "Can I get your advice on this nominee?" is long gone. But the consent part is still very much there: no consent, no appointment.

It seems painfully apparent that this process has gone off the rails, but it didn't just happen out of the blue. No, we've been working up to it, step by step, and Democrats and Republicans share equal blame.

The dysfunction began before 2016, but in that year the Republican-led Senate refused to even hold hearings on President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Scalia. The result was that the Garland nomination sat dormant for 293 days, the longest nomination process in the history of Supreme Court nominations.

The reason for this stalling strategy was not subtle. After Justice Scalia's death, there was a 4-4 divide among the remaining members of the Court. That divide was along "liberal-conservative" lines.

Yes, our national infection of hyper-partisanship has spread to a body that is supposed to be our one independent, apolitical branch of government.

No way were the Republicans going to allow an Obama nominee even see the light of day, since that might have given the "liberal" justices a 5-4 majority.

And now the Democrats are clumsily trying prevent a "conservative" 5-4 majority. It's a smelling-salt moment when we stop and realize Senators are actually studying damning notations in Kavanaugh's high school yearbook.

It's a broken process, and there are two ways to address it. One would be to amend the Constitution in order to come up with a better way of selecting impartial people to serve on the Court.

The other would be for Senators to simply do things differently.

We got a hint of the possibilities on the latter when Sens. Jeff Flake and Chris Coons got together in order to force the FBI's involvement — something Democrats had been insisting on and Republicans had been resisting.

This simple one-week pause, based on compromise, may turn out to be of no consequence but it feels like a welcome respite from the train wreck that has been unfolding before our eyes.

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