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Di Leo: A Supreme Vacancy, A Nervous Punditry, and Four Months Left on the Clock


By John F. Di Leo - 

In this most unusual of years, a new question has arisen:  When do you start working for a new job, and when do you stop?

For many of us “wage slaves,” this may seem to go without saying:  you start at 8:00am on your first day of work, and you keep on working until 5:00pm on your last day, when you punch out for the final time.

Our bosses expect us to put in a full day, every day; to do less is to cheat one’s employer.  If we’re being paid, we put in the work. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

But when you think about it, you have to admit that it isn’t that simple, that straightforward, for every job, and never has been.

Freelancers and piece-workers are paid by the gig, not by the hour; we may work straight through or take as many breaks as we want, as long as we meet our deadline.  And some jobs are paid by the year but still flow with the season; grammar school teachers might work hard through the school year but take the whole summer off.

And even regular office jobs – of the famous “eight to five” variety – may not be as straightforward as they seem. How many people in the corporate world today can really work just a forty hour week? 

45, 50, even 60 or more hours a week are common for many roles in many companies today, as American businesses struggle to compete with ruthless third world competition that often wins business unethically, by underpaying their sweatshop employees and/or stealing the intellectual property of others.

When you start a new job, you’re expected to work hard from the very start, right?  8:00am, Day One, you’re put on the register, or set down at the desk, or placed at a workstation or assembly line, and you begin your training. Rigorous note-taking and practice are required, so you can get right into production, and prove your value to the company.

Similarly, when you resign and move on to your next job, you may give your two weeks’ notice, or sometimes more, and you’re expected to work right through to the end.  With the exception of certain sales jobs, where they let you go the day you give notice, most companies pay close attention to those final weeks. You try to finish any outstanding projects, close out as much as possible, so the old company remembers you fondly for leaving your office or cubicle neat and clean.  You want your company – if ever called upon to be a reference again – to be able to honestly say that you were always a diligent worker, right to the end.

As long as they’re paying your salary, after all, it’s only right.

A Court Vacancy and a Public Dilemma

Well, there is an item in the news today – ripped from the front pages, one might say – that brings the beginning and end points of a job to the forefront of political discussion.

After some 27 years on the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was reported on Friday evening, September 18, 2020, and a firestorm was launched.

At this writing, the nine-member Supreme Court is down to eight members, creating a severe risk of a tie in any urgent issue that arises between now and the seating of her replacement.

This might not seem so bad – we’ve had three or four month long vacancies before, even as much as a year – but this is an election that promises to have numerous issues go to court.

The Biden campaign has made some numbers public – 600 lawyers in this state or that, ready to file lawsuit after lawsuit, before, during or after this fall’s contentious national election.

Anyone who remembers the nightmare of Bush Versus Gore in 2000 sees such reports and shudders, as the same thing that happened in Florida (unfounded fears of voting error were hysterically amplified into unnecessary recount after recount) could easily happen again, in numerous states this time.

In addition, all sorts of liberties with the election laws are being taken in the name of the pandemic, leading to wholly illegal disregard of standard ballot security measures and the virtual certainty of widespread vote fraud, from double voting to ballot harvesting, from the traditional approaches to the stuffing of ballot boxes to relatively new forms that take advantage of the massive holes in the concept of “vote by mail.”

The prospect of case after case reaching an evenly-split four-four high court and being stalemated there is truly terrifying for those hoping for a smooth, traditional presidential election.

There is honestly no doubt: for the good of the country, we need the court at full strength.

There is a challenge, however. Some on both sides are afraid of the political ramifications either way, for presidential, senatorial or other offices up this November. And some believe that the appointment should be a campaign issue in itself – postpone the choice, so that Donald Trump and Joe Biden both can announce who they’d pick, and allow the election to be a referendum on that appointment.

As tempting as that is, however – and it certainly could be a great rallying cry for both sides’ bases, as well as a useful dividing line for the undecideds – the genuine need to fill the seat before the election remains. 

Filling the seat is a presidential duty; to refuse for political purposes would be irresponsible.

And this brings us back to our original question: if this is part of the president’s job, then shouldn’t he feel obligated to do it, as quickly as possible?  The opposition party, hoping against hope that Joe Biden can somehow pull out an ever-less-likely win, declares that it’s too close to the end of his term, so he has no business doing it.

And so we return to our original question: how long should an employee continue to perform his job?  Just for the first year he holds the job? Just for the first two or three? At what point in a jobholder’s career should that employee stop performing the tasks listed on his job description?

Let’s do some math:  When Justice Ginsburg’s death was reported, the President had just over four full months left in his first term; even if he’s not reelected, he serves until noon on January 20.  So, four months remain.  He has a third of a year to go.

This isn’t like a guy who got fired this morning, or decided to give two weeks’ notice to take another job.  He has four more months.  An employer might not want an employee to start a new project the day before he leaves, leaving an unfinished task for his successor to implement… but… four months?  

When has an employer has ever told his employee “you’re leaving us in four months; you can start sloughing off now”? I’m betting the answer is never.

To put this in perspective:

The president’s first term is four years.  Four months is one twelfth of that.  To tell a president that he must not do his Constitutional duty – to appoint a qualified candidate to fill a Supreme Court vacancy – when he has four months remaining, is telling him that he’s not to do his job for the final twelfth of his term.

Does that make sense?

Imagine you have been working at a job for twelve years.  This is like telling you that you are not to work – show up, sure, collect your salary, sure, keep the title, the business cards, the cubicle, sure, but not do your work – for your whole final year at that job.

Or imagine a longer-term role.  You’ve been working at a job for 24 years.  You were hired at 41, and now you’re retiring at 65. On that final day, you get your gold watch and head off into the sunset.  Under the American Left’s current argument – that you shouldn’t work in the final twelfth of your time in the role – in this scenario, you must not do your job for the final two years before your retirement date.

Does this make sense to anyone?

Of course not.  

In fact, President Trump may have another four years in the Oval Office, but at minimum, he has another four months.  He was hired to do a job, so, do that job he will.

That job includes conducting foreign policy, managing the executive branch, working with the legislature to craft and pass bills, argue over the budget, perhaps sign some things and veto others, and, yes, appoint federal judges and justices when vacancies appear.

It’s his job. He has not only a right, but an obligation, to do it.

President Trump needs to announce his appointment and turn the process over to the US Senate without delay.  The Constitution requires it.

And Now, the Big Picture: Decisions and Workload in the Oval Office

This issue brings up another matter, a corollary, perhaps, which may require some delicacy. 

With a presidential election coming up, we must ask ourselves a question:

Of the candidates from whom we must choose, which ones are up to the job?

Donald Trump is ready for this appointment, in part because, as a businessman, he has already done the research; he has been prepared for this eventuality for some time. He has had a list of names, already vetted, already interviewed, ready for the next vacancy.

By the same token, he has been working nonstop since his first election, keeping the same rigorous schedule – just three to four hours of sleep per night – that he did when he worked in private industry.

President Trump’s campaign schedule is an example – he flies from state to state, speaking at rallies, while continuing to do the work of the presidency (unlike many politicians, who rely on speeches written by staff, President Trump has the energy and wit to speak extemporaneously for hours).

By contrast, former senator and vice president Joe Biden has primarily stayed in his house for months, sometimes granting an interview if the questions are provided in advance, or delivering a prepared statement off a teleprompter.  He travels little and speaks less.  The active campaigner of his Senate days – decades ago – long ago gave way to the slow-moving elderly man we see today.

While Joe Biden is only four years older than President Trump, the difference looks more like ten or twenty.  While the vigorous Trump acts young for his age, Biden acts old for any age. The watchful voter, looking to hire a candidate, cannot help but ask himself what kind of work he’s going to get out of this hire.

The hours an employee spends at his desk are not necessarily the most telling aspect of his performance.  The quality is certainly as important as the quantity.

But even so… returning to our earlier subject matter – how much work will we get out of either of these candidates, whichever one we hire?

Judging from his campaign, Joe Biden hardly strikes us as a candidate who will hit the ground running, ready to appoint a cabinet, craft a foreign policy strategy, manage troops and naval forces all over the world, and negotiate hard with both elected officials and enmeshed bureaucracies, both at home and abroad.

The Biden of today is confused by the simplest questions; real life just doesn’t get presented in advance on a teleprompter.

President Trump, on the other hand, is the type who will hit the ground running, appointing or shuffling his direct reports for a strong second term, spinning multiple plates in the air while burning the midnight oil, as he has throughout his career thus far.

President Trump has multiple strategies that have been bearing fruit already, a carefully managed trade war that has brought a revitalization of American manufacturing… a confrontational approach to global Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like the UN, WHO, NATO and the WTO that has both shined light on them and in some cases forced reform… a Mideast policy that has seen the destruction of some jihadist enemies and produced unexpected peace treaties between Israel and her neighbors… No wonder Trump doesn’t sleep much.

With President Trump, we know that we will get a full day of work – and more – every day from his inauguration to his successor’s inauguration. 

With Joe Biden, on the other hand, we can only imagine the opposite – a sleepy figurehead sitting in the Oval Office watching TV, reading speeches written for him by others, waving his hand in parades, while shady characters in the background do the real governing. 

If he decided not to do any work the last four months of his term, the country would most likely not even notice a difference.

As voters – as the employers of a president, evaluating candidates and making our selection – we all know which of these two candidates will give us a full day’s work, and will dutifully address every line on his job description, from day one until the day he rides off into the sunset.

The Presidency of the United States is a demanding job; it needs energy, decisiveness, wisdom, and patriotism.  Say what you will about his unusual style, this incumbent certainly has all these in spades.

Copyright 2020 John F Di Leo

John F Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer, writer and actor.  A former county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, his columns have been found in Illinois Review since 2009.

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  1. We expect our Presidents to do their job with complete competence as well. Many of us know that our President has the competence and fortitude as he has proven for the past 3 /12 years. This article accurately supports the reasons to appoint the next Supreme Court judge before the next election. Thankfully we have a diligent President that works tirelessly day after day.

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