Politics & Policy

The Kavanaugh Show Trial Begins

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in before his confirmation hearing, September 4, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Democratic senators set aside decency, dignity, and common sense to join forces with shrieking protesters.

You are a blackguard, a liar, a hypocrite and a stench in the nostrils of honest men. If it were in my power, I’d hang you from the nearest tree, leave your carcass for the buzzards. But, as you are a representative of the U.S. government, I pledge you the protection and cooperation of my command.
— Lieutenant Colonel Thursday (Henry Fonda) to a corrupt Indian agent in Fort Apache

I  have to admit that I was unpleasantly reminded of this memorable line from the 1948 John Wayne/John Ford Western Fort Apache as I watched Democratic senators disrupt the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and unfairly attack him. Kavanaugh displayed the patience of Job in sitting there hour after hour, listening to the demagoguery.

In conjunction with their allies — rude, screaming protesters in the audience, whom Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) praised — Democratic senators repeatedly interrupted and harangued chairman Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) in what Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas) properly categorized as a descent into “mob rule.”

They also made false claims about Kavanaugh, including that he had supposedly lied during the 2006 hearing on his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

This was a calculated strategy. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) apparently had a telephone conference call with senators this past weekend in which they planned a campaign to specifically disrupt the hearing.

That elected senators find such behavior to be acceptable is a sad reflection of how far we have moved from honest, civil, and substantive debates in Washington about important issues. And it is a sign of how unpleasant, personal, and nasty Supreme Court confirmations have become since Democrats savagely attacked Robert Bork during his Supreme Court nomination hearing in 1987.

After one Democratic senator said the Kavanaugh hearing should be conducted like a court hearing, Cornyn responded that if it were, “virtually every member” on the Democratic side of the committee “would be held in contempt of court.”

Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) pointed out that the outrageous claims being made about Kavanaugh are absurd, including that he supposedly hates women, hates children, hates clean air, wants dirty water, and is an “existential threat to the nation.”

Democrats kept interrupting Grassley (without first asking to be recognized by the chairman to speak), complaining both that they did not have all the documents they sought and that they had received so many the previous day that they were not able to review them, although Grassley pointed out that his staff had reviewed all of them.

Democrats are claiming they need even more documents, even though the committee has already received more than half a million pages, including 17,000 pages of Kavanaugh articles and speeches and 10,000 pages of his legal opinions from his 12 years on the court of appeals. As Grassley said, Kavanaugh has produced more documents than all five prior Supreme Court nominees combined.

Cornyn also made the point that all of the Democrats complaining have publicly announced they are not voting for Kavanaugh. So they “already made up their minds” prior to the hearing and prior to reviewing the record.

Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said that this hearing isn’t really about Kavanaugh’s qualifications because “by any objective measure he is unquestionably qualified for the Supreme Court.” Everyone agrees, said Cruz, that Kavanaugh “is one of the most respected federal judges in the country” with “impeccable academic credentials.”

According to Cruz, Democratic senators were focusing on procedural issues because “they don’t have substantive points strong enough to derail this nomination.”

Cruz said that the Democratic complaints about the supposed documents that Kavanaugh handled when he served as White House staff secretary in the George W. Bush administration are also a red herring.

The staff secretary is “in charge of all the paper that comes into and out of the Oval Office.” Most “critically, the staff secretary is not the author” of those documents. He is simply the “funnel for collecting” the views of the president’s advisers. So those documents, “written by other people, say nothing, zero, about Judge Kavanaugh’s views, and they say nothing, zero, about what kind of justice Judge Kavanaugh would make.”

Additionally, Cruz said, no White House is going to release such confidential documents that are protected by executive privilege. But that is why “they’re making a demand they know is impossible to meet” and that “is utterly irrelevant” to Judge Kavanaugh nomination.

Obviously, the most relevant documents about the kind of justice Kavanaugh would be are the more than 300 judicial opinions he has written and the hundreds of others he joined as an appellate-court judge. But from the Democratic complaints today about the irrelevant White House paperwork, it is as if those opinions don’t exist.

So all we got were long speeches and arguments, with many of the Democratic senators ignoring the supposed ten-minute limit on their opening statements while engaging in personal insults and attacks on Kavanaugh.

The protesters were so obnoxious and rude, too, that Judge Kavanaugh’s wife was forced to take their two daughters, aged 13 and 10, out of the hearing room. Progressives who think this kind of obnoxious behavior helps their cause could not be more wrong. Americans don’t like incivility. They don’t like protesters — including senators — who disrupt public events and engage in boorish, disrespectful behavior.

But then, Democrats are playing to their most rabid supporters and donors, who have about as much in common with the average, hard-working American — the silent majority, as it was once called — as a conman does with an honest man. The behavior we saw on the first day really was a stench in the nostrils of honest men.

 

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