Kavanaugh: Did he pass the Senate’s test?
“If I didn’t know this whole thing was a monumental bag job, I’d think Brett Kavanaugh was in a lot of trouble,” said Charles Pierce in Esquire.com. President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee had to white-knuckle it through an ugly confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, as Democrats unveiled a trove of damning documents from his time as a lawyer in George W. Bush’s White House. While Kavanaugh promised to respect precedent on abortion, calling Roe v. Wade “settled law,” a 2003 memo he wrote suggests he thinks otherwise: “[The] Court can always overrule its precedent,” Kavanaugh said of Roe back then. He also contradicted his testimony from his first judicial confirmation hearing, in 2006, when he flatly denied receiving Judiciary Committee documents stolen from Senate Democrats by Republicans. Confronted with emails showing that he did in fact receive stolen material, with one email labeled “spying,” Kavanaugh admitted receiving the documents but claimed he didn’t know they were stolen. When Sen. Kamala Harris asked if he’d discussed the Mueller investigation with a lawyer working for President Trump’s personal attorney, Kavanaugh floundered and stalled, finally saying he’d had no “inappropriate” conversations about Mueller. At best, Kavanaugh was exposed as a highly partisan Republican operative. At worst, he is guilty of perjury. Republicans will vote for him no matter what, but he has no business being on the Supreme Court.
That’s “cheap character assassination,” said David French in NationalReview.com. Kavanaugh has not committed perjury on the stolen documents or anything else; there is a big gap between unknowingly making an inaccurate statement “and the kind of willful, deliberate falsehood that constitutes a federal crime.” By all accounts, he’s a decent man and thoughtful jurist. But left-wing partisans see his conservatism as “ipso facto proof of his low character.” Democrats turned the Kavanaugh hearings into “overwrought performance art,” said Noah Rothman in CommentaryMagazine.com. At one point, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey boomed that he was risking expulsion from the Senate by releasing confidential Kavanaugh documents, even though they’d already been cleared for release the night before. “This is about the closest I’ll ever have to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” Booker declared. The histrionics of other Democrats seeking “gotcha” moments with Kavanaugh were no less embarrassing.
There’s plenty of bad faith to go around, said Paul Waldman in The Washington Post. “Republicans are pretending they neither know nor care what Kavanaugh thinks about abortion or corporate power or executive privilege or anything else; they support him only because of his fine credentials and deep respect for the law.” But we all know that Kavanaugh came up through the same Federalist Society pipeline built by right-wing legal activists to crank out reliably conservative judges. Kavanaugh’s confirmation will give the Supreme Court a far-right majority for decades to come, a legal revolution that will touch the lives of every American. Democrats were “grandstanding” to bring attention to that fact.
I welcome that revolution, said Kevin Williamson in NationalReview.com. Democrats don’t want judges like Kavanaugh, who will apply the law as it is written. “They want super-legislators who will give them what they want: abortion rights, gay marriage, political censorship, etc.” Oh please, said Katherine Stewart in The New York Times. Conservative “originalists” like Kavanaugh are no less skilled at twisting the Constitution toward their own ends. For example, conservatives now reject the established principle that there must be a wall between church and state, saying it was based on “bad history.” Instead, they use “religious liberty” to justify rulings that allow conservative Christians to be exempt from the law. Kavanaugh will create a solid conservative majority on the court that will authorize evangelicals and Catholics to defy laws providing women access to birth control and barring discrimination against LGBT people. Conservatives know they’ve lost the culture war with the general public, so “the only way for their regressive views to dominate is if they control the courts.”
Kavanaugh’s confirmation looks like a done deal, said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. Before Sen. John McCain of Arizona died, Democrats only needed to flip one GOP vote to defeat Kavanaugh, with the ailing John McCain’s absence leaving Republicans with 50 Senate votes. But with the reliably conservative Jon Kyl filling McCain’s seat, Democrats now need turn both pro-choice GOP senators against Kavanaugh. Right now, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska both look likely to vote for him, despite his vague equivocations on abortion. “The moment either Collins or Murkowski announces for Kavanaugh, it’s game over.”
AP, Will Peebles/Savannah Morning News/AP ■