Good Friday Morning! It’s SCOTUS nomination hearings week in the Senate for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I’m going to dig a little bit into those hearings and point out some of the odd and strange happenings in the Senate. It’s been a complete circus.
Last week, I wrote about the Catholic Church and how other states were thinking about going after the church over sex abuse. And I said then:
The Catholic Church is at a crossroads, whether it realizes it or not. It’s either going to deal with the rampant problem of sexual abuse in the church or get torn apart brick by brick, as lawyers find the cracks in the building. This scandal will split the church apart; it’s just a matter of how at this point.
This week, the Attorney Generals of New York and New Jersey both launch full-fledged investigations into the Catholic Church in their states. New York is commencing a civil suit and sent subpoenas to all eight dioceses in the state. New Jersey is launching a criminal investigation. The New York Times also reported that Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico’s are all considering starting investigations. All of this is on top of the horrific crimes committed in Pennsylvania.
Pope Francis is no longer in control of this scandal. There’s no level of spin he and his allies can churn in the press. The Catholic Church is under a full-blown siege at this point, and Francis continues ambivalence. Eventually, this will reach Rome. What happens then? And what will be left of the Catholic Church?
Where you can find me this week
Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter. You can also go to their Facebook page. You can join Ricochet here. And I do recommend their ever-growing network of podcasts, which you can find on all popular podcast platforms. They have a show for every topic you can imagine, and the list continues to grow.
Conservative Institute: The media whitewashed its own legacy of demonizing John McCain
While watching the various tributes, I was struck by how those in the media pretended they had always believed what they said about John McCain. A short trip back to 2008 shows how they covered him exactly like they’ve covered Trump and any other GOP candidate. And after Trump is long gone, they’ll cover him like they covered McCain to attack their political opponents.
Conservative Institute: Democrats are using scare tactics on guns to attack Brett Kavanaugh
Before the nomination hearings began, I predicted that Democrats would rely heavily on scare-mongering around the Parkland protestors. That’s partially what has happened. I cover why that’s complete nonsense.
[Note: No new Ricochet posts this week. I took Labor Day weekend off.]
Brett Kavanaugh and the Senate Judiciary Committee Circus
When I say Democrats have made the Senate Judiciary Committee a circus, that’s an insult to circuses. Senator Lindsey Graham made this point when he said: “at least with circuses, those are fun and you can take your kids.”
The Kavanaugh hearings are neither fun nor can you keep kids there. Kavanaugh’s children had to get escorted out by guards for safety.
The first part of the circus was all the protests. You can ignore all the protestors because, in a Senate Judiciary hearing, they don’t matter in the slightest. All the demonstrators and political stunts pulled by audience members were pre-planned to score media time. Everyone from the screamers to the dad from Parkland, Florida.
The next thing you can ignore are all the conspiracy theories that sprung up around the hearing. The armchair warriors of the #Resistance claimed that a woman behind Kavanaugh was flashing a secret white power signal. The woman liberals were busy smearing the first day of the hearings was Zina Bash, a former law clerk to Kavanaugh who parents are Jewish and Hispanic, and her Jewish grandparents barely escaped the Holocaust.
All these things I’m telling you to ignore happened in the first few hours of day one. So when I say the Resistance Left has lost its mind over these Kavanaugh hearings, they truly have lost their minds. It is complete and utter lunacy.
I wish I could say that the Senators rose above this and displayed the reverence for their office and didn’t fall to the protestors and #Resistance conspiracy theories above. That did not happen for Democrats.
I won’t trash the entire Senate Judiciary branch. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska gave an excellent speech — that I agree with completely — on why the Supreme Court hearings shouldn’t be so controversial. His speech is well worth your time.
Senator Mike Lee of Utah also gave a fantastic opening speech explaining the history of nominations and how these hearings are a relatively new thing. Worth your time as well.
On the other end of the spectrum, Democrats were objectively terrible.
One of the early moments was when Senators Feinstein and Menendez questioned Kavanaugh on the Second Amendment. Specifically, those two Senators tried arguing that Kavanaugh was outside the mainstream by claiming that assault weapons bans violate the second amendment.
The only problem is that Kavanaugh isn’t wrong — they are under current Supreme Court law, as Reason noted:
[T]he number of school shootings has nothing to do with the question Kavanaugh was answering, which was why he dissented from a 2011 D.C. Circuit decision upholding the District of Columbia’s “assault weapon” ban. As he noted in that opinion, the D.C. law (like Feinstein’s bill) covered a “haphazard” set of arbitrarily selected guns “with no particular explanation or rationale for why some made the list and some did not.” Kavanaugh concluded that the ban was inconsistent with the District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 case in which the Supreme Court recognized that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to armed self-defense.
As Kavanaugh explained to Feinstein, Heller says the Second Amendment protects the right to keep handguns for self-defense, while allowing that bans on “dangerous and unusual” weapons—firearms that are not “in common use” for “lawful purposes”—would be constitutional. “Most handguns are semi-automatic,” Kavanaugh observed. “The question was can you distinguish, as a matter of precedent,” between semi-automatic handguns and semi-automatic rifles. He noted that “semi-automatic rifles are widely possessed in the United States; there are millions and millions.” To Kavanaugh, that means the guns that Feinstein wants to ban are “in common use” for “lawful purposes” such as self-defense and hunting, so possession of them is protected by the Second Amendment.
Feinstein implausibly insisted that “assault weapons are not in common use,” even though Americans own more than 16 million of them, only a tiny percentage of which will ever be used to commit crimes. She also suggested that Kavanaugh needed to “reconcile” his constitutional reasoning with the fact that such guns are sometimes used in school shootings, which makes no sense. As Kavanaugh noted in his 2011 dissent, handguns are used to murder people much more often than “assault weapons” are. The Supreme Court nevertheless held in Heller that Americans have a constitutional right to own handguns.
Feinstein remains one of the dumbest Senators on gun policy in America. It’s astounding how often she gets trotted out on an issue she routinely messes up. And going by the things she said on the Heller decision that recognizes the individual right to bear arms, she has never read the Heller case.
Both Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris tried “gotcha” moments with Kavanaugh that fell apart quickly.
Booker tried to make himself look like a martyr when he claimed he was going to violate Senate rules by releasing “secret” Kavanaugh emails. And that if Republicans wanted to stop him, they’d have to kick him out of the Senate.
The problems with that claim: 1. The emails Booker released had been cleared the night before by Bush administration lawyers. 2. Booker knew this in advance and still pretended he was breaking Senate rules. And 3. The documents Booker released didn’t hurt Kavanaugh in the slightest. They helped him.
The first emails Booker released showed that Kavanaugh rejected race-based profiling in the direct aftermath of 9/11. The second set of emails describe Kavanaugh’s tweak to an editorial that explained how Roe was not “settled” law as everyone says. His description is a factually accurate statement of law — as is widely agreed on all sides of the abortion issue.
Oh and I forgot, Cory Booker declared he was “Spartacus” in the middle of all of this nonsense. You literally can’t make up the foolishness.
Unfortunately for this Spartacus, he spent the day stepping on rakes and when reporters called him on it, he left.
Next up was Senator Kamala Harris, who tried to engage in a gotcha line of questioning, insinuating Kavanaugh has bias/recusal issues with the Mueller investigation. As the LA Times agreed, it was a bizarre moment:
In full prosecutorial mode, Harris asked Kavanaugh: “Have you discussed [Robert S.] Mueller or his investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal lawyer?” She added the portentous warning: “Be sure about your answer, sir.”
Like most people watching, I assumed Harris was about to confront Kavanaugh with evidence that there had been such a potentially problematic conversation, and name the lawyer with whom Kavanaugh supposedly communicated.
But there was no big reveal.
Kavanaugh reasonably asked Harris, “Is there a person you’re talking about?” She shot back: “I’m asking you a very direct question: yes or no?”
“I’m not sure I know everyone who works at that law firm,” Kavanaugh said.
Harris pressed on: “I don’t think you need to. I think you need to know who you talked with. Who’d you talk to?”
Kavanaugh: “I’m not remembering, but I’m happy to be refreshed or if you want to tell me who you’re thinking [of].
Harris: “Are you saying that with all that you remember — you have an impeccable memory; you’ve been speaking for almost eight hours, I think more, to this committee about all sorts of things you remember. How can you not remember whether or not you had a conversation about Robert Mueller or his investigation with anyone at that law firm? The investigation has only been going on for so long, sir.”
It gets even stranger after that, with Harris engaging in Kreskin-like mind-reading (“I think you’re thinking of someone and you don’t want to tell us.”) You can watch the exchange here.
At Thursday’s session Kavanaugh told Sen. Orrin Hatch that “I don’t recall any conversations of that kind with anyone at that law firm” about the Mueller investigation.
CNN quoted Harris as saying that “I have a good reason to believe there was a conversation” and that her question was based on “pretty reliable” evidence. Her grilling of Kavanaugh would have been more effective if she had provided it.
The segment was 8 minutes long, and it ended up going viral. And everyone expected that if Harris was going to make such brash claims, she’d back it up.
Harris didn’t actually produce evidence that Kavanaugh had, in fact, spoken with anyone at Kasowitz’s firm about the Mueller probe. But videos capturing the confirmation hearing exchange were soon a mini-viral sensation, as the judge’s opponents hoped that Harris was armed with something that could derail his nomination.
When her turn came Thursday, it turned out Harris didn’t have the goods after all. After another couple of courtroom-style go-rounds between veteran lawyers, Kavanaugh issued a flat-out “no” to Harris’ yes-or-no question.
If I were a Democrat, I’d be utterly embarrassed for this display of hackery, intellectual dishonesty, and outright lunacy. I’m only covering the highlights. There were others.
Did no one tell Democrats all they had to say was “I disagree with Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy for the following reasons…” and then question him along those lines?
I could have questioned Kavanaugh harder than Democrats. There are 1L students out there, fresh from Constitutional Law classes that could question Kavanaugh harder. Democrats pandered the #Resistance.
I wish Republicans would go ahead and hold the vote. Democrats aren’t interested in fulfilling their Constitutional role in this process. We might as well vote on Kavanaugh now.
It says something deeply troubling about the Democratic Party that not only are they incapable of engaging in the battle of ideas that people like Kavanaugh present them, but that their base expects them to do this, and believes every word they say.
It also says something that Democrats view Kavanaugh as a civilization-ending judge.
Brett Kavanaugh is the Jeb Bush of SCOTUS nominees. He’s eminently qualified, intelligent, and holds thoroughly orthodox conservative beliefs in the Republican Party. Democrats are pretending he’s some firebrand on par with Ted Cruz — and their base laps it up.
So let’s be blunt on this: If you view Kavanaugh as worse than Trump, that is the reason you got Trump. Democrats and the media spent countless hours talking about how much they respected John McCain. And they love Mitt Romney when he talks bad about Trump. Kavanaugh is in that same mold, and they’re engaging in baseless character attacks.
It’s disgusting and unbecoming of any Senator.
And as with all things in politics, what you do now, echoes later.
When Republicans were in the minority and voted on Justice Elana Kagen, the Obama administration turned over none of her documents when she worked as Solicitor General. And Republicans didn’t need them either; it was abundantly clear what Kagen believed from public cases and speeches.
The next time Democrats hold office, they will get these tactics thrown back in their face. And when they start wailing about it then, remember the stupidity they put Kavanaugh through.
Links of the week
Blame Congress for Politicizing the Court: When lawmakers hand power to bureaucrats, the people expect judges to act as superlegislators. – Senator Ben Sasse, The Wall Street Journal
I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration: I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. – Anonymous, The New York Times
What’s Motivating the Times’ Anonymous Op-Ed Writer Inside the White House? – Jonah Goldberg, National Review
‘Most of Bush’s nominees are Nazis’ — those memos Patrick Leahy griped about were damning to the Democrats – Tim Carney, The Washington Examiner
Things Fall Apart (Part 2) – W. Ben Hunt, Epsilon Theory
Watch Dianne Feinstein Move the Constitutional Goalposts on ‘Assault Weapons’ – David French, National Review
The 40-Year Plan That Allowed Trump to Reshape the Courts: The nomination and likely confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is—more than anything else—a testament to true, idea-driven political organizing. – Matthew Continetti, The Daily Beast
Kavanaugh Is Well Within the “Mainstream” — but “Mainstream” Isn’t Always Good: Claims that Kavanaugh is outside the legal “mainstream” are misguided, and mostly just reflect growing partisan polarization over legal issues. The real danger is not that we will have non-mainstream Supreme Court justices, but that some mainstream ideas are badly wrong. – Ilya Somin, The Volokh Conspiracy
Muting Trump: An Experiment – Patrick Ruffini
Satire piece of the week
PORTLAND, OR—As he clutched his chest on the ground dying, one of the millions of Americans killed by the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, local man Michael Vo reportedly whispered, “At least I didn’t die from tax cuts,” according to sources.
The man was out for a morning stroll when he suddenly collapsed to the ground. “Ugh, Kavanaugh!” he cried, knowing the Republican plan to slaughter countless numbers of people across the country had finally caught up to him. “Goodbye, cruel world. I’m just glad I survived Hillary’s defeat, the tax cuts, Trump’s tweets, and a strict immigration policy.”
Thanks for reading!