Tag Archives: SCOTUS

SCOTUS becomes a political rallying cry

I admit that at times my memory fails me. However, I am trying to dredge up some flashbacks on how previous presidents of the United States responded to Supreme Court battles over people they have nominated to the high court. I keep coming up empty.

Did George H.W. Bush stage political rallies in 1991 on behalf of Clarence Thomas? Does anyone recall Ronald Reagan juicing up rally crowds in 1987 after the Senate rejected Robert Bork and after Douglas Ginsburg withdrew his name because he smoke a few joints in college? Do you remember seeing Bill Clinton stoking up crowds when he nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer, or George W. Bush do the same when he selected John Roberts and Samuel Alito?

That’s not how presidents traditionally respond to criticism of their judicial picks.

Then you have Donald Trump. He is the man who knows no boundaries. He trashes two centuries of judicial/political decorum whenever he gets the chance. His base loves it! His supporters cheer him on! That’s fine with him. He speaks to them exclusively as it is.

Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court is now Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He is a deeply flawed justice, given the accusation that he assaulted a woman sexually when they were teenagers in the 1980s.

But, hey. What’s the prob? His benefactor, Donald Trump, has been accused by several women of doing the same thing. What’s more, he’s actually bragged about how his “celebrity” status allowed him to grab women by their genitals.

No sweat, man! He’s our guy, the base declares.

So he’s going to hit the campaign trail and boast about seating two men on the high court in his first two years. That’s it! The Supreme Court is now a political football to be kicked around.

It’s a tragic development in the history of this great nation.

‘Even the playing field,’ Mr. President? Really?

Donald John Trump offered a straightforward answer to a direct question from a Fox News questioner about why he felt the need to mock a woman who accused a Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault.

Trump told Jeannine Pirro that he felt the need to “even the playing field” because of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation that Justice Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were teenagers.

Really, Mr. President? You had to use this woman’s allegation as a campaign rally punch line?

He disgraced himself yet again. Sure, Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate, has taken his oath of office and will start hearing arguments this week as member of the highest court in the land.

However, the president’s participation in this political debate arguably was one of many “lowest moments” of his term in office.

The president felt some need to denigrate a woman who had leveled a serious accusation. Indeed, he earlier had urged that Ford get a fair hearing and said her allegation needed to be examined with extreme care and deliberation.

Trump scores victory

Then he flew off the rails with that ghastly rant.

He needed to “even the playing field” … or so Trump said.

There were many other ways to accomplish that goal than to do what he did at that campaign rally, drawing hoots, hollers and huzzahs from the crowd gathered in front of him.

His response, as it usually is, sounded so “unpresidented.”

Hypocrisy rules the day in Kavanaugh fight

Hypocrisy is king in Washington, D.C.

Not the truth. Not nobility. Not high ideals or soaring rhetoric.

It’s hypocrisy that rules. It has cemented its vise-grip on U.S. politics and government. The Brett Kavanaugh battle is over and the judge is now Justice Kavanaugh, the ninth member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Who is the Hypocrite in Chief? I’ll hand that dubious honor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

You’ve read on this blog already my distaste for the hypocrisy exhibited by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal — who once lied about serving in the Vietnam War — and his lecturing of Kavanaugh about whether lying about one thing means he lies about all things.

The Hypocrite in Chief (dis)honor goes to McConnell because of the ramrod job he pulled in shoving Kavanaugh’s nomination through. And then he blames Senate Democrats for “obstructing” the process and for “playing politics” with this nomination.

McConnell wrote the book on obstruction in early 2016 upon the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The justice died in Texas and McConnell immediately declared that President Barack Obama would not fill the vacancy created by Scalia’s death. Obama went ahead with his nominating process, selecting U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland to succeed Scalia.

Garland didn’t get a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He didn’t get the courtesy of meeting with Republican senators privately. McConnell said that the president was not entitled to replace Scalia during an election year. He gambled that a Republican would win the 2016 election and then would be able to nominate someone of his choosing.

McConnell’s cynical gamble paid off. Donald Trump won. He nominated Neil Gorsuch to the high court. The Senate confirmed him.

And all the while McConnell tossed out “obstruction” epithets at Senate Democrats who were rightfully steamed that a Democratic president had been denied the right to fulfill his own constitutional duties in seeking to fill a Supreme Court seat.

Then came the Kavanaugh nomination. McConnell greased it to allow Kavanaugh to be confirmed after a perfunctory secondary FBI investigation that — big surprise! — turned up no corroboration to the allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a young woman in the early 1980s.

The obstructionist named McConnell then had the temerity to hammer at Senate Democrats for their own resistance to Kavanaugh’s nomination.

So … take a bow, Hypocrite in Chief Mitch McConnell.

Kavanaugh joins high court with zero political capital

Now that we’ve established — at least in my humble view — that the U.S. Supreme Court has become the third political branch of government, it’s worth examining briefly the cache that the court’s newest member brings to his post.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh has none. Zero, man!

Is that important, given that he is now charged with interpreting the constitutionality of federal law? Yep. It is. Why? Because the new justice takes office by the thinnest of political margins.

The U.S. Senate voted today 50-48 to confirm him. The previous narrowest confirmation belonged to Justice Clarence Thomas, who was approved 52-48 in 1991. Move over, Justice Thomas. There’s a new Bottom Dog in town.

I will acknowledge that at least the confirmation vote for Justice Kavanaugh wasn’t an entirely partisan affair; Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voted with the majority to confirm Kavanaugh, and no doubt all but sealed his re-election to the Senate from West Virginia, a state that Donald Trump carried by more than 41 percentage points in 2016 over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Kavanaugh has pledged to rule with impartiality and independence. He did so in an op-ed piece written for the Washington Post. It was a remarkable pledge, given his fiery — and highly partisan — rebuttal to the criticism that exploded in the wake of the sexual assault allegation leveled against him by Christine Blasey Ford.

This justice takes his lifetime appointment seat amid continuing question and a good bit of recrimination over the manner in which the Senate shoved his confirmation across the finish line.

I now am going to rely on my limitless optimism that Justice Kavanaugh will deliver on his promise to be independent and impartial as he takes on the huge challenges of constitutional interpretation.

Don’t mess up, Mr. Justice.

SCOTUS vote reflects deep national divide

David Brooks and Mark Shields make a fascinating duo on the “PBS NewsHour.” Brooks, the conservative and Shields, the liberal, clash often on the issues of the day.

This week they discussed the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process and Kavanaugh’s eventual ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The men concluded pretty the same thing about the highest court in the land: It has become the third political branch of government. Moreover, the closeness of the committee vote — and today’s vote in the full U.S. Senate — reflects the deep, dark divide throughout the nation.

It was Brooks who put the matter into amazing perspective. He notes that the Supreme Court once was thought to be independent of political strife. The Kavanaugh debate and the anger expressed by the nominee as well as senators on both ends of the spectrum tell us that the court has become just as political as the executive and legislative branches of government.

There is no way the nation’s founders could have envisioned this happening when they established the three “co-equal branches” of government.

The judicial branch once was thought to be the last bastion of critical analysis devoid of politics. Oh, brother!

Shields took a moment to note how George W. Bush was elected president on a 5-4 Supreme Court decision to stop the recount of ballots in Florida after the 2000 presidential election. Five GOP-appointed justices ruled to stop the count; four Democratic-appointed justices dissented. Thus, President Bush took office on the basis of a single justice’s vote. That’s when it began, Shields seems to suggest.

And now we have Justice Brett Kavanaugh taking his seat on the court after the most contentious, bitterly fought and divisive debate of its kind in anyone’s memory.

The U.S. Supreme Court is a changed institution. To my way of thinking, it isn’t for the better.

Two votes not cast … to what end?

I admit to being slow on the uptake. Thus, someone will have to explain how this works.

The U.S. Senate today confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The tally was 50-48.

Two senators’ votes weren’t recorded. Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, was absent, attending his daughter’s wedding. Daines would have voted “yes” on Kavanaugh’s nomination. The other non-vote came from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, who declared her opposition to Kavanaugh; she voted “present” when they cast the roll-call vote.

There’s a Senate custom that enables senators to pair their votes with those who cannot cast their votes in person. Murkowski teamed up with her friend Daines.

But … why? If Murkowski had voted “no” on Kavanaugh’s nomination, the tally would have been 50-49; Kavanaugh still gets confirmed. Therefore, this vote pairing had no tangible impact on the outcome of the Senate.

I guess I need to study more carefully the rules and customs that govern the World’s Most Deliberative Body. This one is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Had it with all these Kavanaugh speeches

I hereby declare that I have had it up to here with all these speeches about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Where is “here”? Name it: my eyeballs, my armpits, the top of my noggin. Or, you can say “here” is my chinny-chin-chin.

We know what U.S. Senate Republicans think of Kavanaugh. They think he’s the best thing to happen to jurisprudence since pockets on shirts. Democrats believe the accusation that he sexually assaulted at least one woman in the 1980s and don’t want him anywhere near the highest court in the land.

Yet many of the 100 men and women who comprise the Senate are orating their pleasure/displeasure about the confirmation vote.

Spare me, ladies and gentlemen. Indeed, spare the rest of the country. We’ve heard it already. Multiple times! You’ve repeated yourselves.

Actually, all I’m hearing now is the equivalent of white noise.

Blah, blah, blah … and some more blah, blah. 

Kavanaugh isn’t my idea of a good choice for the Supreme Court. Then again, I have no direct say in who Donald J. Trump appoints to these posts. The president won’t listen to me. For that matter, he doesn’t listen to damn near anyone, believing that since he is the president of the United States, he is entitled to make whatever decision he feels like making.

True enough.

In the meantime, the Senate’s 100 members need to stop talking now about things we’ve heard already.

Credible accusation … or not?

Brett Kavanaugh’s ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court is virtually assured.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has endorsed Kavanaugh’s nomination; then came immediately after her 50-minute Senate floor speech came the endorsement of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

It’s done!

But here’s an interesting — and borderline maddening — caveat to the senators’ “yes” votes. They both had plenty of praise for the testimony delivered by the woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in that gripping hearing a week ago.

They both said they believe Ford is a victim of sexual assault. They both called Ford’s testimony “credible.” OK, if it’s credible, why do they both assert that although they believe she was assaulted, they do not believe her “100 percent certain” allegation that Kavanaugh was the assailant in 1983? Ford told senators she is absolutely, unequivocally certain that Kavanaugh attacked her.

Is the accuser’s allegation credible? Or not?

How are these folks defining the term “credible”?

Did the judge make an empty promise? Let’s hope not

Judge Brett Kavanaugh appears headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

I don’t believe he belongs there, but that’s not my call. Texas’s two U.S. senators are going to vote for his confirmation, along with at least 48 of their colleagues. That puts he count at 50 “yes” votes; Vice President Mike Pence will be standing by to break the tie.

OK, that all said, Kavanaugh has made a promise to be an “impartial” justice once he joins the highest court in America. He wrote the op-ed column for the Wall Street Journal in an extraordinary last-minute pitch to the Senate to confirm him.

He had to write it, given his ghastly response to the criticism of his nomination in the wake of the sexual abuse allegations leveled against him. He blamed his troubles on a “left-wing” hit job from those who sought “revenge for the Clintons.”

Wow, man!

It is fair to wonder — so I will do so — whether Kavanaugh’s pledge of impartiality and fairness from the SCOTUS bench is an empty one. He is going to ascend to the highest judicial post in America and it’s a lifetime job at that! It’s his for as long as he wants it, or for as long as he draws breath.

I want to believe that he can be the kind of justice he pledges to be. The skeptic in me, based on his performance at that supplemental Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, makes me wonder whether he can keep that promise.

Judges who get these lifetime jobs are free to rule however they wish, within the constraints of the U.S. Constitution. They have no elections awaiting them. Sure, they can be impeached, but the bar for judicial impeachment is at least as high as it is for a presidential impeachment.

Those of us who oppose Kavanaugh’s appointment are left to hope for the best … even as we fear the worst.

Kavanaugh headed to SCOTUS?

The fix is in. The deal appears to be done. Barring some remarkable change of mind and heart among key U.S. senators, a deeply flawed nominee is heading for the ninth seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh stands accused — still! — of sexual assault by a woman who accused him of attacking her when they were teenagers.

Christine Blasey Ford testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh did as she has alleged. She said she is “100 percent certain” her attacker was young Brett.

Kavanaugh denies it.

He disqualified himself, though, in my mind with his highly partisan attack on those who have opposed his nomination by Donald J. Trump. He blamed those who seek “revenge” on behalf of Bill and Hillary Clinton and then said their effort was being financed by “left-wing” political interest groups.

Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell are delivering the mother of all bum’s rushes in pushing this nomination forward. The FBI conducted a perfunctory examination of Kavanaugh and the allegation against him. It didn’t bother to talk to Ford, which I would have thought would have been a no-brainer.

The report now is in the hands of senators, Democrats and Republicans. It needs to be made public, given that Kavanaugh appears headed to a lifetime post on the nation’s highest court — which is paid for with money that comes out of my pocket … and yours!

The very best I could have hoped for would have been for Kavanaugh to set aside politics as he pondered how to rule on cases that come before the court. His performance at the supplemental hearing dashed that hope for me.

Newspapers are editorializing against Kavanaugh’s nomination. A retired Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens — confirmed in 1975 after being nominated by President Ford — said he has changed his mind and now opposes him. Demonstrators are marching in streets. Politicians are making speeches opposing Kavanaugh.

Will any of this matter? Will anyone’s minds be changed? Probably not. I’m left, therefore, to say a prayer for us as we recover from the circus we’ve just witnessed.