Turbulent confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh
President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, faced one of the most contentious confirmation hearings in Senate history this week, with his vote expected to give conservatives the power to shape American law for decades to come. Kavanaugh avoided giving direct answers to most of the pointed questions from Democrats, insisting that he will serve as an independent-minded justice. Kavanaugh declined to say whether Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to have an abortion, was properly decided, saying only that justices are bound to take the court’s precedents into account. Asked if a sitting president should be required to respond to a subpoena, or if President Trump can pardon himself for crimes, Kavanaugh said he could not answer “hypothetical” questions about cases that might come before him. “The person with the best arguments on the law is the person that will win with me,” Kavanaugh said.
Democrats tried unsuccessfully to postpone the hearing altogether, demanding more time to review 42,000 pages of confidential documents from Kavanaugh’s work in George W. Bush’s White House, released the day before hearings began. The Trump administration has refused to release more than 100,000 additional pages of documents, on the grounds of executive privilege. Democrats pressed Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to adjourn while protesters shouted anti-Kavanaugh slogans from the gallery. “This is the most incomplete, most partisan, least transparent vetting for any Supreme Court nominee I have ever seen,” said Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
What the editorials said
Democrats have descended into “histrionics” in their crusade to block Kavanaugh, said The Wall Street Journal. The Senate has already received more than half a million pages of documents related to Kavanaugh’s time as a lawyer and a judge, more than the last five nominees combined. Kavanaugh also has a lengthy record of 307 written opinions as a federal judge. Rather than showing him as some kind of Trumpian monster, they demonstrate that he’s the kind of “mainstream legal conservative that any GOP president would have had on his short list.”
“There is no good excuse” not to thoroughly vet a lifetime appointee to the country’s highest court, said The Washington Post. Only a “small fraction” of the documents made available come from Kavanaugh’s years as White House staff secretary to President George W. Bush, a controversial period Kavanaugh says shaped his judicial views more than any other. The Republicans’ rush to confirm him “will leave many Americans wondering, with reason, what they are not being told.”
What the columnists said
Kavanaugh’s deliberately vague answers on abortion “tell us nothing,” said Anna North in Vox.com. In the past, he’s praised the dissent on Roe and made his anti-abortion sentiments clear. His mealymouthed talk about “precedent” is just a smoke screen to give Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, the two pro-choice Republicans, enough cover to vote for his confirmation and give him the necessary 51 votes.
Democrats have picked the wrong enemy, said David French in NationalReview.com. Kavanaugh represents the values those attending John McCain’s funeral this week “claim they miss in the age of Trump.” But liberals have turned his hearing into a “disgusting spectacle” filled with rude interruptions from senators hamming it up for the #Resistance and shrieking protesters dressed in outfits from The Handmaid’s Tale. This is why conservatives “don’t believe for one moment that Donald Trump is the sole source of American dysfunction.”
A single seat on the Supreme Court shouldn’t be this important, said David Kaplan in The New York Times. If the justices’ votes can be predicted based on the president who appoints them, “then what’s the point of having a court that, in theory, operates above politics?” When justices rule the way we like, we laud them for correctly “interpreting” the Constitution. When they rule against us, we accuse them of legislating from the bench. “In the fight for the court, hypocrisy is king.”
On the cover: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Cover illustration by Fred Harper.
Cover photos from Reuters, Alamy, AP