Mitch McConnell and his ilk must be delighted: they’ve waged a decades-long campaign to stack the courts with conservative ideologues
By Richard Wolffe | The Guardian | October 9, 2018
Brett Kavanaugh is the symptom, not the cause, of our sickness. He is the nasal congestion snorted out by the politics that have plagued us for the best part of three decades. If we’re ever going to recover our health and sanity, we need to start with the correct diagnosis.
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For all the justified outrage about sexual assault, involving allegations that Kavanaugh denied, the new supreme court justice represents an even bigger lie than his mindless fabrications about “ralphing” and “boofing”. He can blame his weak stomach if he likes; the rest of us are heaving at the sight of a generation-long confidence trick suckering an entire democracy.
You could hear it as Kavanaugh’s loyal supporters stood up on the Senate floor and proclaimed their sincere belief in, nay their earnest yearning for, judicial impartiality.
“Judges make decisions based on law, not on policy, not based on political pressure, not based on the identity of the parties,” said Deb Fischer, the Nebraska Republican who quoted liberally from Kavanaugh himself.
This may come as a surprise to anyone who has been awake and conscious for the last several decades of a campaign to stack the courts with conservative ideologues.
It’s hard to believe that Mitch McConnell, the wily Republican leader of the Senate, has fought so hard and so long for his legacy to be such wonderfully impartial and apolitical judges.
But don’t take my word for it; take his.
To justify this judicial coup over the last several weeks and decades, Republicans needed to engage in extensive doublespeak
“This project … is the most important thing that the Senate and an administration of like mind – which we ended up having – could do for the country,” he told Politico. “Putting strict constructionists, relatively young, on the courts for lifetime appointments is the best way to have a long-term positive impact on America. And today is a seminal moment in that effort.”
Ah yes, “strict constructionists.” Them’s fancy words for conservative ideologues who get jobs as judges. They emerged in opposition to the clearly crazy supreme court that voted unanimously against segregation in Brown v Board of Education.
There’s no meaningful definition of this jurisprudence, but there is a political understanding that it is opposed to “activist judges” who are entirely – and astonishingly – all liberals.
In the words of George W Bush, Kavanaugh’s former boss and protector, it’s pretty clear who fits the bill. When asked what kind of supreme court justices he’d nominate, back when he was running for president in 2000, Bush said simply: “I don’t believe in liberal activist judges. I believe in strict constructionists.”
That was something of a sick joke when the conservative activists on the supreme court decided to end the recount of votes cast for Bush and Gore just two months later, thus handing Bush the presidency.
This is the polar opposite of an impartial, apolitical judiciary. And it’s why McConnell has no shame in talking about a project of like-minded political hacks, re-tooling the judiciary for political purposes far beyond their elected terms. Whatever this is, it isn’t democracy.
To justify this judicial coup over the last several weeks and decades, the entire Republican party needed to engage in extensive doublespeak.
It was the Democrats who were playing politics with the supreme court, trying to delay the Kavanaugh nomination until the elections. It wasn’t the Republicans, who delayed president Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the best part of a year until, um, the 2016 election.
Brett Kavanaugh was the victim of a political assault, while the victim of the sexual assault – Dr Christine Blasey Ford – was part of a conspiracy of aggressors.
It was Kavanaugh who put this best when he shed his judicial robes before the Senate judiciary committee last week. “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” he raged, “fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside leftwing opposition groups.”
In one sniffling, water-gulping outburst, Kavanaugh revealed his judicial nomination for the political operation it always was. The lieutenant to Ken Starr – who liberally leaked sexual assault details as a form of political attack on Bill Clinton – was railing against the leaking of sexual assault details which Kavanaugh considered a political attack.
In one sniffling outburst, Kavanaugh revealed his judicial nomination for the political operation it always was
In this world, where victims are aggressors and attackers are victims, it is hard to know which way is up. Not least because the whole political world is heading down the sewer.
Political hacks turn into supposedly apolitical judges who suddenly revert back into political hacks, as part of a political campaign to remake the judiciary in non-political ways that happen to be conservative.
“Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it,” yelled Lindsey Graham, the lickspittle Republican senator, as he turned on his Democratic opponents in front of the poor, helpless Judge Kavanaugh. Graham was so hot and bothered about stopping power-hungry politicians that he needed to be super power-hungry himself. “I hope the American people can see through this sham,” he said.
A sham it certainly was. The FBI background check into Kavanaugh was so heavily curtailed by the Trump White House that it served as a cover-up: a fig leaf to protect vulnerable senators from embarrassment.
One of those was the Maine Republican, Susan Collins, a self-styled moderate, who pretzeled herself trying to make sense of her own vote to confirm Kavanaugh. The judge, she said, was endorsed by the American Bar Association, preferring to ignore the fact that the ABA said it was re-evaluating that whole endorsement thing because Kavanaugh had acted so plain bonkers in the hearing last week.
Collins, like so many other seemingly sympathetic Republicans, said she believed Dr Ford’s testimony. She just didn’t actually believe her. “I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life,” Collins said earnestly. “Nevertheless, the four witnesses she named could not corroborate any of the events of that evening gathering where she says the assault occurred.”
This makes about as much sense as all those medieval trials of French pigs.
Of course, the curious case of Brett Kavanaugh is the perfect emblem for the politics of Trump, where the real victims of racism and sexism are old white men with a predilection for sexual harassment, assault and infidelity. It has been literally awesome to hear all about the presumption of innocence from the party that still chants “lock her up” at presidential rallies.
But why don’t we leave it to the newly-minted supreme court justice to give voice to this bare-faced doublespeak: the one whose name emerged from a list of nominees prepared by rightwing ideological groups like the Federalist Society, writing in the rightwing editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal.
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“The supreme court must never be viewed as a partisan institution,” wrote the man who claimed he was the victim of a vast leftwing conspiracy. “The justices do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms. I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player.”
Yes, we know, Justice Kavanaugh. You told Democrats last week “what goes around comes around”. You’re the best team player the conservative movement could wish for, and that’s exactly why they fought so hard to get you on the court for the rest of your living days.