I really hadn’t planned a sequel to Monday’s GOP SOP post but it’s time for another acronym fest. The GOP SCOTUS SOP is what could be called the “nice guy narrative.” We’ve seen it many times over the years as far back as Rehnquist and more recently with John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, and now Brett Kavanaugh.
I like Brett Kavanaugh. If niceness-to-me-alone is the sole indicator of judicial qualification then, like the authors above, I’m all in. Kavanaugh has never been anything but kind and courteous to me, personally. Unfortunately, that calculation leaves out millions of nameless, faceless, vulnerable people who don’t often get a chance to write op-eds about the carpool skills and free-floating niceness of Article III jurists.
Niceness is nice. I’d even go so far as to venture that niceness is very, very nice. But it’s not the basis from which to offer someone lifetime tenure on the highest court in the land. And I am still waiting for the Republican appellate lawyers, D.C. lobbyists, and operatives to stand up and tell us how “nice” Judge Garland was. Because I would submit that he was just about equal in “niceness” to Kavanaugh, and yet it mattered not one bit to anyone two years ago, since at that time, niceness was irrelevant. At the very least, then, we should be able to agree that if Garland’s kindness to small animals and assorted D.C. charities was immaterial in 2016, Kavanaugh’s warmth of character should not be an issue in 2018.
I hereby stipulate that Kavanaugh does not pull the wings off flies, walks little old ladies across the street, and does not beat his wife or children. Hereinafter I will call him Mr. Nice Judge. None of that matters. His views and experience are what matters. And that’s the problem with this nominee. His years as a senior aide to George W. Bush have given him the most expansive position on executive power imaginable. As far as Mr. Nice Judge is concerned the Oval One is an elected dictator who can do whatever the hell he wants, whenever the hell he wants to.
Even more worrisome is the fact that Mr. Nice Judge has been involved in some serious GOP overreach: the Starr chamber investigation, the 2000 Bush-Gore recount, and the Bush administration’s un-American torture policies. That is why it is so important that Senators have access to his papers from his time as W’s staff secretary. What was his role in that process?
Belying his Mr. Nice Judge tag was Kavanaugh’s role in the Starr chamber investigation into Clinton White House counsel Vincent Foster’s suicide, which the wingnuts of the day posited was a murder ordered by the Clintons:
In early 1995, however, Kavanaugh offered his boss, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, the legal rationale for expanding his investigation of the Arkansas financial dealings of President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, to include the Foster death, according to a memo he wrote on March 24, 1995. Kavanaugh, then 30, argued that unsupported allegations that Foster may have been murdered gave Starr the right to probe the matter more deeply.Foster’s death had already been the focus of two investigations, both concluding that Foster committed suicide. ““We are currently investigating Vincent Foster’s death to determine, among other things, whether he was murdered in violation of federal criminal law,” Kavanaugh wrote to Starr and six other officials in a memo offering legal justification for the probe. “[I]t necessarily follows that we must have the authority to fully investigate Foster’s death.”
That’s not very nice, is it? But that doesn’t matter. One can be a great Supreme Court Justice and still be a colossal dick, IMO William O. Douglas was a prickly prick but one of the greatest Justices to ever don robes whereas William Rehnquist was a sweetheart. Their views are what mattered, not their niceness or lack thereof.
So, the next time you hear a testimonial to Mr. Nice Judge, ignore it and focus on the fact that he’s likely to vote Roe vs. Wade into oblivion and stated in a public forum that US vs. Nixon (the Watergate tapes case) was wrongly decided.
Senate Republicans have got the confirmation process down to a science, which is why I call it the GOP SCOTUS SOP. Hopefully, red state Democrats won’t fall for it. Just remember: