Category Archives: Supreme Court

Another Fine Kavanaugh Mess Redux

I originally planned to write a non-Kavanaugh Mess post this morning. I was naive. I should have known that all hell was going to break loose when I took a break from political news yesterday.

As you have surely heard by now, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow have published another credible account of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh. This time it was while he was student at Yale and the accuser is a former classmate, Deborah Ramirez. In her student days, she was apparently a prim and proper type who preppie louts like Kavanaugh enjoyed taunting. Her story involves excessive drinking, flashing, ritual humiliation, and a dildo. I am not making this up. It almost makes one nostalgic for the quaint days when Douglas Ginsburg withdrew his SCOTUS nomination because he smoked pot.

Here’s what some smart ass had to say about it last night on the tweeter tube:

The dildo story reminded me of a bizarre moment from 1991:

Increasingly, the Kavanaugh story is about privilege. The younger Kavanaugh comes off as an entitled prick who thinks his preppie pedigree allowed him to do whatever the hell he wanted. To say that the combination of alcohol, testosterone, and entitlement is a toxic cocktail is a grotesque understatement.

One mystery of the Kavanaugh mess is why he didn’t try the “repentant former drunk” gambit that was used by his ex-boss, George W. Bush. When the Blasey Ford charges emerged, it would have been wise to have said something like this: “When I was young, I had a terrible drinking problem. I drank until I blacked out and do not remember what happened when I was in that condition.” Such a confession might have served him well but it’s too late for what the Watergate creeps called a modified limited hangout.

Adding to Kavanaugh’s political hangover is the fact that Michael Avenatti joined the fray last night with a third entry in the Brett Kavanaugh sexual predation  sweepstakes:

In typical Avenatti attack dog fashion, he went  directly after Judge Flasher:

Does anyone want this guy up in their shit?

I’ve come to the conclusion that Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is doomed. This shitshow has spattered every Republican involved. The reason Senate GOPers were so frantic to advance the vote is that they knew of the Ramirez allegations last week as they “negotiated” with Dr. Ford’s lawyers. This tweet by a former aide to Eric Holder nails the import of this move:

The end game is in sight. Here’s one possible scenario: Mitch McConnell will dispatch one of his minions to brief reporters in an off-the-record gaggle setting. The designated leaker will knife the nominee by telling the press that Kavanaugh does not have the votes and should withdraw. Presumably, the withdrawal cake will be baked and Kavanaugh will step aside so he can spend more time with his calendar. Then, McConnell will give an interview to Politico and/or Axios who will spin it as a some sort of victory for the “wily” majority leader.

There’s no way the deeply cynical McConnell is willing to die on the proverbial hill for a nominee he did not want to put forward in the first place. This is Trump’s debacle: he was so focused on his own legal problems that he didn’t listen to his allies on the Hill. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

Republicans will  try to use the Kavanaugh fiasco to gin up their evangelical base but the impact among women voters is likely to far outweigh that. As I’ve said before, this is a lose-lose situation for the GOP, and their attempts to cover-up the second allegation and rush to a committee vote has already blown up in their faces. Repeat after me: if Kavanaugh has done nothing wrong, why are he and Senate GOPers  opposed to the FBI re-opening the background check? This is how guilty people act, not those with nothing to hide.

I decided to stick my neck out and make some predictions because I can no longer see a path to confirmation for Brett Kavanaugh. Could I be wrong? Hell, yes. Nothing surprises me any more.

Finally, I no longer expect a hearing on Thursday; sometime in the next 24-48 hours, Kavanaugh, like the old school Catholic he claims to be, will practice the withdrawal method and exit stage right.

The Kavanaugh Mess: Reckless Disregard

Senate Republicans aren’t the only ones willing to do anything to secure a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court. Enter Ed Whelan who is a major player in the DC conservative legal establishment as well as a friend and associate of Federalist Society honcho Leonard Leo and a certain sleazy Supreme wannabe, Brett Kavanaugh.

In what could be described as death by twitter, Whelan posted a wildly conjectural thread that has already been deleted, followed by an apology to the man he libeled. Here is Josh Marshall’s distillation of the excised thread:

Ed Whelan, a key player in DC’s conservative judicial establishment, posted a lengthy twitter thread in which he made a highly conjectural argument that the accusation against Brett Kavanaugh is actually a case of mistaken identification and that Prof. Blasey Ford’s alleged attacker was actually a classmate of Kavanaugh’s named Chris Garrett.

Garrett is now a middle school teacher in Georgia and had actually signed a letter which a number of Kavanaugh’s classmates sent to the Senate in July attesting to Kavanaugh’s character. Blasey Ford put out a statement tonight stating categorically that she knew both Kavanaugh and Garrett at the time and that there is no way she could have mistaken one for the other.

It’s worth stepping back and contemplating just how wild and reckless an action this was. There’s really no way for me to capture the zaniness of Whelan’s argument. You can read it here. Suffice it to say it’s far-fetched an makes the most serious of accusations based on the flimsiest of conjectures.

There are two key pieces of context that are critical to understand. Whelan didn’t just spin out some hypotheticals. He clearly pointed the finger at a man who is not a public figure in any way and argued that he was likely the one who attempted to rape Blasey Ford. At the end of his thread he drew back and said he didn’t know specifically what had happened that night … but it was clear what he meant and what he was saying. This is almost certainly libelous.

The other point is that Whelan is not some random on Twitter or an eccentric but little known activist. He is close friends with Kavanaugh and Leonard Leo, the head of the Federalist Society, the group that chooses and then organizes the confirmation strategies for these nominees. Whelan is also close to Don McGahn, the White House Counsel who is formally in charge of shepherding Kavanaugh’s nomination through the Senate. Whelan is part of the very top handful of activists who play in this space.

I may be a lapsed lawyer but I know libel when I see it: a private citizen was dragged into the Kavanaugh mess and accused of committing a crime without a shred of proof. It’s called reckless disregard for the truth. Whelan’s defenders might say that there’s an Absence of Malice but Paul Newman and Sally Field beg to differ.

You didn’t think I could get through a Kavanaugh mess post without, uh, posting a movie poster, did you? That’s well-nigh imposterable…

It’s time for an early edition of Separated At Birth. Here’s the side-by-side picture Whelan used to “document” his mistaken identity/doppelgänger theory:

Kavanaugh is on the right, Garrett on the left. The two look like suburban preppies who plan to pledge to a frat when they go to college. Btw, Kavanaugh is a Deke (DKE) which is one of the rowdiest and most entitled fraternities around. That explains a great deal about him.

The biggest question about Doppelgängergate is what did Kavanaugh know and when did he know it? Wingnut twitter was buzzing for days over a “revelation” that would crack the Ford-Kavanaugh case. My belief is that it’s part of a co-ordinated strategy to save Kavanaugh’s worthless ass. Former GOP operative Steve Schmidt, who knows Whelan, does too:

Thus spake a former Republican hack who has forsaken the party of Trump. Twitter giveth and twitter taketh away.

In a sane world, this would doom the Kavanaugh nomination and he would withdraw in shame over the company he keeps. In the shameless Trump era, who the hell knows? It does, however, prove the accuracy of a meme I first posted on August 8th:

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has preserved the nutbar Whelan twitter thread for posterity.

Another Fine Kavanaugh Mess: The Big Bluff

Remember when Senate Republicans were in disarray on the Kavanaugh nomination? That was so Monday. They’ve moved on to the lie, deny, and misdirect phase of the nomination process.

Last night Lawrence O’Donnell scorched Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch for their blatant hypocrisy:

A quick summary: Grassley and Hatch demanded that the FBI re-open its background check into Clarence Thomas to investigate Anita Hill’s charges. The Bush White House ordered the FBI to proceed. It took only a few days. The notion that checking out the credibility of Dr, Blasey’s story is “not the FBI’s thing” is another lie from a GOP ruthlessly determined to win at all costs. It’s what they do. Remember Merrick Garland.

A look at the facts behind the Thomas-Hill mess shows that Dr. Blasey is being treated worse than Anita Hill before she appeared before the Judiciary Committee. It would be hard to top the lurid questions of Hatch and former Senators Specter and Simpson. I would hope that current GOPers would at least be able to pronounce Long Dong Silver correctly. In 1991, Hatch referred to that porn performer alternately as Long Don or John Silver. I guess he was thinking of this dude:

There’s an interesting profile of Christine Blasey Ford  in the Failing New York Times. She comes off as an impressive and accomplished woman. That is exactly why Senate Republicans are trying their damnedest to make it impossible for her to testify publicly. These are the same Senators behind the Merrick Garland mess, so their protestations of fairness and compassion ring hollow.

Senate GOPers do not want a FBI background checkup because they’re afraid Brett Kavanaugh will lie to the FBI, which is a crime; just ask Mike Flynn. Kavanaugh has already lied to the Senate, after all.

The mere fact that Dr. Blasey is willing to speak to the FBI enhances her credibility Besides, the only time people make up sexual assault allegations is when there’s something in it for them, and that’s still exceedingly rare. There’s nothing but heartache, humiliation, and harassment in this for Dr. Blasey.

On a human level, I understand why Christine Blasey Ford would not want to testify. I hope she does because the rushed GOP timeline/deadline is a big bluff. Here’s how Slate’s Jim Newell, who is one of the savviest observers of Congress, ended his piece this morning:

Republican leaders didn’t want Ford to testify in a public hearing in the first place, and they still don’t. Her credible testimony, with or without additional witnesses or background investigations, is the one and only fatal threat to Kavanaugh’s nomination. As one very prominent Republican said Wednesday morning, “if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision.”

I would hate to be in Christine Blasey Ford’s shoes right now. Her attorney’s request for the FBI to look into the Kavanaugh mess is not only reasonable, but is in line with the Hill precedent. Public testimony will be painful BUT if she folds her hand, Kavanaugh will be confirmed. It’s unclear that the Republicans have a backup plan if she agrees to Grassley’s extortionate terms. It’s up to her. I hope she calls their big bluff.

That concludes another post chock-full-o-old movie references. I had hoped to post an image of Laurel and Hardy cutting neckties but could not find one. This will have to do:

Substitute Orrin Hatch or Chuck Grassley for Ollie and you get the idea.

Here’s hoping the last laugh will be on Senate Republicans:

UPDATE: Team Blasey Ford has called the GOP’s bluff. The fluidity index, if there is such a thing, on this story remains high.

Your President* Speaks: The Boy In The Bubble

I originally planned to write at length about the Kavanaugh mess but it’s still as fluid as hell. I’m not into trying to nail Jello to the wall, so let’s see what our idiot president* has been up to. (For some obscure reason a high school friend of mine nicknamed a classmate, Jellohead. It had nothing to do with Jello shots, which we had never heard of at that point. To paraphrase Brett Kavanaugh, “what happens at San Mateo High, stays at San Mateo High. That’s been a good thing for all of us.” Party on, Brett,)

That may have been a record-breaking parenthetical digression. I constantly outdo myself in that regard.

Let’s take a look at the low light of an interview the Kaiser of Chaos gave to The Hill, which is not connected with his arch-nemesis Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The first quote *may* be the dumbest thing Trump has said yet and that’s saying a lot:

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

I know there’s a lot of competition for stupidest Trump comment ever, but he’s never claimed pre-election appointment powers before. Does he think Barack Obama would have listened to him? Perhaps he could borrow the Tardis from the Doctor and do some time traveling. Of course, now that the Doctor is a woman, he’d never ask a skirt. Delusional thy name is Donald.

Let’s move on to an inside the White House piece by Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair’s Hive.  Sherman’s sources informed him that the “First Daughter” has urged daddy to “cut bait” and dump Kavanaugh. I had no idea that Ivanka was an angler. Maybe she should go fishing with former Veep Dick Cheney. It would be entertaining if Cheney’s line got tangled in Ivanka’s blond locks.

Here’s what Trumpberius is reported to have said about his lousy Supreme Court nominee:

“‘He’s a Bush guy, why would I put myself out there defending him?’”

A classic bit of Trump loyalty if I’ve ever seen one. He ignored advice from Senate GOPers to pick a nominee with less baggage so this is his screw-up.

The Buckpasser-in-Chief has come up with his story if the GOP loses the midterms bigly:

Even before the Kavanaugh crisis, Trump has been worried about Republicans’ declining fortunes, and he’s been finding ways to shift the blame. Trump told a friend in the Oval Office last week that it would be Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s fault if Republicans lost the House and the Senate, according to a person familiar with the conversation. “This is the election about Ryan and McConnell—it’s about those guys,” Trump said. Trump referred to his 2020 campaign as “the real election.” “It’s pure Trump. He has to come up with a way he’s not responsible if Republicans lose,” a former West Wing staffer said.

I’ve heard of shape-shifters but Trump is a blame-shifter. It’s a new one on me. It’s what happens when you live in a bubble.

I thought there was going to be a red wave. You mean the president* was lying about that? #sarcasm. His more gullible followers apparently believe the Insult Comedian’s red wave shtick and are as low energy as Jeb Bush about the midterms according to an internal RNC poll obtained by Bloomberg News.

Donald Trump is a past master at creating his own reality. To some extent, all presidents live in a bubble but this president* has always lived in one. The last word goes to Paul Simon:

The Kavanaugh Mess

I was almost hesitant to write about the Kavanaugh mess because the situation is so fluid. It’s like confidently predicting where a tropical system will strike when it’s off the coast of West Africa. Those who are convinced that a judiciary committee vote will take place on Thursday *could* be right. As of this writing, delay is in the air. And delay is not Brett Kavanaugh’s friend.

I was relieved when Christine Blasey Ford came forward on Sunday. I had gotten tired of the Feinstein bashing. She was between a rock and a hard place: a constituent (her boss) had requested that her identity remain confidential and Team Feinstein was trying to honor their commitment to her. Politics *should* be about people and people’s wishes should be respected; otherwise we’re just as bad as the Republicans.

Ms. Ford’s desire to avoid the inevitable blood-letting is completely understandable as is her decision to come forward when the press was hot on her trail. There were no easy answers for Team Feinstein and I’m glad that Ms. Ford and her lawyer have praised them. Let’s leave those process-based recriminations to the Republicans and move on.

The GOP’s original strategy was to issue that preposterous “Brett didn’t rape me” letter and hope that Ms. Ford would not testify. Her attorney has now stated that she’s willing to do so. A note on the GOP letter: these are not Kavanaugh’s “classmates:” he went to an all-boys school.

As of this writing, it’s unclear what will happen with the judiciary committee. It’s politically dangerous for them to proceed without hearing Ms. Ford when even Kellyanne Conway thinks she “should not be ignored.” I’m inclined to believe that the temporary senior senator from Arizona will not Flake out on his pledge to withhold his committee vote without hearing Ms. Ford. He’s made some fine speeches in the past BUT this is the first time he’s promised to do something, so I’ll take him at his word. For now. I told you things were fluid.

Delay is the Democrats’ friend and Kavanaugh’s enemy. The heavy-handed attacks on Ford are politically perilous when regime change in the Senate is suddenly in play. I realize that hardcore Trumpers don’t care about alienating suburban women, but they should. The gender gap in the 2018 midterms will be something to behold. Politically, the Kavanaugh mess is win-win for Democrats. Cynical but true.

The Kavanaugh mess has revived memories of Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings, which were re-opened to hear Anita Hill. Kavanaugh is in a much worse position than Thomas whose hearings had gone well. Nobody accused Clarence Thomas of lying to the senate or of having a gambling problem. Kavanaugh’s baggage is like a steamer trunk that’s weighing him down. I haven’t even mentioned his time as Ken Starr’s designated leaker or as a political hack on W’s staff. In a rational world, his baggage would sink him but this is the Trump era where a president* obstructs justice in broad daylight then brags about it on twitter.

If, like Brett Kavanaugh, I were a betting man, I’d wager on Kavanaugh being confirmed by the senate. Right-wingers have been waiting a long time to replace a swing vote and secure a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. It could, however, be a phyrric victory that results in Republicans losing both houses of Congress. Defending Brett Kavanaugh on the stump will be just as unpleasant as these confirmation hearings.

Repeat after me: the situation is fluid. Anyone who tells you that they’re certain what will happen should be drug tested or polygraphed.

Nothing is written

No More Mr. Nice Judge

I wrote an acronym laced post last month called GOP SCOTUS SOP. My point was that the GOP stresses “the nice guy narrative” when selling their Supreme Court nominees. It’s a way of balancing the harshness of their views with a dollop of niceness; by gosh, by golly. Here’s what I said about Brett Kavanaugh:

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.

That is, of course, why the Kaiser of Chaos nominated Kavanaugh. He sees him as a human get-out-of-jail-free card, or as a one-judge cavalry who will ride in to save the day when Trump’s wagons are circled. Somebody has to keep the Insult Comedian out of an orange jump suit, after all. That look, however, would have the virtue of matching his spray tanned mug and the dead nutria pelt atop his head.

At the first day of his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh played Mr. Nice Judge by nattering on about coaching his daughter’s basketball team. Then the mask slipped:

Here’s Mr. Guttenberg’s side of the story:

The White House claimed that security intervened to separate the two men without any prompting by the nominee, but the damage was done. The Mr. Nice Judge smiley face image was shattered and replaced with the frown of Judge Republican Hack. That’s what Brett Kavanaugh really is: a political hack, a partisan political operative in judicial drag.

What would it have cost Kavanaugh to shake Guttenberg’s hand and say, “sorry for your loss” before walking away? Nothing. It’s also what a genuine Mr. Nice Judge would have done. The rude fucker didn’t even offer “hope and prayers.”

Lawrence O’Donnell nailed Mr. Nice Judge to the wall on The Last Word:

“I had high hopes for Brett Kavanaugh. High hopes that he would find Fred Guttenberg in the audience and just shake hands with him, say something sympathetic to a grieving father in his opening remarks, perhaps, but he didn’t,” O’Donnell said. “He could easily have just added a sentence or two. That’s the most it would take to his opening remarks. He didn’t say a word about Fred Guttenberg or Fred’s daughter Jamie.”

If you thought Lawrence would get the last word, you’re wrong. The look on Brett Kavanaugh’s face when Fred Guttenberg approached him evoked one of Richard Thompson’s most sarcastic songs. It centers on a chance meeting and a handshake:

Repeat after me:

INSTANT UPDATE:

GOP SCOTUS SOP

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.

Here’s how the Divine Dahlia Lithwick put it at Slate:

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:

Invasion Of The Federalist Society Body Snatchers

Charlie Pierce has a theory that the Federalist Society has a lab where they grow GOP judicial nominees. It’s hard to argue the point that they’re pod people like the ones grown in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Btw, Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version is one of the few remakes I like. It’s more of a re-imagining. Besides, what’s not to like about a movie set in San Francisco with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum. I do, however, still revere the 1956 Don Siegel directed original with Monty Clift’s bestie, Kevin McCarthy who should never be confused with the House Majority leader. End of film buff reverie.

Let’s get back to the matter at hand: pod person Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I skipped the fakakta dog and pony show staged by Trumpy’s new flack, Bill Shine. It was timed to boost the ratings of Shine’s pal, Sean Hannity. That Fox News meathead is now the most influential media type in the land. I feel as if I’ve died and gone to hell. At least the 8PM EST timing juiced up my girl Rachel Maddow’s ratings as well.

One deviation from the Federalist Society playbook is that Kavanaugh had a rough ride in his first confirmation process. He was nominated by George W Bush in 2003 and not confirmed until 2006. He’s been compared to two movie characters: Zelig by Chuck Schumer and Forrest Gump by Dick Durbin. Here’s why: Kavanaugh is a political animal who was involved in the Clinton impeachment, the 2000 Bush-Gore recount, and was a senior aide to George W Bush before moving to the Federalist Society greenhouse/lab and rehatching as a federal judge.

One serious problem Kavanaugh faces is that Senator Durbin believes that he lied at his confirmation hearing. Kavanaugh claimed that he was ignorant of some of the nastier practices of the Bush administration’s so-called war on terror. Unfortunately, lying is not disqualifying in the Trump era. Durbin is still on the judiciary committee and ready to call Kavanaugh out.

The more I look at Kavanaugh’s track record, the more I see why McConnell preferred another pod person. Kavanaugh’s paper trail is long, extensive, and contradictory. Senators have customarily been allowed to pour over the nominee’s documents, which in this instance could number up to a million because of Kavanaugh’s association with Ken Starr and Bush the younger. There are emails involved. That should give wingnuts a boner but it won’t because:

There seem to be two reasons why pod person Kavanaugh was selected in the face of opposition by social conservatives:

First, Team Trump schmoozed Justice Kennedy into retiring with the promise that his former law clerk would be his successor. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would join fellow Kennedy clerk Neil Gorsuch on the bench. There’s been some mutterings of a corrupt deal but this seems more like mentoring run amuck. You can tell that Trump out-sourced that part of the process because he’d have no problem betraying Kennedy. Stiffing people is what he does. Just ask his former chaffeur.

Second, I’m convinced that the president* selected pod person Kavanaugh because he views him as a human get-out-of-jail-free card. I’ll let girlfriend Dahlia Lithwick explain:

Over what I believe to be a surprisingly authentic warning from Mitch McConnell not to select Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat left by Anthony Kennedy, the president chose the guy who had the most to say about imperial presidents. This is not a surprise. Beyond the fact that Kennedy doubtless approved of Trump’s selection—Kavanaugh, like Gorsuch, clerked for Kennedy—the single greatest selling point for Kavanaugh had to have been the much-reported line from his 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, in which he wrote, “Even in the absence of congressionally conferred immunity, a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.” A President Trump seeking justification to immunize himself from prosecution needed to look no farther than Kavanaugh’s caution in that same article that the indictment and trial of a president “would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas.”

Being a GOP pod person, Kavanaugh was for vigorously investigating presidents before he was against it. I suspect that had something to do with his days in the Beavis-Duce White House. Repeat after me:

I’m milking that meme for all it’s worth. It was originally supposed to be the featured image for a post centered on the IOKYAR-ness of this nominee. That was before I entered the Federalist Society lab/greenhouse and tripped over a pod.

The nomination of pod person  Kavanaugh provides opponents with more ammunition than any other potential nominee, which is the incompetent Trumper twist on the Federalist Society formula. I still expect the latest pod to be hatched at the Supreme Court after narrowly being confirmed. BUT the extent of Kavanaugh’s paper trail should slow things down considerably. I’m sure the Turtle has a few tricks stored in his shell but we saw with the failed ACA vote that Chinless Mitch is not infallible.

More importantly, Trump has given Democrats an issue gift for the election. Here’s girlfriend Dahlia again:

In short, this means that Trump didn’t just give Senate Democrats the talking point that Kavanaugh is an all-but-certain vote to erode or end Roe v. Wade. That statement, while true, could’ve been made about any of the judges on the president’s short list. In selecting Kavanaugh, Trump has given Democrats an additional talking point: The president picked a guy he hopes will hand him a get-out-of-jail-free card.

A pair of Democratic senators have already jumped on this bandwagon, with Jeff Merkley tweeting that the pick indicates Trump “is terrified of Robert Mueller” and Cory Booker stating that he “literally selected the one person who has a pretty good written record of saying, ‘Hey, if you’re a president under investigation, I don’t think you should be allowed to be under criminal investigation.’ ”

Whether this is true or not, or even supported in Kavanaugh’s extensive record, the fact is that Senate Democrats will be able to spend the summer arguing precisely what the president doesn’t want them to argue: that the Mueller probe is ongoing, that close Trump confederates have been indicted and other indictments are coming, that many of the legal questions surrounding the Mueller investigation may end up before the Supreme Court, and that the president may have hand-picked a judge solely for the possibility that he may vote to exonerate him.

Donald Trump always puts his own selfish interests ahead of the national interest. He’s done it again. He can’t even follow the Federalist Society script and nominate another Roberts or Gorsuch. Kavanaugh seems genial enough but he’s a flawed pod person who will make it easier for the Senate minority to slow things down. Thanks, Trumpy.

I’m not though throwing memes at you. Let’s pay a visit to the Federalist Society lab/greenhouse in glorious black and white.

Moderate Republicans Always Cave

The vote spread in the Senate is tantalizing. The GOP has a two vote margin, one if you don’t count John McCain. Defeating a Trump Supreme Court nominee seems doable IF the two Republican Senators who are on the record as pro-choice vote against a nominee. Don’t hold your breath: moderate Republicans always cave.

Yeah, I know, Collins and Murkowski voted against  ACA repeal but that’s an exception to the rule. Unless Trump picks a nominee as outlandish as his twitter feed, they’ll vote the party line. One reason I expect a smooth and genial Gorsuch/Roberts-type nominee is who vetted the potential Supremes for the Trumpers:

Leonard Leo — the anti-abortion Federalist Society executive vice president currently on leave to advise the President on Supreme Court nominees, and the originator of Trump’s campaign-era list of potential nominees — has been careful to note that names on the list have not taken a public stance on abortion.

“None of the people who are being talked about now in the public space in the media are people who have a clear position on Roe v. Wade,” he said, as quoted by the Washington Free Beacon.

The right has these things down to a science. They’ve been honing their craft since the Robert Bork was, well, borked by the Senate. They tend to pick nominees who are rational on the outside but stone cold wingnuts on the inside. It’s one reason they prefer to nominate federal judges because they’re not out there writing inflammatory articles. The Gorsuch nomination proved this is one area in which Trumpism hasn’t dumbed down the GOP.

Senator Collins is making reassuring noises about how she wouldn’t support a nominee who “demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade.” But she’s also convinced that neither Roberts nor Gorsuch would vote to overrule it. That naive notion seems to be based on her belief that they’re “nice guys” and that “nice” Neil Gorsuch wrote a book about stare decisis:

“I had a very long discussion with Justice Gorsuch in my office and he pointed out to me that he is a co-author of a whole book on precedent,” she said. “So someone who devotes that much time to writing a book on precedent, I think understands how important a principle that is in our judicial system.”

Collins is willing to be hoodwinked by private assurances when the Court overruled several longstanding precedents this term:

Liberals leading the charge against Mr. Trump’s potential picks quickly dismissed Ms. Collins’s remarks, suggesting that the senator was either being hoodwinked or knowingly obfuscating her position. They pointed to court decisions as recently as last week — when the justices overturned a four-decade-old precedent in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to deal a blow to organized labor — in which it reversed earlier rulings.

“This proves how flimsy Collins’ pro-Roe position is,” Brian Fallon, a longtime Democratic operative whose organization, Demand Justice, is helping organize opposition to potential nominees, wrote on Twitter on Sunday morning, referring to Ms. Collins’s comments on Mr. Gorsuch. “She is perfectly happy to let herself be suckered based on phony assurances about ‘precedent.’

Repeat after me: moderate Republicans always cave. The moderate to conservative red state Democratic Senators up for re-election this year have NO incentive to die on the SCOTUS hill unless Collins and Murkowski break with their party. It’s hard to imagine the most vulnerable Dem, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, voting against a conservative court pick in any event. He was elected because he ran in a presidential election year and had an appalling opponent. Conservative Democrats *usually* cave on Republican Supreme Court nominees, after all.

There is no path to defeat a Trump nominee unless Collins and Murkowski announce their opposition early and often. Otherwise the red state Democrats will cave since they’re already running scared. That, too, could hurt their campaigns by flattening out enthusiasm among liberals. There *are* red state liberals: I’m one of them

Of particular interest to me is how Alabama’s Doug Jones comes down on this issue. He has to run again in two years BUT he’s a rather learned lawyer who has surely thought about the implications of replacing Kennedy with a hardcore conservative. There’s no incentive for him to do the right thing if Collins and Murkowski cave.

The best case scenario is for the vote to be delayed until after the election. Given the nuking of the filibuster on SCOTUS votes, I’m not sure how this can be accomplished. I know for certain that Chinless Mitch does not give a shit about the so-called McConnell rule. He could care less about accusations of cynicism: he’s cynical and damn proud of it.

I agree with Larry Tribe and Cory Booker that Trump should not be allowed to appoint a Justice who might rule on issues involving the Mueller probe. I have my doubts that such considerations will move any GOP votes since some of them are working to destroy the investigation. Besides, a prospective nominee could theoretically defuse that issue by promising to recuse themselves. That’s only likely to happen if they think they’re going to lose. Here’s how Jessie Jackson might have phrased it in his prime: If you’re going to lose, defuse and recuse.

I remain committed to fighting the nomination, but Josh Marshall presented some contrary views at TPM that are worth considering. The one upside to the political corner Anthony Kennedy’s retirement has painted us into is that  GOP money is flowing from House to Senate races. That helps Democratic odds of retaking the House but the Senate was always trickier given the map.

Anything can happen and a few months is a lifetime in politics. But one should never forget: moderate Republicans always cave.

A Few More Thoughts About The Kennedy Retirement

I missed some important points when I wrote yesterday about Justice Kennedy’s exit, stage right.

First, we’ve gotten so used to phony libertarians like Senator Aqua Buddha and the Koch brothers that we don’t recognize the real deal. Anthony Kennedy is opposed to excessive government regulation in ALL AREAS. On the plus side, he’s championed gay rights and opposed the overruling of Roe v. Wade. On the minus side, he applies his libertarianism to economic and free speech questions and we end up with the Kennedy who supported this term’s awful rulings and Citizens United. He’s simply being consistent in favoring as limited a role for government as possible unless there’s a national security rationale as in the Muslim ban case.

Second, the impact of Kennedy’s exit, stage right, on the fate of the Mueller investigation is worrisome. The Supremes are likely to vote on various aspects of the investigation, which means that Trump has yet another serious conflict of interest:

We know that Chinless Mitch doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the niceties of the law. He believes in power, pure and simple. He clearly regards the McConnell Court as his most important legacy. Conservatives long ago honed in on the federal courts but whenever I urge people to vote based on Supreme Court nominations, I’m rewarded for my efforts with a glazed look.

As to the president* he’s a walking conflict of interest, so why would he care? He has important work to do: engaging in a cover-up in plain sight is difficult and a Gorsuch clone on the court would suit his purposes.

Finally, I wrote the first draft of this post before a remarkable piece appeared in the Failing New York Times about Team Trump’s successful effort to schmooze Justice Kennedy by shrewdly playing on the law clerk connection. The mere fact that they did something competent should send chills up and down our collective spines since Trump is an autocrat in search of an autocracy.

The money is passage is about Kennedy’s son, Justin, who has a longstanding business relationship with the Trumps:

But they had a connection, one Mr. Trump was quick to note in the moments after his first address to Congress in February 2017. As he made his way out of the chamber, Mr. Trump paused to chat with the justice.

“Say hello to your boy,” Mr. Trump said. “Special guy.”

Mr. Trump was apparently referring to Justice Kennedy’s son, Justin. The younger Mr. Kennedy spent more than a decade at Deutsche Bank, eventually rising to become the bank’s global head of real estate capital markets, and he worked closely with Mr. Trump when he was a real estate developer, according to two people with knowledge of his role.

One cannot expect Kennedy’s perorations about dignity and respect to trump crony capitalism. #sarcasm.

We’re really on our own now.

On Our Own Now: Justice Kennedy Exits, Stage Right

I planned to write about the McConnell Court after the appalling decision in the Muslim ban case, which featured an off-hand reversal of the infamous Korematsu ruling. I hadn’t planned to write about Anthony Kennedy but then the news cycle went berserk and my plans changed.

Liberal twitter was on suicide watch after Kennedy’s announcement. There was fear in the virtual air. Kennedy *was* a swing vote on some issues that matter to liberals: abortion, guns, and gay rights. BUT he was also a conservative Reagan appointee who voted with right-wing justices in 13 out of 13 5-4 decisions this term.

The great Dahlia Lithwick wrote one of the best pieces about Kennedy’s exit, stage right:

It was always more fan fiction than reality that Justice Anthony Kennedy was a moderate centrist. Democrats liked to soothe themselves with the story that Kennedy was a moderate because he’d provided the fifth vote to support continued affirmative action, reproductive rights, and gay rights and had strung the left along with the tantalizing promise of someday finding an unconstitutional political gerrymander. But we always knew that Kennedy was a conservative, indeed a very conservative conservative. Recall that in the famous study done in 2008 by Richard Posner and William Landes, “Four of the five most conservative justices to serve on the Supreme Court since the time of Franklin Roosevelt, including [John] Roberts and [Samuel] Alito, are currently sitting on the bench today.” And Kennedy? He was ranked in that study as the 10th most conservative justice in the past century.

To the extent we wrote paeans to Kennedy, it was for his occasional defections in areas that materially affect the lives of millions of people—women, minorities, LGBTQ couples, voters, Guantanamo detainees. And to be sure, each of those votes was well worth it. But we knew that for each such vote, there was a Bush v. Gore, a Citizens United, a Shelby County.

Kennedy’s opinions this term reflected an exhaustion with the law and the court that shouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s 81 years old and ready to sit back and do whatever retired Supremes do. We should have never regarded him as a legal savior of sorts. We’re on our own now.

I am not optimistic about the chances of defeating Trump’s next nominee BUT it’s a battle well-worth waging. The filibuster was nuked for SCOTUS nominees during the Gorsuch confirmation process BUT the GOP majority is nominally 51-49 but actually 50-49 because of John McCain’s illness. I am not optimistic about rhetorically pro-choice Senators Collins and Murkowski voting NO since Republican moderates almost always cave. Jeff Flake has made noises about holding up judicial nominees until McConnell allows a vote on tariffs but it’s unclear if that would apply to Kennedy’s soon-to-be vacated seat. Besides, Flake has been all hat and no cattle in his opposition to the Orange menace. We’re on our own now.

Having said that, Senate Democrats owe their base a fierce fight over this nomination. The future of Roe v. Wade is at stake. Overruling that 45 year-old precedent will NOT automatically render abortion illegal nationally, BUT it would allow states to do so. I expect the Gret Stet of Louisiana to be one of the early entrants in the odious race to abolish abortion. Louisiana Republicans have been working over-time to make Democrat John Bel Edwards a one-term Governor and a Roe reversal would hand them a cudgel. Edwards is rhetorically  pro-life and, like Justice Kennedy, has supported restrictions. But Governor Edwards would have to deal with an enraged Democratic base if he signed a bill banning all abortions. I somehow doubt he views that prospect with anything but foreboding. He needs Gret Stet liberals if he is to be re-elected. It will be a major test of coalition politics here in my backyard. Stay tuned.

Kennedy’s exit-stage right-is a reminder to liberals that we should stop looking for saviors. There’s no deus ex machina that’s going to drop from the sky and save us from the Trumper horde. We have to do it ourselves at the ballot box. There remains an excellent chance to flip the House but control of the Senate is up in the air despite the GOP’s narrow margin. It’s a tough map for Democrats, which is why everyone needs to forget about 2020 and focus on state and congressional elections. We on our own now.

Like many, I had hoped that Anthony Kennedy’s personal qualities would make him loath to allow the loathsome Insult Comedian to appoint his successor. Kennedy is famous for using words like dignity and respect in his opinions. Ain’t nobody less dignified or more disrespectful than Donald Trump who has already made the Kennedy retirement about himself. Dahlia Lithwick, once again, summed up my feelings on this point:

Many of us predicted that Kennedy would not allow Trump to replace him with someone who would dismantle his legacy. We were wrong. Many of us believed that a lifelong devotee of dignity, civility, and the rule of law would not want his work tarnished by a president who routinely attacks individual judges and the very notion of an independent judiciary. We were wrong. That two of Anthony Kennedy’s last judicial acts included a letter that opened “My dear Mr. President” and a vote to grant that same president a virtual blank check on the national security front certainly suggests that nothing about a president who liesbullies, and destabilizes the rule of law was any kind of real impediment to Kennedy’s departure.

2018 is the most important off-year election in the history of the Republic. It’s a chance to check the wild excesses of the executive and legislative branches.  Organize and vote like your life depends on it.

We’re on our own now.

INSTANT UPDATE: In the least surprising development ever, Jeff Flake has announced that he won’t put a hold on a Supreme Court nominee.

We’re still on our own.

Job’s The Same Today

Fuck Gorsuch and just less than half of SCOTUS and McConnell and Ryan and everybody writing about “civility” and the millions of people who voted for Trump because he made them feel good about themselves and fuck the people screaming at the press at Trump rallies and goddamn, blast, confound and fuck every single person in this administration today.

Kick and I spent last night writing postcards to lawmakers over family detention and making plans with friends for another march this weekend, after marching last weekend, because there are fascists in power and we have weekends off work.

I told Kick, who is prone to internalizing everything and processing it as nightmares and also is four years old, that we were writing to the government because the government was not treating children fairly. Why? Because of the color of their skin, I said, citing our picture books about Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou.

(“When government does something we don’t like we ask them to change it,” I told her.

“Can I have a cookie when we get there?”

#WokeToddler is more like #HungryToddler and I can’t tell you how many protests I’ve bribed her through with food or the promise of a playground later.)

It didn’t feel like much, writing postcards. We made cards for the children in detention and she colored them. Especially today, it didn’t feel like much.

But we’re not on the barricades here, not all of us. Some of us are running office supplies and ice cream for the people who are. And some of us aren’t on the barricades today, but will be tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Nobody’s coming, so save yourselves, and the person to your left, and the person to your right.

Do not be daunted, says my childhood Bible from its box in my attic, by the enormity of the world’s misery. Do justly, now.

Job’s the same as it ever was. Save as many as you can. Feel free to post ideas about how/where to do that, in the comments.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Papa Was A Rolling Stone

Hesitation Waltz by Rene Magritte.

It’s been a frustrating week at Adrastos World HQ. Every time I think my pernicious and persistent cold is getting better, I backslide. I would have preferred to be really sick for a few days and then better. Make up your mind, cold.

In local news, the lame duck New Orleans City Council has been up to all sorts of mischief: voting to approve a new power plant for Entergy that won’t solve our blackout  problems and allowing taller buildings to be constructed alongside the Mother of Rivers.  I suspect that the presence of Mayor-elect Cantrell on the Council is one reason they feel free to take such votes. It does not bode well for those who hoped the incoming Mayor would be more neighborhood/citizen friendly. Score another win for real estate developers who are the worst people in the world. Exhibit A for this argument currently lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

This week’s theme song is a tribute to Temptations singer Dennis Edwards who died earlier this month at the age of 74. Papa Was A Rolling Stone was written by Norman Whitfield and Barret Strong and was a monster hit in 1972. Here are two versions for your enjoyment: the Temps and David Lindley.

Now that I’ve dissed real estate developers and my stupid cold, it’s time to roll over to the break. I’m too enfeebled to jump.

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The Gorsuch Filibuster

I’m usually a big picture guy. I prefer not to get caught up in the emotions of the moment. It’s one of the things I respected and admired most about former President Obama. He wasn’t always right in his calculations but they were rational and reasonable. It’s why so many of us called him No Drama Obama. It was just as reassuring to have him in the White House as it is unnerving to have a 70-year-old toddler in his place.

That brings me to the Gorsuch nomination and how it should be dealt with. I have been known to be swayed in the past by arguments such as the ones posited yesterday in a NYT article. Those days, however, are long gone. I think Senate Democrats should filibuster the hell out of  Gorsuch regardless of whether it provokes the so-called nuclear option. Democrats tried being reasonable with the Garland nomination and that distinguished jurist was treated like a bum by Senate GOPers.  This is a stolen Supreme Court seat and those efforts should not be rewarded. Does anyone think they’ll respect us for being reasonable? They never have before.

Politically speaking, the Democratic base is the most engaged it has been since 2006 and 2008. In fact, it may be the most engaged it has been in my lifetime. Failure to filibuster would be deflating and perhaps even disheartening for the grass-roots activists who are energized by the egregious malakatude of the current administration*. Besides, their continued engagement is imperative if Republicans make another run at passing an even worse version of Trumpcare.

Furthermore, Gorsuch is a smug prick who declined to meet with four Democratic Senators who just happen to be women of color. One of whom, California’s Kamala Harris is a former San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General. That makes her a legal as well as a political superstar. She. of all people, should have been given the courtesy of a meeting with Gorsuch. I guess the Trumpers consider her, as an African-American woman, to be a two-time loser unworthy of professional courtesy. So much for Gorsuch’s gee whiz facade. He’s just another Republican asshole beneath all the gollies and goshes.

I am proud of Senator Schumer and the 40 Democratic Senators who plan to filibuster this goshdarn lousy nomination. It’s payback for Judge Garland and all the lies told by Republican Senators about what happened in 2016. It’s time to take a stand and, in a slogan used by former New Orleans Mayor Dutch Morial, keep the drive alive.

INSTANT UPDATE: Josh Marshall argues that the Supreme Court filibuster was effectively abolished in 2005. It’s another reason to stand firm on the Gorsuch nomination by golly.

Quote Of The Day: Goodness Gracious, Golly Gee, Gosh Gorsuch

I’m on the record as a Dahlia Lithwick fan. She outdid herself the other day in a piece about the Gorsuch confirmation hearings, by golly:

There is no good way out of this tangle for Judge Gorsuch. For at least some of us in the room, the two straight days of performative big-hearted Westernness is beginning to chafe. No amount of references to midcentury paddle-wielding nuns and boyish mutton-busting extravaganzas can cover for refusing to answer even the most basic questions about doctrine or precedent. And even though Gorsuch is extremely affable and warm, one can’t escape the growing sense that the nominee we are watching today was hatched in an underground Federalist Society lab, with spare body parts stolen from Atticus Finch, Richie Cunningham, and Snoopy. And at some point you want to gently remind him that 1950s television called and it wants its vocabulary back.

I can’t find the quote but Gore Vidal once lamented that right-wingers spoke like maiden aunts in 1930’s B-movies. I guess we should be relieved that they’ve moved forward in time to 1950’s teevee by golly.

I’ve only watched bits and pieces of the Gorsuch hearings. He’s following the 2005 Roberts script by being affable and saying absolutely nothing. It was annoying in 2005 but infuriating in 2017. The Garland nomination changed everything. Gorsuch’s protestations that he’s an non-political judge ring hollow as the GOP’s humbug threatens to smother the Capital in noxious fumes of hypocrisy.

As Gorsuch himself would surely say, this whole thing is a gosh darn shame.

Let Me Make This Easy for You, Democrats

No.

Really? Still? We’re still doing this? It’s 2017. We’re fully more than a decade past the time when Democrats, eager to take the high road and do the right thing and be patriotic and put country before party, sucked George W. Bush’s strap-on and were rewarded for their decency by having the war hero they nominated for president derided as a commie faggot peace-freak appeaser. We jus spent eight years in which a Democratic president gave weekly speeches about nonexistent well-meaning Republicans who just disagreed on policy while they howled outside his windows burning him in effigy. And we’re still gonna do the right thing?

WHY?

I mean it, God, why? So rich fucks like Richard Blumenthal can look at themselves in the mirror and talk to their reflections about how they tried, or something? So they can feel good about themselves? So they can say they did the “right thing” as defined by some centrist think tank as its members hump the status quo like their lives depend on it? So they don’t ruffle any feathers on the half-plucked chicken we’ve placed in the executive branch? So that maybe next time they’ll get a freebie? How stupid are these people?

Let me explain this for everybody, the fucking club of the most of them, that just got here on the last bus out of Idiotville. Let me tell you what will happen if Democrats hold hearings and confirm this guy. Let’s imagine they do that, and somehow we all survive the next four years and come out alive, and it’s a Democratic president in that chair the next time. And maybe Ruth Bader Ginsberg or one of the other 400-year-old people decides to pack it in. Let me lay out for you what happens next.

In payment for Democrats being so nice and good, and voting to confirm this suit filled with cockroaches to the highest court in the land, Republicans will make the next Democratic nominee into the biggest screaming pinko terrorist butt-buddy to ever walk the earth. They will portray that person, most likely a semi-conservative career prosecutor or the like, as a grave threat to the Republic and come up with endless rationales for delaying and finally denying his or her confirmation, and after they do that they’ll take victory laps at CPAC so the frog-fuckers who vote for them can shower them with praise for saving the land.

That will be your reward, Democrats, for “doing the right thing” by Republicans. Would that any of you were half as interested in doing the right thing by your constituents, or by America. Would that you felt as strongly about doing the right thing for us. Would that that kept you up at night.

Schmucks.

A.

Notorious RBG vs. The Insult Comedian

The latest. and oddest, campaign controversy is between two elderly New Yorkers:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s well-known candor was on display in her chambers late Monday, when she declined to retreat from her earlier criticism of Donald Trump and even elaborated on it.

“He is a faker,” she said of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, going point by point, as if presenting a legal brief. “He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”

“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” she said. “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

It reminded her of something her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, a prominent tax lawyer who died in 2010, would have said.

“‘Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand,’” Justice Ginsburg said, smiling ruefully.

There’s been much tut-tutting among pundits and law professors about Ginsburg’s comments in response to a questions from the media. They may be unusual but SCOTUS is an inherently political body. And it’s not like the Supremes have never gotten directly involved in Presidential elections. Anyone recall Bush v. Gore? You know, the case that elected George W Bush and changed the course of history. Then there was the time Justice Charles Evans Hughes resigned his seat to become the GOP nominee in 1916. I think Woodrow Wilson would have called that political. In fact, he did in the course of defeating Hughes.

The Insult Comedian with cotton candy piss hair’s response to RBG is typically unhinged:

Did the mean old octogenarian hurt the poor widdle rich kids’ feelings? Good. He was so butt-hurt that he forgot to say “so sad” and was sparing with the “verys” and exclamation points. Perhaps he’s the one who’s losing his mind. Nah, it was lost to his ego sometime in the 1980’s. At least the tweet wasn’t anti-Semitic, that’s real progress for the Donald.

This whole flap is most amusing. I wonder if anyone in the House will follow the example of sainted moderate Jerry Ford and try to impeach the Notorious RBG as he did with Bill Douglas. Of course, they’d have to admit to supporting Trump, which many of them are loath to do.

Despite all the huffing and puffing-most disappointingly by Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern who’s usually wiser than this-there’s no ethical violation here. The judicial code cited by RBG’s critics does not apply to the Supremes; whether or not that’s a good thing is for another day. Justice Ginsburg was asked a question and answered it in the blunt, direct manner for which she’s renown. If Chief Justice Roberts calls her on the carpet, I’d love to be a fly on the wall of his chambers:

Roberts: Why the hell did you say that, Ruthie, baby? (I’m pretty sure he doesn’t call her that but that’s how we’d say it in New Orleans.)

RBG: He’s a loudmouthed menace who makes Nino look sensible. Do you want him appointing half the Court? Surely, you’re not voting for this racist clown.

The key to understanding RBG’s comments is this: the next President could appoint up to five Justices if they serve two terms. That would be the most of any President since Eisenhower who picked well under the tutelage of Tom Dewey’s man, Herbert Brownell. There are no steady, well-informed hands on Team Trump. Just imagine the venerable ratfucker Roger Stone helping to pick Supremes. The mind reels.

Let’s raise a glass to the Notorious RBG who’s willing to take the heat to help prevent Trump from becoming the first Insult Comedian to be elected President. Never gonna happen, my friend.

 Since RBG mentioned New Zealand, I’ll give Neil Finn and Crowded House the last word. Btw, this song is *not* about Trump. He only thinks he’s God:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Better Things

Japser Johns flag

Flag by Jasper Johns.

It’s been a steamy and sweaty week in New Orleans. It’s what we expect in late June; expect but dislike. Yuck. I’ve been consumed with British politics all week and have tried my damnedest *not* to write about it too much at First Draft; to paraphrase an old song, we’re an American Blog. The intrigue and backstabbing is irresistible to a political junkie like me. The whole Boris Johnson-Michael Gove story is like something out of the original, and superior, British version of House of Cards. I wonder if the knife is still in BoJo’s back as a reminder not to trust your “wingman” but I guess that’s a Goven now. I’ll give the Guardian’s Marina Hyde the last word on Gove who turns out to be a Tyrion fanboy:

“In the notorious words of Michael Gove, “people in this country have had enough of experts” But have they had enough of expert shits?”

The column title is just as scathing: In the Tory laundry basket, Michael Gove is the dirtiest item. Marina should really stop mincing words.

The Labour leadership struggle has gotten rather Pythonesque. If they don’t work things out, Labour risks being branded as the neo-Silly Party. The Corbynites are as mathematically challenged as their American brethren and even more vitriolic. They’re adamant that 250k leadership votes for their Jeremy trumps the 9.3 million votes Labour received at the last general election. Holy Fuzzy Maths, Batman.

I hate to quote the lame duck Prime Minister as he limps out the door but he summed Corbyn up quite well at the last Prime Minister’s Questions:

“We all have to reflect on our role in the referendum campaign. I know the honourable gentleman says he put his back into it. All I’d say, I’d hate to see him when he’s not trying.”

<snip>

“It might be in my party’s interest for him to sit there. It’s not in the national interest. I would say – for heaven’s sake, man, go.”

Snap. Even a posh pigfucker is right some of the time. I guess that makes him sooey generis. I suspect that y’all only laughed at that one if you’re in a generis mood…

Enough talk of what the French used to call Perfidious Albion. Let’s move onto this week’s theme song, Better Things. It’s the closing track on the Kinks brilliant 1981 LP Give The People What They Want. The album starts off on a dark note, and gets progressively bleaker until the opening chords of Better Things signal that it’s safe to come out of hiding. It’s a signal we could all use in the wake of the Istanbul attack and the rest of this week’s news in bleak.

We begin our betterment with the original recording. It’s followed by a version Ray cut with Bruce Springsteen in 2012. Last and probably least is a rendition by Fountains Of Wayne. Actually, it’s a cracking version but I was possessed by the spirit of snark.

How Dar I forget this lovely 1997 cover by Ms. Williams:

Now that I’ve given the people what they want, it’s time for the break. See you on the other side.

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The Troll In Chief

Gore Vidal once called Merica the land of the dull and the home of the literal. The master’s opinion has been confirmed by the reaction of some earnest folks to the President’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. I beg to differ. It’s a political masterstroke that has put the GOP majority in the Senate on the spot. Charlie Pierce, as usual, gets it:

So it’s a masterpiece of trolling from a guy who’s become very, very good at that. I understand the frustration of the president’s progressive supporters at the idea of a 60-ish white guy replacing a 70-ish dead white guy on the Supreme Court. (I would’ve preferred Jane Kelly from the Eighth Circuit, who already had heads exploding.) I’m sure there were several dozen more diverse, and clearly no-more-fcks-to-give, choices he could’ve made. But Garland’s work as a supervising DOJ attorney in the Oklahoma City bombing case intrigues me, and it is likely to light up the far distant precincts of wingnuttia as well. At the very least, he’s aware of the wildness loose in the country. He seems moderate and judicious and very unlikely to stray too far out of bounds from what this president and his supporters think a Supreme Court justice should be. His opinions on the appellate rights of criminal defendants could use some work, but he’s not likely to join with the likes of Samuel Alito to take an ax to things like the Miranda decision. He’s not a law’n’order guy. Tom Goldstein of the invaluable SCOTUSBlog put together a solid compendium of Garland’s record the last time his name arose to fill a vacancy on the Court, when Garland was passed over in favor of Justice Elena Kagan.

All of which is, for the moment, anyway, moot. This is a purely tactical move, and it’s an awfully good one. Right now, Republican senators are saying that they won’t even take one-on-one meetings with the guy, let alone give him a committee vote, let alone give him a confirmation vote in the Senate. This was precisely the reaction the president was hoping for, although he didn’t exactly have to be Nostradamus to make this play.

Judge Garland’s views seem quite similar to those of Justice Breyer, which is not a bad thing at all. He’s an eminent and distinguished lawyer who was on the shortlist when Elena Kagan was nominated. In normal times, his confirmation would be a slam dunk. As you may have noticed, these are not normal times. That’s why this ostensibly safe nomination is like throwing a hand grenade into Mitch McConnell’s lap. Kaboom.

After taking one to the chin, Chinless Mitch is whining about a fellow politician playing politics with the Supremes. Remember Rawnsley’s new rule of politics:  if you’re whingeing, you’re losing, and that’s what’s happening here. This nomination *is* about politics and the blue/swing state Senators who were elected in the Teabagger wave election of 2010. Come on down: Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and the seat Little Marco vacated in Florida. The 2016 Senate map for GOPers is just as daunting as the 2014 map was for Democrats. Democratic candidates are likely to win 5 of these seats, and could even run the board if the GOP Presidential nominee is a drag on the ticket as either the Insult Comedian or Tailgunner Ted may turn out to be.

President Obama has done something that is both responsible and deliciously devious. It’s a gambit that two of the most Machiavellian Democratic Presidents, FDR and LBJ would have admired. Well played, sir. Who’da thunk that Barack Obama would turn out to be a master troll? I used to think he was strictly an “eat your vegetables” kind of guy. I was wrong.

It’s uncertain how this will play out, but Senate Republicans have stumbled into a trap of their own making. For some reason, they didn’t expect the President would dare to make an appointment. That’s par for the course, they’re so consumed with their image of the fake Obama that they haven’t noticed that he’s out of fucks to give.

Hail to the Troll In Chief.

Supremely Stupid

The Republican controlled Senate has made it official that, absent the zombie apocalypse or a biblical flood, there will be no hearings on *any* SCOTUS nominee submitted by President Obama. Only the most simple-minded and clueless among us will be surprised by this development. Josh Marshall said it best yesterday morning:

No alternative or dark explanations are required when it comes to Republican desires to dictate the replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Control of the federal judiciary has been a transcendent goal of the conservative movement for two generations. And in the face of political and demographic change, the Republican Party has become increasingly dependent on the Supreme Court to entrench its political power through attacks on voting rights, unions, one person one vote and decisions like Citizens United, not to mention Bush v. Gore. So the stakes, on the merits, are vast. And yet the manner of the refusal to even entertain the nomination of a President with a year left in office is, as Lauren Fox notes in this story, simply a culmination of Republican efforts not simply to block Obama’s policies but to delegitimize, degrade and denigrate his presidency and the man himself.

Yeah, you right, Josh.

Speaking of clueless, let’s move on to one of the stupidest things I’ve read about the Supreme Court in quite some time It comes from two LSU academics, John Maxwell Hamilton and James E. Shelledy in an op-ed piece for the Advocate. They suggest-get ready for it-that President Obama appoint a political enemy to the court; namely Lindsey Graham or Chris Christie. It’s another attempt to recapture the good old days of bipartisanship that never really existed:

 Obviously, Obama will face a contracted and bitter fight with his Supreme Court nomination. But maybe this is an opportunity to open a door to bipartisanship. Obama, who has decried partisanship, can name someone who does not favor the left any more than Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell would prefer to bolster the right.

And he can do it in a dramatic way that would be difficult for the Republican majority in the Senate to refuse confirmation. He could name not only one of their own but one of their own who has been in the race for the presidency — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Both men possess a compelling set of credentials for the job.

Both men, lawyers, do not belong to the far right of their parties. In their years of public service, they have established themselves as leaders in their party. But they have shown the ability to work with the other side.

The only reason they’re not on the far right of their party (singular not plural, both are Republicans) is that they’re marginally sane compared to the Insult Comedian or Tailgunner Ted. After all, this is a political party that considers Marcobot Rubiodroid moderate. Why? I’ll never know.

The Maxwell-Shelledy op-ed is quite simply one of the dumbest things I’ve read in quite some time. Essentially, they ask Barack Obama to ratify the delegitimization of his Presidency as well as a historic opportunity to push the court in his direction. I’m trying to avoid the clichés about ivory tower academics but these two gentlemen really need to get out more. Given the horrendous weather in the New Orleans metro area as I wrote this, one might even suggest that Professor S seek Shelledy from the storm of ridicule that this piece will surely inspire:

The only good thing about the Maxwell-Shelledy piece is its suggestion that POTUS appoint a non-judge. I’m on the record as favoring this approach but the custom is for one to appoint someone from your side of the political spectrum as opposed to Little Lindsey or Governor Asshole. FDR knew what he was getting with Senator Hugo Black. It’s true that Ike was peeved with Earl Warren but he let Herbert Brownell handle the nomination. Big mistake: the Attorney General was Tom Dewey’s right hand man and a well-known liberal on civil rights. It’s what happens when you have a President with neither political instincts nor experience. Of course, the GOP is hellbent on nominating someone with *much* less experience than General/President Eisenhower. Imagine the Insult Comedian nominating a Supreme. I bet Andrew Dice Clay is available…

President Obama should go ahead with his plan to nominate a qualified Center-Left lawyer and lob that hand grenade in Mitch McConnell’s lap. BOOM. Once again, it will show that they cannot be trusted to govern and could help the Dems retake the Senate. It couldn’t hurt.

It’s time for an antidote to the stupid; one of the best Scalia post-mortems from the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin:

 Like Nick Carraway, Scalia “wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever.” The world didn’t coöperate. Scalia won a great deal more than he lost, and he and his allies succeeded in transforming American politics into a cash bazaar, with seats all but put up for bidding. But even though Scalia led a conservative majority on the Court for virtually his entire tenure, he never achieved his fondest hopes—thanks first to O’Connor and then to Kennedy. Roe v. Wade endures. Affirmative action survives. Obamacare lives. Gay rights are ascendant; the death penalty is not. (These positions are contingent, of course, and cases this year may weaken the Court’s resolve.) For all that Presidents shape the Court, the Justices rarely stray too far from public opinion. And, on the social issues where the Court has the final word, the real problem for Scalia’s heirs is that they are out of step with the rest of the nation. The public wants diversity, not intolerance; more marriages and fewer executions; less money in politics, not more. Justice Scalia’s views—passionately felt and pungently expressed though they were—now seem like so many boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

What’s not to love about an article that quotes The Great Gatsby?