Our two-weeks-long national nightmare is over. While the dramatic nomination saga of federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court is over, the fallout from the wrenching process could last a generation or more, thanks to the parade of accusers, the ugly partisanship and the newly energized #MeToo movement.
Connecticut’s representatives in Washington were predictably opposed to Kavanaugh. The new justice, after all, will surely solidify the conservative majority in the Supreme Court of the United States. Abortion rights hang in balance.
The five members of Connecticut’s House delegation were largely irrelevant, since the Senate, thanks to the Appointments Clause, controls the levers of power in the confirmation process for presidential nominees.
Ironically, that gives small states like Connecticut outsized clout since we have the same number of senators as, say, California, which has almost 12 times our population. But it also gives smaller conservative states, of which there are many, enhanced clout. Wyoming, which has a little more than half a million people and is dominated by Republicans, has the same influence in the Senate as blue New York (population almost 20 million).
So last week, senators representing fewer than half the voters in the United States voted to confirm a Supreme Court justice whose nomination was opposed by a majority of the American people and who was appointed by a president who lost the popular vote and currently has dismal approval ratings. Let that one sink in for a minute.
Be that as it may, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy did all they could to make up for it. From his perch high atop Mount Twitter, Murphy thundered his fury and urged his constituents to remember it on election day, when his favorite Democratic congressional candidate, Jahana Hayes, will be on the ballot to represent Murphy’s old district:
What happened to today is not okay. It will change our country forever. I’m furious. The only good news today is that a big election is four weeks away, and we have a chance to change the conversation in the country if we work our tails off for the next month.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) October 6, 2018
Meanwhile, Blumenthal leveraged his stature as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general to torment Kavanaugh and his supporters, all the while cleverly using the fiasco as a fundraising opportunity. Let it be said here and now that Blumenthal may have never created a job but, like Rahm Emanuel, he never lets a good crisis go to waste.
My own take differs from both my progressive and conservative friends. While I tend to believe women who risk their well-being by coming forward with claims of sexual assault, there is simply too little corroboration in Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations to convince me that it should be a deal-breaker.
That said, even if the subsequent FBI investigation had completely cleared Kavanaugh in advance of the vote, I would still have opposed him. His performance at the hearing revealed a political hack and conspiracy theorist more suited to work in the Trump White House itself than to sit on the highest court in the land.
It’s rarely a good idea to put persons with a highly political resume on the bench — if for no other reason than their impartiality will always be in question. It’s the equivalent in journalism of turning a highly opinionated columnist into a beat reporter covering the very people s/he used to target as a pundit every week.
Here in Connecticut, Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald, a former state senator and Malloy administration lawyer, ran into that problem when Gov. Dannel Malloy unsuccessfully nominated him earlier this year to become the chief justice of the state’s highest court.
But unlike Kavanaugh, during the confirmation process — and much to his credit — McDonald had the good sense not to unmask himself as a rabid partisan before the cameras. Still, the political maneuvering got ugly.
While McDonald was not accused of sexual misconduct, he is the first openly gay justice to sit on the high court. Without evidence, some Democrats, including attorney general candidate and Rep. William Tong, went off the rails and accused Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Herbst of bigotry for opposing McDonald’s elevation to chief justice.
But I digress. I actually agree with the aforementioned Blumenthal. Kavanaugh has an expansive view of executive power — the so-called “imperial presidency” doctrine that some legal experts think might undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and his ability to force the Trump administration to turn over key evidence.
Kavanaugh’s procilvities appear to run counter to the views of Trump’s most recent pick for Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, who ironically has a history of skepticism toward executive privilege and a healthy respect for the separation of powers.
But the nightmare is over — for now. If Trump gets another SCOTUS pick next year, we’ll probably go through this all over again. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keeps moving the goalpost from his original defense in refusing to even hold a hearing for President Obama’s SCOTUS pick in 2016, Merrick Garland.
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at CTDevilsAdvocate.com and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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