McConnell pulls nomination of Trump pick to Ninth Circuit after Tim Scott, Marco Rubio bolt over race-related writings

A legit shocker. The nominee was Ryan Bounds, a 44-year-old federal prosecutor headed for confirmation to Trump’s least favorite court. Usually circuit-court nominees get a bit more leeway than SCOTUS nominees. Not this time.


If it had been Scott alone voting no, maybe McConnell could have twisted Manchin’s or Heitkamp’s arm and clawed that back somehow. With Rubio also a no, the odds quickly became daunting. And realistically, Scott’s defection alone was probably enough to sure defeat. Which Democrat would have wanted to cross the aisle to confirm a Trump nominee whom the Senate’s lone black Republican member had deemed unacceptable?

Bounds’s writings must be pretty hair-raising to trigger an insurgency within a caucus known for doing Trump’s bidding, particularly over something as a precious as a Ninth Circuit seat, huh? Eh, not really. See for yourself. A left-wing group sifted through his college op-eds at Stanford and came up with an assortment of potshots he took at campus diversity politics, some more deliberately trollish than others:

Bounds wrote critically about “strident racial factions in the student body” and their work to “build tolerance” and “promote diversity.” He went on to claim that the efforts of these students “seem always to contribute more to restricting consciousness, aggravating intolerance, and pigeonholing cultural identities than many a Nazi bookburning.”

Bounds complained about multicultural organizations at the university who “divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns.”…

Using racist and offensive language, Bounds claimed that there were communities on campus who believed that the “opponent is the white male and his coterie of meanspirited lackeys: ‘oreos,’ ‘twinkies,’ ‘coconuts,’ and the like.”


“Oreo” is exactly the sort of insult sometimes thrown by the left’s more excitable activists at, er, Tim Scott. It’s their racist language that Bounds was mocking. Bounds also had the temerity to suggest that campuses require proof beyond a reasonable doubt before punishing someone accused of sexual assault, which the modern leftist sensibility would call “highly provocative” and the modern everyone-else sensibility would call “due process.” If taking exception to the excesses of political correctness on campus is now disqualifying, notes Drew McCoy, you may never have another college Republican confirmed to the bench.

Bounds apologized to colleagues after the comments above surfaced for his “ill-considered, tone-deaf, and mortifyingly insensitive pronouncements” as a college student in a letter to colleagues, insisting that “Achieving a more egalitarian and inclusive society has always been centrally important to me.” David Lat, the editor of Above the Law, has known Bounds since law school and went to bat for him in a piece (co-written with someone else) published in February, shortly after he was nominated by Trump:

We know Ryan very well, having known him for a combined 40-plus years. We know he harbors no such insensitivity or hostility — and we speak as members of the supposedly maligned groups. One of us (Angeli) is a woman, former president of the Oregon Federal Bar Association, and founder of a law firm honored by the Oregon Women Lawyers’ Association for its commitment to work-life balance and diversity. The other (Lat) is a gay Filipino-American who writes and speaks in support of Asian-American and LGBT causes.

We know Ryan cares deeply about inclusion and diversity. Why else would he have chaired the Multnomah Bar Association’s equity, diversity and inclusion committee? During his four years in committee leadership, Ryan helped develop a wide range of educational, scholarship and mentoring programs aimed at advancing diversity within the legal profession. Ryan’s tireless efforts in support of diversity and inclusion, undertaken in recent years and continuing to this day, are far more relevant to evaluating his record than college newspaper columns from (literally) the last millennium.

None of us would appreciate being defined at 40-something by our most hyperbolic collegiate musings.


Lat later expanded on the last point in a post at Above the Law. I agree that nominees should get a wider berth on college writings, within limits: Something overtly racist written by a middle-aged judge as a young adult would cast the judiciary in a bad light and give petitioners reason to question his or her partiality. But if one of the big knocks on Bounds is that he objected to black conservatives being called “Oreos” and had the nerve to actually use that word, that should fall pretty safely into “wider berth” territory.

Maybe we don’t know the full story. Scott’s staff might have found something else and the nomination’s been pulled before it comes out. Seems unlikely, though. Today was supposed to be the confirmation vote and it can’t be that Team Scott was scouring Bounds’s record as closely as the lefty groups that are motivated to take him down. Maybe Scott chose to bork Bounds in order to make a larger point: There’s not much he can do alone to set a zero-tolerance policy for the GOP on incendiary racial rhetoric, but blocking a judicial nominee for some not-very-incendiary viewpoints is one thing he can do. It’s his message to the White House, I presume, to get them to take these concerns more seriously.

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John Sexton 8:40 PM on September 21, 2023