I’m surprised. You’d think a devoutly Catholic woman academic and President Playboy would get along swimmingly.
This is but a breadcrumb of news, admittedly, but when we’re all starving for SCOTUS updates a morsel is a meal.
Meanwhile, the woman said to be in second place, Amy Coney Barrett, could face a divisive confirmation hearing in front of the Senate if Democrats choose to grill the devout Catholic about her stance on abortion. For Trump, that’s the crux of what makes her a star with his base. But it’s her résumé that isn’t particularly appealing. Barrett is an alumnus of Rhodes College and Notre Dame Law School; she lacks the Harvard and Yale degrees Trump has said he is looking for in a nominee.
In her interview with Trump, Barrett, who has only one year of experience on the bench, performed poorly, according to a second source familiar with the process.
I still can’t get over the fact that this guy seems to have his heart set on a Harvard or Yale alum. If anyone in politics should take a firm “F*** the Ivies” line in his personnel choices, it’s him, the most ostentatiously populist president since Andrew Jackson. An armchair psychologist would tell you that one of the things that makes populists populists is a desperate desire to join the elite and consequent hostility when they’re not allowed. That’s always been a theory for why Trump ran for president. Is the Harvard/Yale thing just another manifestation of that desire? Indulge the hostility, Mr. President.
But maybe not with Barrett. A figure as personality-focused as Trump will have a hard time nominating someone with whom he has no chemistry, notwithstanding the singular ability Barrett’s elevation might have to “own the libs.” (There’s always the Michigan grad Kethledge, though!) On the other hand, the one Yalie on Trump’s list may be unconfirmable. Here’s a tidbit from the Chicago Tribune published on Tuesday which I somehow missed at the time and which seems … important:
Trump has also been consulting with lawmakers — including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has expressed reservations about Kavanaugh’s candidacy, according to a person familiar with the call.
Paul has told colleagues that he wouldn’t vote in favor of Kavanaugh if the judge is nominated, citing Kavanaugh’s role during the Bush administration on cases involving executive privilege and the disclosure of documents to Congress.
It’s already been reported that Paul is iffy on Kavanaugh. It has not otherwise been reported that he’s a flat no on Kavanaugh, which would mean the judge would need to flip at least one red-state Democrat to avoid being borked. Trump might believe that he can twist Manchin’s arm to get that one vote or that Paul, faced with a backlash if he cast the deciding vote against Kavanaugh, would cave in the end like he did with Mike Pompeo’s nomination at State. But *any* threat by a Republican senator at this stage to vote no on a nominee, however soft and unconvincing, might be enough to convince the White House to look elsewhere rather than risk a fiasco. If you’ve got Paul leaning no on Kavanaugh, why not exclude him and look to Barrett or Kethledge instead?
Besides, it’s not like Trump is completely sold on him. Kavanaugh’s champion in the process is reportedly White House counsel Don McGahn, befitting the judge’s image as the favorite choice of the Republican establishment. “A lot of social conservatives have coalesced around Amy,” said Jonathan Adler to the NYT this week of Barrett. “The business folks and the D.C. folks tend to pull for Brett a little more.” Not only was Kavanaugh appointed to the D.C. Circuit by George W. Bush, he ended up marrying Dubya’s personal secretary. That Bush pedigree appeals to the “D.C. folks” but doesn’t appeal to Trump. This tweet summarizes the skepticism about him well, I think:
The thing that concerns me the most about Brett Kavanaugh is that all the people who said John Roberts would be a rockstar for the right say the same about Kavanaugh.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) July 5, 2018
Right, Roberts and Kavanaugh are very much products of the same legal-political culture. Doesn’t mean they’d vote the same way on everything, and it doesn’t mean Roberts is some sort of Souteresque disaster. The ObamaCare vote will always be held against him but he’s with the conservative majority on the Court far more often than not. But you’re getting a more “familiar” legal product with Kavanaugh than you are with Barrett or Kethledge.
Ann Coulter likes him a lot, though, and some of the social conservative invective aimed at him this week is obviously a product of simple favoritism on behalf of Barrett. There’s no reason to think Kavanaugh “will be another Harriet Miers,” as one activist recently told the Daily Caller. There’s really no surefire reason to think Barrett would be a safer vote to overturn Roe than Kavanaugh would. The appeal of Barrett seems to lie more in who she is than certainty about how she’ll vote. Some social conservatives want the most devoutly Christian nominee available confirmed in order to signal that Christian devotion is no barrier to success in public life, never mind that three of the four conservatives currently on the Court are Catholic (maybe all four, although Gorsuch’s status is murky), Kavanaugh is Catholic, Kennedy is Catholic, and Scalia of course was devoutly Catholic. As of early 2016, six of the nine seats were occupied by Catholics — don’t forget Sotomayor — with zero Protestants on the bench despite the fact that Catholics comprise less than a quarter of the population. The principle that Catholics are unfit for public service, particularly on the Supreme Court, seems to be reasonably well debunked, or at least it was until Dianne Feinstein opened her yapper at Barrett’s confirmation hearing last year. If Democrats end up with her as nominee, they should thank Feinstein for turning her instantly into a star.