If you have your television tuned in to C-SPAN, CNN or any of several other news networks this week there’s a good chance that you’ll be watching the Senate confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch. While the Republicans on the committee have been generally supportive, we’ve seen what can best be described as simmering resentment and barely concealed hostility from the Democrats. This is not happening by accident. There are plans in place to try to make these hearings as difficult as possible and score the maximum number of political points, even if the material being covered has little or nothing to do with the judge’s history or qualifications.
Liberals aren’t exactly making secret of this either. Over the Washington Post we find an entry from Sarah Posner which describes precisely what Democrats “must do” in order to really bring the hammer down. The silver bullet, as Posner sees it, is to make these hearings all about Donald Trump. (Washington Post)
The Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court got underway today, and one thing is already clear: As this process unfolds, Democrats need to hammer away at Gorsuch to reveal his views on judicial independence. Doing this requires a focus on President Trump’s unprecedented attacks on the judiciary and, more generally, his relentless undermining of our democracy.
Trump’s authoritarian tendencies demand this approach, and the stakes are extraordinarily high. Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, for instance, are so far outside the mainstream of normal presidential behavior that it would be malpractice for Democrats to fail to make this a subplot. In other words, the Democratic opposition to Gorsuch must be based on far more than his judicial philosophy and history.
I’m sorry, but did you really just say that the hearings don’t need to focus on the judge’s judicial philosophy and history? Isn’t that sort of at the core of what they’re supposed to be doing this week?
It’s no secret that President Trump has found himself at odds with members of the judiciary from time to time already. This is been most clearly exemplified by the current battles over the travel ban. But while some of his public comments and tweets may rightly have been considered intemperate by some, we are left with the question of what precisely this has to do with Neil Gorsuch.
Donald Trump’s only involvement in this process was to essentially pull the judge’s name out of a hat. Once the nomination was made the entire process was handed over to the Senate. Assuming that sufficient votes are found to confirm, Gorsuch will be sworn in, don the robes and get to work at the nation’s highest court. Over the course of these hearings the Senators are supposedly going through a process of examining the judge’s background, previous decisions he has authored and any writings or public statements which may be available. He is not responsible for Donald Trump’s twitter feed nor does he write the scripts for any of his rally speeches.
To the best of my knowledge, Neil Gorsuch never even met Donald Trump until his name came up for consideration. None of this has any relation whatsoever to the man’s qualifications. I’m hearing Democratic Senators asking the judge to give them some sort of assurance that he is prepared to act as a check on the executive branch, always included among lengthy tirades about this or that sin which President Trump is supposedly committed. What are they expecting him to say in response? “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly do that.”
This dog and pony show is already turning into a farce. I realize we have to go through with the charade because it’s required under the Constitution, but it seems to me that the Democrats are really embarrassing themselves in the early going. Perhaps following Ms. Posner’s advice wasn’t really the best play.