House Dem to Senate Dems: Maybe don't indulge in "religious bigotry"

The call is coming from … inside the House! A few key Senate Democrats might remember that horror-flick tagline after Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) broadside in The Hill, accusing them of “religious bigotry” in their handling of judicial nominees. Gabbard excoriates Dianne Feinstein by name, but her accusation of anti-Catholic bigotry lands hardest on Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris:

While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus. If Buescher is “unqualified” because of his Catholicism and affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, then President John F. Kennedy, and the ‘liberal lion of the Senate’ Ted Kennedy would have been “unqualified” for the same reasons.
Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that there “shall be no religious test” for any seeking to serve in public office.

That’s a direct, if unnamed, attack on Harris and Hirono. Both used their written questionnaires to demand that Buescher answer for his membership in the KoC and its “extremist positions.” Gabbard may have left out their names in this instance, but she didn’t seem quite as shy with the woman who set the tone for this in 2017:

No American should be told that his or her public service is unwelcome because “the dogma lives loudly within you” as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said to Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings in 2017 to serve as U.S. Circuit Court judge in the 7th Circuit.

While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office.

The party that worked so hard to convince people that Catholics and Knights of Columbus like Al Smith and John F. Kennedy could be both good Catholics and good public servants shows an alarming disregard of its own history in making such attacks today.

That’s a bit curious. Why name Feinstein but not Harris or Hirono? One might suspect that it has something to do with the standing of all three among activists on the Left. Feinstein has already alienated them and she’s clearly on her last term in the Senate, so there’s little worry about damaging her. Hirono comes from Hawaii, however, and explicitly naming her as a religious bigot might be problematic for Gabbard’s political future.

The reason for leaving Harris’ name out of the op-ed is obvious — or is it? One might think that Gabbard took a little more caution because of Harris’ presidential ambitions (more on this later). However, Gabbard reportedly has those same ambitions; if so, this would be a perfect opportunity to put a dent in Harris’ momentum and rally Catholics to her side. Perhaps Gabbard believes that the point comes across with or without names, but that would have been true with Feinstein, too. After all, that moment will live forever on YouTube, as it does in this clip from EWTN with Lauren Ashburn and Jason Calvi commenting at the time:

Thus far, Gabbard’s op-ed appears to have created few ripples within the Democratic Party or the media. It should have created a tidal wave in both. Regardless of Gabbard’s motives in penning this scalding rebuke, it was long overdue.

Jazz Shaw Jul 05, 2022 12:31 PM ET