Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Townhall on September 7, 2018.
It was worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit, but Lorne Michaels probably would’ve turned it down. SNL has leaned heavily left since Donald Trump’s election, and the show’s creator and executive producer would’ve understood the humor in how clueless Senate Democrats came across during Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing – but he probably wouldn’t bring himself to showcase how awful they really looked.
Despite the Senate Judiciary Committee’s being the most politically polarized committee in Congress, there’s still usually a sense of seriousness during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Not this time.
Over the four days of hearings – two of which Judge Kavanaugh went well into the night answering Senators’ questions – there were well over a hundred interruptions by protesters. And when Democratic Senators did ask questions, they did their image no good whatsoever.
For his part, Kavanaugh was masterful in fielding every question, befitting a confident 12-year veteran of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals bench, the second most important court in the country. The American people saw a judge’s judge – he will fairly apply the law, he will honor the Constitution, he won’t make up law out of whole cloth or impose any kind of agenda from the bench. It’s clear, as with Neil Gorsuch, President Trump had hit another home run with a man who’ll be another great justice.
For the Democrats, it was just plain ugly. Leading the parade were two committee members who’ve made it no secret they’re running for president in 2020.
For Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the hearings were their own little “Kavanaugh Primary” within the primary contest for the Democratic nomination. They were expected to try and outdo each other in appealing to their party’s base, but what happened instead was a literal comedy of errors.
During his first opportunity to question Kavanaugh, Booker tried to ambush the judge with emails from the time he served in the George W. Bush White House as an associate counsel and later as staff secretary. Kavanaugh calmly kept asking Booker if he could please see a copy of the emails to which the Senator was referring – so he could accurately answer his question. But they were not provided.
Early the next morning Booker pronounced he was releasing documents, including the emails to which he had referred the day before, in what he believed to be a brazen display of flouting Senate rules for the public good. He said he was releasing confidential documents that were being withheld by the committee so the public could see them, and he would accept the consequences. He even proclaimed: “This is the closest I’ll ever get in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”
But it turned out Senate Democrats had gotten clearance to release them several hours prior. Spartacus had lied to us.
Not to be outdone, Harris tried to ambush Judge Kavanaugh as well. It was late Wednesday night, she was one of the last Senators to question Kavanaugh during what had been a long, grueling day. She glared at him, knowing the cameras were capturing every moment, and sprung her gotcha question: “Have you discussed [Special Counsel] Mueller or his investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson and Torres, the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal lawyer. … Be sure about your answer, sir.” Cue the gotcha music: “Bumm-Pumm-PUMMMMMM.”
Kavanaugh couldn’t recall any such conversation but, as he told Harris, he was happy to have his memory refreshed if she was aware of anything. She played coy. Her staff told reporters throughout the night and into the next day of the hearings that she had it on good information such discussions had taken place.
Surely she had him, she had damning information about Kavanaugh inappropriately discussing the Mueller investigation with the president’s personal law firm, and he was the president’s pick for the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court could well hear arguments in the Mueller investigation. Game over, right?
When she asked him the same question directly the next night he flatly said, “no.” And then … she politely moved on. It was all made up, nothing to see here. Fishing expedition comes up empty.
Even the Washington Post noted how both 2020 aspirants “took headline grabbing but shaky steps to put their opposition to Trump and Kavanaugh on full display for the country.” Typically supportive of liberal Democratic leaders, this was the Post’s way of saying Booker and Harris looked more like Keystone Kops than contenders for the Oval Office.
Saturday Night Live’s Lorne Michaels might put it another way. When the show first started, the comedians were called “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”
While Kavanaugh demonstrated he was ready for the Supreme Court, these two White House wannabes showed they’re clearly not ready for prime time.