NYT Thinks Supreme Court Fights Began With Trump; Kavanaugh 'Threat' to Women's Rights?

September 5th, 2018 6:07 PM

As the Supreme Court confirmation process for Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh descends into Democratic-inspired pandemonium, New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse skipped the Democratic-inspired partisanship of previous Supreme Court hearings in two pieces for The New York Times.

Hulse’s curtain-raising column on Sunday, before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings opened: “High Tensions and Fractured Traditions Before a Supreme Court Fight.” The online headline: Why a Predictable Supreme Court Fight Is a Sign of a Broken Process.” The text box quoted a Democratic senator’s talking point: “Without a filibuster, ‘there is no fairness to the minority.’”

Judging from his writing, Hulse thinks that confirmation partisanship blossomed under the GOP and Trump, when it actually began with personal attacks by Democratic senators against Reagan nominee Robert Bork (which succeeded) and continued against Bush nominee Clarence Thomas (which failed): 

The Senate on Tuesday will begin what is expected to be a contentious but predictable Supreme Court showdown under a judicial confirmation process that appears to be almost irreversibly damaged and polarized.

The elimination of the 60-vote filibuster against most judicial nominees by Democrats in 2013 and by Republicans against Supreme Court nominees in 2017 has upended the Senate’s role of offering advice and consent on the president’s picks. It now allows the majority party free rein to push through nominees with little to no consideration for the views or objections of the minority -- a major break in Senate tradition.

The development has major implications for the integrity not only of the Senate, but also of the federal courts, which are increasingly seen by the public as just another venue for political wrangling.


On Tuesday, Republicans will convene a hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh despite furious objections from Democrats that relevant documents from his years in the administration of George W. Bush have not been produced. They say the Republicans are riding roughshod over minority rights in what amounts to a sham hearing.


But Mr. Schumer and his party can do little to stop the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh without help from Republicans, since his nomination can be brought to the floor and approved by simple majority vote. Absent some major disqualifying revelation in the hearings, Republicans seem intent on quickly putting Judge Kavanaugh, who is currently a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on the Supreme Court. Republicans consider him an impeccable choice.

Hulse again ignored the history of attacks on Bork and Thomas, and the fact that Republican senators have shown themselves more likely to confirm Democratic Supreme Court nominees than Democratic senators have to confirm Republican ones:

The demise of the traditional filibuster on judicial nominations -- and the Republican decision in 2016 not to even grant Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee, so much as a hearing -- has caused partisanship on the issue to skyrocket.

One way to restore some order might be to revisit the filibusters, an idea that circulated among Republicans a few years ago but disappeared when they found themselves in such a strong position.


Republicans scoff at the notion of bringing back the filibuster, and, given the harsh political environment, it is hard to imagine the Senate reversing itself....

Odd how things only “deteriorate” when Republicans have the upper hand and that only Republicans act in partisan ways.

Hulse followed up Wednesday, the day after the opening of the Kavanaugh hearings with “Displeased Republicans Arrayed Against Refractory Democrats.” He rationalized the Democrats childish displays of trying to have the hearings postponed:

But it should not have been unexpected. Democrats, with little recourse for stopping the nomination under changes in Senate confirmation practices, were determined to make a loud show of resistance and deploy any available weapons, which at this stage amounted to lodging procedural objections, issuing vehement complaints and articulating fears about the decline of the Senate’s role in confirmations.

(Hulse previously suggested Republicans were doomed before the 2016 elections by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s implacable refusal to hold hearings for Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. How did that turn out?)

Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s front-page preview of the hearings Tuesday, “Two Portraits Of Kavanaugh Before Senate,” focused on Kavanaugh himself and included this hostile text box: “A champion for women? Or a threat to their rights?” By that Stolberg means abortion and #MeToo.

Without seeming to notice the irony, Stolberg went straight from wondering if Kavanaugh was a threat to women’s rights to Kavanaugh apparently being too harsh on President Bill Clinton, who faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment and worse.