Pelley Frets Over Kavanaugh’s ‘Temperament’: ‘Does This Man Belong on the Supreme Court?’

During a fawning interview with Democratic Senator Chris Coons and Republican Senator Jeff Flake on Sunday’s 60 Minutes, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley urged them to denounce Brett Kavanaugh for defending himself against partisan liberal attacks during Thursday’s contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Early in the lengthy exchange, a soundbite ran of Kavanaugh rightfully calling out Democrats for their nasty smears against him since the day he was nominated to the Supreme Court. A concerned Pelley then turned to Coons and Flake: “I’d like to ask both of you what you made of Judge Kavanaugh’s very emotional response and what it may or may not say about his judicial temperament. Does this man belong on the Supreme Court?”

 

 

Coons predictably swung at the softball and attacked Kavanaugh: “He had exchanges with Senator Feinstein, with Senator Klobuchar, with others, that I thought went over a line. He was clearly belligerent, aggressive, angry.” Pelley followed up: “Made you wonder about his suitability?” Coons replied: “In my case, yes.”

Pelley briefly noted that Flake “identified with” Kavanaugh’s anger at Democrats. Flake pointed out: “Well, it did – it seemed partisan. But boy, I had to put myself in that spot. And you can – you can understand why he was angry. And you know, I think you give a little leeway there.”

Besides teeing up criticism of Kavanaugh, Pelley spent much of the segment hailing Flake as a hero for joining with Democrats to further stymie the confirmation process by demanding an FBI investigation. At the top of the interview, Pelley proclaimed:

Last week, the United States Senate was riven by fury over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. In the hearing room, two great forces dominating our society collided: the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and violence and hyper-partisan politics. Friday, as the Senate descended into chaos, one Republican and one Democrat found a way forward with an old technique that seemed long forgotten: compromise.

He hailed Flake for having “forced his party to accept a one-week FBI investigation into the assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.”

It's easy to see the irony of 60 Minutes touting the #MeToo movement only weeks after having to fire long-term executive producer Jeff Fager over threatening a CBS reporter who was looking into multiple sexual harassment accusations against him. Fager's firing came only a short time after CBS CEO Les Moonves was forced out over similar allegations.

Pelley satisfyingly asserted: “What the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Thursday upended Kavanaugh’s nomination.” Noting moments later: “Democrat Chris Coons and Republican Jeff Flake listened from opposite ends of the dais, separated by party. But in truth, they were much closer. They had struck up a friendship over the years that bridged mere politics.”

Pelley breathlessly described how “Coons saw the testimony wearing on his friend, Republican Jeff Flake, and hoped to convince his colleague to compromise on Kavanaugh.” The reporter enthusiastically touted the supposed "compromise" and the Delaware Democrat’s effort to pressure Flake: “When you were making that compromise proposal, you were lobbying your friend, Senator Flake. You didn’t expect to change the minds of other Republicans. You were trying to change one mind.” Coons sanctimoniously announced: “I was, principally, concerned about helping my friend listen to his doubts and his conscience.”

Pelley happily concluded: “Changing one mind was enough, because with the Senate divided so narrowly, the Republicans could hardly afford to lose Flake.” Coons chimed in: “And I cannot tell you how grateful I am. Jeff’s the hero here.”

Clearly Pelley agreed as he offered this melodramatic account of the moment: “After Democratic Senator Coons floated his compromise, Republican Jeff Flake stood up and walked from the Republican side of the dais to the Democratic.”

After applauding Coons’s manipulation of Flake, Pelley asked the Arizona Republican: “...you’ve announced that you’re not running for re-election and I wonder, could you have done this if you were running for re-election?” Flake responded: “No, not a chance.” Pelley lamented: “Because politics has become too sharp, too partisan?” Flake replied: “Yeah, there’s no value to reaching across the aisle.”

Being held accountable by voters is actually the entire basis of American democracy, but Pellley seemed pleased that Flake was going to avoid such accountability.

Wrapping up the interview, Pelley was ready to convict Kavanaugh even as the FBI investigation was just beginning: “If Judge Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination’s over?” Coons and Flake both agreed.

Here are excerpts from September 30 exchange:

7:49 PM ET

SCOTT PELLEY: Millions of Americans couldn’t turn away from a political spectacle that no one wanted to see. Last week, the United States Senate was riven by fury over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. In the hearing room, two great forces dominating our society collided: the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and violence and hyper-partisan politics. Friday, as the Senate descended into chaos, one Republican and one Democrat found a way forward with an old technique that seemed long forgotten: compromise.

Tonight, in their first interview since the vote, those senators, Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware sit down with us. It was Republican Flake who forced his party to accept a one week FBI investigation into the assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.

(...)

ANA MARIA ARCHILA: What are you doing sir?!

PELLEY: What happened in the elevator?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE [R-AZ]: People felt very strongly about the hearings and what was going on.

ARCHILA: What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit on the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable.

PELLEY: Flake had just announced that he would vote for Kavanaugh. The people who felt so strongly were activists Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, who told Flake they were survivors of sexual assault.

MARIA GALLAGHER: Look at me and tell me it doesn’t matter what happened to me.

FLAKE: They were clearly passionate and determined that I hear them.

CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: I believed he was going to rape me, I tired to yell for help.

PELLEY: What the Senate Judiciary Committee heard Thursday upended Kavanaugh’s nomination.

(...)

7:52 AM ET

PELLEY: Democrat Chris Coons and Republican Jeff Flake listened from opposite ends of the dais, separated by party. But in truth, they were much closer. They had struck up a friendship over the years that bridged mere politics.  

(...)

BRETT KAVANAUGH: This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars and money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

PELLEY: I’d like to ask both of you what you made of Judge Kavanaugh’s very emotional response and what it may or may not say about his judicial temperament. Does this man belong on the Supreme Court?

SEN. CHRIS COONS [D-DE]: He had exchanges with Senator Feinstein, with Senator Klobuchar, with others, that I thought went over a line. He was clearly belligerent, aggressive, angry.

PELLEY: Made you wonder about his suitability?

COONS: In my case, yes.

PELLEY: But Senator Flake, you identified with it. You understood –

FLAKE: Well, it did – it seemed partisan. But boy, I had to put myself in that spot. And you can – you can understand why he was angry. And you know, I think you give a little leeway there.

(...)

7:57 PM ET

PELLEY: Democrat Chris Coons saw the testimony wearing on his friend, Republican Jeff Flake, and hoped to convince his colleague to compromise on Kavanaugh.

COONS: I was outside the hearing room, probably about the same time he was having that conversation in the elevator. And a reporter showed me that Jeff had announced he was gonna vote for Kavanaugh. And I was very upset, I mean, hugely distraught by that, because I was still hoping there might be some moment here.

PELLEY: Despite Flake’s announced support of Kavanaugh, Coons tried to offer a compromise: the week-long investigation to be led by the FBI.

COONS: And I have conveyed to my friends and colleagues that I had wished we would take a one-week pause, one week only.

PELLEY: When you were making that compromise proposal, you were lobbying your friend, Senator Flake. You didn’t expect to change the minds of other Republicans. You were trying to change one mind.

COONS: I was, principally, concerned about helping my friend listen to his doubts and his conscience.

PELLEY: Changing one mind was enough, because with the Senate divided so narrowly, the Republicans could hardly afford to lose Flake.

COONS: And I cannot tell you how grateful I am. Jeff’s the hero here. He’s the person who wanted a moment just to – just to, you know, go over, what are the legitimate concerns and grievances by Republicans on the committee about the process and the complaints and how we got here?

PELLEY: After Democratic Senator Coons floated his compromise, Republican Jeff Flake stood up and walked from the Republican side of the dais to the Democratic.

Senator Coons, there’s a moment in the hearing in which Sen. Flake walks by, essentially taps on your shoulder, and the two of you walk out. What happened when you walked out of the room?

COONS: Well, I followed Jeff into the anteroom and he said very intently, “This is tearing our country apart. We have to do something.”

(...)

8:00 PM ET

PELLEY: Senator Flake, you’ve announced that you’re not running for re-election and I wonder, could you have done this if you were running for re-election?

FLAKE: No, not a chance.

PELLEY: Not a chance?

FLAKE: No, no.

PELLEY: Because politics has become too sharp, too partisan?

FLAKE: Yeah, there’s no value to reaching across the aisle. There’s no currency for that anymore. There’s no incentive.

(...)

8:02 PM ET

PELLEY: If Judge Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination’s over?

FLAKE: Oh, yes.

COONS: I would think so.

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