By: Kevin D. Williamson – nationalreview.com – October 14, 2020
The Amy Coney Barrett hearings have been the kind of goat rodeo that gives goat rodeos a bad name.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) came out as a full-blown conspiracy kook, briefly converting the chamber into a “room full of crazy” (“Beautiful Mind conspiracy charts,” Senate Ben Sasse called them) with his hilariously stupid connect-the-dots nonsense argument that the Reptilian Shape-Shifters and Illuminati — Charles Koch and the Federalist Society — are secretly buying federal-court judgements behind the scenes. Whitehouse also peddles anti-Catholic conspiracy theories in his role as a member of the Judiciary Committee, casting aspersions upon a district-court nominee for being a member of the Knights of Columbus in classic McCarthyite “Are you now or have you ever been?” style: “Must you swear an oath in order to join this organization? If so, what is that oath?” (Kamala Harris has done the same, and recently lied about it.) Particularly amusing was Senator Whitehouse’s insistence that the fact that every one of the Supreme Court’s 5/4 partisan-split decisions went the way of the Republican-appointed justices is proof positive of a payoff: “I’d be really hard-pressed to be the lawyer saying, ‘No, 80-0 is just a bunch of flukes, all 5-4, all partisan, all this way.’ So something is not right around the Court, and dark money has a lot to do with it. Special interests have a lot to do with it. Donors Trust and whoever is hiding behind Donors Trust has a lot to do with it.” As our Dan McLaughlin points out, the main reason that all of the recent 5/4 partisan splits have gone the Republicans’ way is that there are five Republican appointees to the Court and four Democratic appointees, making 5/4 decisions in the Democrats’ favor mathematically impossible.
Senator Chris Coons (D., Del.) provided a moment of unintentional mirth when he demanded that Judge Barrett explain why she had “singled out” Chief Justice John Roberts in her writing about the majority opinion in the Affordable Care Act decision. Judge Barrett very patiently explained that Chief Justice Roberts had written the opinion.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) lied about Judge Barrett’s dissent in a gun-rights case, insisting that she had conceded that her position was “radical” when she had written no such thing. Senator Blumenthal may have been basing his fiction on remarks Judge Barrett made at a school event, when she summed up her purportedly radical position: “There’s been a long-standing practice of saying that those who pose a threat of violence to the community cannot have firearms. And that makes sense, right? History is consistent with common sense.” The fainting couch is this way, senator.
The proceedings were almost redeemed by the Republican side. Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) for a moment stopped pretending to be a good ol’ boy from Tomball and proceeded in his natural Princeton-Harvard mode, giving a very intelligent but accessible account of recent civil-liberties controversies and his own role in litigating some of them. Senator Cruz is sometimes criticized for acting like “the smartest guy in the room,” but he often is the smartest guy in some very smart rooms. (The dormant Republican in me could not help but imagine how differently the past four years would have gone under President Cruz instead of President Tweethard McRagemonkey.) Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.), who carries his Yale doctorate (and his four other degrees) very lightly, was, for a moment, the civics teacher the country needs, explaining the reactive (as opposed to adventuring) nature of the Supreme Court.
As the Democrats in the Senate convulsed and floundered, their activist army went to work online, circulating bizarre smears of Judge Barrett, keeping the fact-checkers working all night. (Example: Even the witless partisan hacks at Politifact felt compelled to report that the stories circulating that Judge Barrett had claimed that breastfeeding children after six months is “child molestation” are a complete fabrication.) The story that President Trump said he nominated Judge Barrett because “she is much, much better looking than the women we have had,” is the sort of thing one can imagine Trump’s having said, but, in this case, he didn’t. These claims are, of course, preposterous lies, but there was never any good reason to believe that a teenaged Brett Kavanaugh had been the mastermind behind a prep-school gang-rape cult, either.
This isn’t about Judge Barrett, really: Her nomination almost certainly is a lost cause for Democrats, and delusional though they may be, they know it. This is about the coming election, in which they are making the implicit case for themselves that, whatever their other shortcomings, they are at least a cut above Donald Trump. But the goat rodeo under way in the Senate has shown the Democrats involved to be at least as bonkers and untrustworthy as the president. The Republican Party deserves to be punished for its sins, but a Republican Senate under the wily leadership of Cocaine Mitch has proved to be a valuable brake when one was needed — which it will be in January, irrespective of who wins the presidency.