Republicans are willing to do anything to seat a 5th conservative on the U.S. Supreme Court – By Mohamed Hamaludin

Republicans are willing to do anything to seat a 5th conservative on the U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Brett Kavanaugh

By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

These days, even a United States Senator can feel unconstrained to act on his conscience only when he is not seeking re-election and does not have to face the wrath of Donald Trump. That is the case of Arizona’s Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who has emerged as the hero in the high drama of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Flake is credited with delaying the final vote by the full Senate by demanding  a week’s delay to allow the FBI to update its background check on Kavanaugh following university professor Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation.     

Afterwards, Flake made it clear in media interviews, especially with The Atlantic magazine and CBS News, that, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, he was motivated not by an emotional confrontation with two women in an elevator. In fact, he had been prepared to believe Kavanaugh, in the absence of evidence to support Blasey Ford’s accusation.  “I’m a conservative. He’s a conservative judge,” he told reporters.

Rather, he wanted to protect “the process” by safeguarding the “credibility” of the Senate and the image of the Supreme Court after the acrimony of the Kavanaugh hearing.   “I knew … that people needed to be more comfortable moving ahead … and most of all that the country needs to feel better about this,” he told reporters.

That meant bipartisanship and Flake needed support from Democrats, who were so alienated from “the process” that several walked out of the hearing at one stage. Flake found an ally in Delaware Senator Chris Coons, with whom he had developed a friendship despite their clashing ideologies.

Coons had been expecting that Flake, with no fear of a voter backlash, would block the nomination. When he learned that was not the case, he gave an impassioned short speech in the committee lamenting that the bickering was making it “very difficult for us to take off our partisan jerseys and at some point get back to the important work of finding solutions to the challenges facing this country.”

That was apparently  just what Flake wanted to hear and he called his friend for a private discussion, telling him, as Coons remembers it, that the Democrats’ demand for a delay in the final vote to allow the FBI to probe further into Blasey Ford’s complaint was “perfectly reasonable.” Flake spoke to other Democrats, according to CBS News, and asked them, “What would cause you to say we have a better process?” He already had his answer, though, and he would win support from two other Republican Senators, both, unlike him, regarded as moderate: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

So Democrats got their delay and the FBI re-opened its background check. Whether the additional probe will uncover any damaging information on Kavanaugh, especially his drinking habits, remains to be seen. The speed with which Trump agreed to bring in the FBI – just hours later – is uncharacteristic of the hardball politics he and the Republican leadership are notorious for. After all, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for more than 400 days, blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the seat on the court left vacant by the sudden death of arch-conservative Antonin Scalia in hopes that a Republican would be elected president. Trump won and he successfully nominated Neil Gorsuch, also a conservative.

He tapped Kavanaugh after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. Until his successor is seated, the court, which opened its new session on Monday, is split 4-4 between so-called liberals and conservatives, which, as seen during the Scalia vacancy, limits the scope of its work. The Republicans want Kavanaugh to solidify a 5-4 conservative majority.

If there seems to be a rush to ram his appointment through the Senate, it is for good reason. Some polls are predicting that the Democrats have a chance of winning the Senate in the Nov. 6 mid-term elections. If Kavanaugh is blocked, Trump will pick a replacement from the list of 21 names which the arch-conservative Federalist Society gave him during the campaign. That would require the confirmation process to be restarted and, if it goes beyond the elections five weeks away, the Democrats would be able to do to the Republicans what they did with the Garland nomination: freeze it – – until the 2020 presidential election.

But Kavanaugh is not done yet. The re-opened FBI investigation could be just a fig leaf. Trump and company ignore the possibility that he lied about his drinking habits, his temperament and his crass partisanship. They discount Blasey Ford’s credibility, despite risking further alienating women voters. Control of the court for 40 or so years is a bigger prize than one mid-term election, especially since Trump will still be in office. If they cannot seat Kavanaugh, expect them to swiftly name a replacement and ram the nomination through the Senate in the remaining weeks. What is there to stop them?

____

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every two or three weeks for The South Florida Times which first published the above column. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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Comments

  • Trevor  On October 5, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Do you mean that Democrats will do anything to tarnish a man’s name over unsubstantiated accusations that happened over 30 years ago when the complainant was an adult and the accused was a minor? Why the Age of consent laws don’t apply?

    And then you have this East Indian feminist Sherlina Nageer and her mostly East Indian and Caucasian counterparts complaining to Granger that if he doesn’t hike the Age of consent to 18, 19, 20, 21 and beyond, every girl in Guyana will become single parents [or Nikki Haley, a Punjabi masquerading as a white woman] will sanction Guyana or cause tensions in South America.

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 7, 2018 at 1:30 am

    Republicans’ Misogyny Will Come Back To Haunt Them

    Jennifer Rubin | The Washington Post

    Republicans under President Trump have adopted a distinct political methodology evocative of autocratic regimes:

    Eschew rationality and facts, whip up hate, play to the mob.

    They cannot make winning, rational arguments on immigration, so they resort to fear-mongering about a non-existent crime epidemic caused by illegal immigrants.

    They cannot come up with an effective health-care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, so they sabotage that law and disguise their quest to strip out protections for pre-existing conditions.

    In the case of the Supreme Court, it was not enough for Republicans to praise Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and to let the facts come out about their nominee; they had to turn the FBI investigation into a Swiss-cheese production, laughably omitting key issues and not interviewing all the key witnesses.

    Did he lie under oath about drinking, suggesting he might not have a solid memory of high school debauchery?

    What’s more, in order to rally their base, Republicans needed to smear, insult and dismiss Christine Blasey Ford — and by extension thousands of female sex-crimes victims.

    Their white-male base responds to hate and resentment — against minorities, against complaining women, against foreigners — and Republicans did not disappoint.

    Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) turned into a crazed screamer, Trump ignited the victim mentality and Republicans repeated the falsehood that Ford had no “corroboration” – despite prior statements and passing a polygraph test.

    They did not call Deborah Ramirez to appear at a hearing; she was a non-person to them. Conservatives in the Senate, in the media and in legal circles who knew better figured that any new disincentive to report sex crimes was a small price to pay to get their man on the bench.

    Besides, what’s a little sexual assault when you’re young, right?

    It wasn’t actually rape, Senate candidate Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said. North Dakotans ate it up; if Republican win the seat, chalk one up for “If it’s not rape, it doesn’t count.”

    Republicans, too, could win this fight for the swing Supreme Court seat, but they cannot bestow legitimacy upon Kavanaugh or erase their record of weaponized misogyny.

    Progressives will seek his recusal in every case of political significance. Every 5-4 decision in which Kavanaugh is the deciding vote will be denounced as illegitimate, the work of a partisan judge elevated to the court by nefarious means.

    The decision will be respected legally in the short term, but in the future, it will be argued, the decision should carry zero precedential weight.

    Those he once accused of participating in a left-wing cabal will seek to vacate cases they lose in which Kavanaugh was the deciding vote.

    In future cases, they will urge justices and lower court judges to downgrade the importance of these decisions, in effect treating them as unpublished opinions that should not impact future cases.

    Democrats will ferret out the witnesses whom the FBI ignored and subpoena FBI officials to testify. They will leak the full FBI report at some point and disclose any communications between the FBI and White House that reveal efforts to curb the FBI investigation. They will seek Kavanaugh’s removal, and maybe even his disbarment.

    When a Democratic president eventually wins the White House with a Democratic Senate majority, you can count on a court-packing scheme.

    Most critically, any decision Kavanaugh renders in Trump’s favor on the Russia probe might ignite a constitutional conflagration in which the majority of the country sees an ILLEGITIMATE JUSTICE PROTECT A PRESIDENT ILLEGITIMATELY ELECTED with the assistance of the United States’ foe, Russia.

    None of this is desirable, nor would it have been conceivable had Trump picked another justice.

    However, in producing a worthless investigation and declaring open season on sex-crimes victims, Republicans push women out of the party and onto political war-footing.

    If power politics is what the Republicans want, women and others in the anti-Republican coalition – male and female Democrats, independents and ex-Republicans – will learn to play just as fiercely.

    In the meantime, Americans wounded and angered by this turn of events have two weapons — the power of the ballot box and the power to deny Kavanaugh’s legitimacy.

    If they need any more motivation, they need only recall Trump’s monstrous mocking of Ford, Kavanaugh’s vengeful rant against the left and belligerence toward female senators, and a fraudulent FBI report designed to exonerate the accused, not to find out the truth.

    For me, I’ll recollect Ford’s trembling voice acknowledging that she might be “annihilated” for her effort to spare the country from a grievously unfit justice.

    She got that right.

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