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Battlelines drawn: the fight over the next US Supreme Court justice

By Russell Grenning - posted Monday, 23 July 2018

On July 9, President Trump announced that he had nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court vacancy and, almost immediately, there was strident opposition. To win nomination Judge Kavanaugh requires a simple majority vote in the Senate where the Republicans have 51 seats and the Democrats 49.

On paper, it would seem the vote would be a formality. However, that assumption could be problematic.

Within hours, the usual suspects with, predictably, Hillary Clinton in the lead, emerged to attack the nomination. Ms Clinton who can't or won't reconcile herself to the fact that she lost the race to be President announced, "This nomination holds out the threat of devastating consequences for workers' rights, civil rights, LGBT rights, women's rights. It is a blatant attempt by this administration to shift the balance of the court for decades and to reverse decades of progress."


And if that wasn't enough, she added, "I used to worry that they wanted to turn the clock back to the 1950s. Now I worry that they want to turn it back to the 1850s." Perhaps Ms Clinton was thinking of President Franklin Pierce who served only one term (1853-1857) and was so bloody bad that his own party refused to endorse him for a second term – but, then again, Pierce was a Democrat, just like Ms Clinton.

Left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders didn't hold back describing Kavanaugh as a "rubber stamp for an extreme, right-wing agenda pushed by corporations and billionaires". Sanders was even too left-wing for the Democrats who endorsed Hillary Clinton ahead of him. Democrats Senate leader Chuck Schumer announced, "I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh's nomination with everything that I have…the stakes are simply too high for anything else."

A motley crowd of Hollywood types also burst into a frenzy of opposition. They seem to think that they have influence with most American people even though their massive campaigning for Ms Clinton was such an unmitigated disaster.

Jane Fonda decided if Judge Kavanaugh became a Supreme Court Justice then it would be an "unmitigated disaster" with women's rights, workers' rights and everybody else's right "shunted to the side". It was Ms Fonda who visited North Vietnam during the Vietnam War and was photographed straddling an anti-aircraft gun and wearing a North Vietnamese Army helmet. Dubbed "Hanoi Jane", she declared that US troops in South Vietnam were "war criminals" and that returning POWs were "hypocrites and liars" when they testified they had been tortured by their captors.

Also prominent in the opposition to Judge Kavanaugh is the open borders organisation Muslim Advocates with their Executive Director Farhana Khera claiming that Kavanaugh "will only further threaten to erode our nation's promise of freedom, justice and equality for all" and that the judge "would give Trump a green light to put his bigoted agenda in place without checks, without balances and without regard for the rule of law." Given the undoubted popularity of President Trump's immigration and border wall policies, this attack could potentially be a huge own goal. Other critics, including Clinton, have studiously avoided any mention of Mr Khera.

About 200 Yale University law students signed a hysterical letter bitterly attacking Kavanaugh, who is a Yale Law school graduate, which declared – without advancing any evidence – "People will die if he is confirmed".


However, he garnered extensive support from the University's faculty with the Law School Dean Professor Heather Gerken saying, "I have admired him for serving as a teacher and mentor to our students and hiring a diverse set of clerks, in all respects, during his time on the court". Yale University Professor Akhil Reed Amar (a Hillary Clinton supporter) wrote a long piece in the New York Times under the headline, "A Liberal's Case for Brett Kavanaugh" which included, "…it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh" and (he) "commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers and jurists" while Professor of Jurisprudence Abbe R Cluck called Kavanaugh "…one of the most learned judges in America…"

Presidents invariably appoint to the bench who they perceived to be politically sympathetic to their cause - Hillary Clinton saw her husband appoint two Supreme Court justices who have proven to be politically reliable to the liberal cause so why she presumably imagined that President Trump would not do the same is ludicrous.

But there have been mistakes – President George H W Bush appointed David Souter to the Supreme Court thinking he was a conservative when he turned out to be anything but – Bush's staff had let him down badly in the vetting process. President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren and William Brennan to the highest court and later lamented that these appointments were the two biggest mistakes he ever made. President Reagan had two nominees refused by the Senate when the Democrats held the majority

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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