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- The most important question for Kavanaugh: his view of presidential power.
But the most important things happening in Washington, D.C., do not include either the Bob Woodward book (which contains some of the most frightening Washington scenes since The Exorcist) or the anonymous New York Times op-ed, the so-called-resistance-from-within piece. It’s still a mystery who wrote the op-ed — Kellyanne Conway is the latest favored rumor — but remember this: That person signed on to be a Trumpist, not to save America or the world. The only brave thing and right thing to do is to resign and speak the truth aloud, en masse, if there truly is massive resistance in the White House. Maybe that would, at last, shame Trump’s enablers in Congress. (Note to self: No, it wouldn’t. Of course it wouldn’t.)
If there’s anything inarguable to say about Trumpworld, it’s that Trump’s flaws were always visible for anyone with eyes to see. Sure, he lies at every turn, but in his lying, he simply confirms his bigotry, his arrogance, his authoritarian leanings, his narcissism, his deep and wide ignorance of topics large and small. Or as Barack Obama put it in his recent overtly political speech, “How hard can that be — saying Nazis are bad?”
Yes, Woodward’s devastating anecdotes filled in the blanks on what we already knew or sensed about the Trump administration from reading The New York Times and Washington Post, and Mr. or Ms. Anonymous did tell us, at minimum, that even the people who work for Trump are scared to death of what catastrophe he might actually bring upon us.
But the catastrophe is already upon us. Trump not only tweeted that the op-ed may be treasonous, he also demanded that The Times out the author and hand him over to the government (for what, you might ask — criticizing the president?). And just Friday, on Air Force One, Trump told reporters that the Department of Justice should get involved in finding the author’s identity. Is Trump ready to go the full Putin? Does the First Amendment even apply anymore? Maybe someone should ask Brett Kavanaugh about that.
I’m asking, because none of the above is nearly as important as Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which is all but assured (thank you, Susan Collins, who apparently doesn’t really care about saving Roe v. Wade, a fact apparently lost on the Maine Democrats who continue to send her to the Senate). And thank you, Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who advise us that everything Woodward wrote is essentially true and that Trump is, in fact, a clear and present danger — and then, singly and/or collectively, do absolutely nothing about it.
"Does the First Amendment even apply anymore? Maybe someone should ask Brett Kavanaugh about that." click to tweet
If you’re confused by what you heard at the Kavanaugh hearings, then Kavanaugh has effectively done his job. He sidestepped virtually every question, although he did produce at least one gaffe when he referred to the forms of birth control argued in the Hobby Lobby case as “abortion-inducing drugs.” And some Democrats think they have a lying-to-Congress case to make against him.
The liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice lists four ways in which Kavanaugh would likely tilt the already-right-leaning court ever more rightward — making it easier to get a gun, harder to get an abortion, easier for big money to influence elections and partisan groups to manipulate them, harder for the Mueller investigation to do its work.
Columnist Paul Krugman makes it simpler to understand, writing a column with this headline:
“Kavanaugh will kill the Constitution.”
No one doubts that Kavanaugh has the standard qualifications for the job, which, in modern times, means you had to go to Harvard or Yale law schools. But there’s plenty to doubt, starting with Kavanaugh’s time with the Ken Starr investigation, which included Kavanaugh’s long-term look into the Vince Foster suicide. Can you seriously be qualified for the Supreme Court if you ever took seriously the idea that one of the Clintons had Foster killed?
There was also his time in the White House as Bush staff secretary, with the many emails Kavanaugh sent and received that Republicans have blocked from public view. One that we have seen suggests that Kavanaugh, despite his precedent-on-top-of-precedent lecture on Roe v. Wade, doesn’t actually believe that it’s “settled law,” given that the Court can change its mind at any time. He’s right there, of course, and dangerously so if you believe in a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.
But maybe the most pressing thing we’d like to know about Kavanaugh, other than his willingness to go into debt to buy Washington Nationals tickets, are his views on presidential powers in regard to special counsels and whether — he refused to answer this — he’d recuse himself if Trump’s issues with Robert Mueller came before the court. There’s real argument as to what Kavanaugh’s actual views are on the limits of a special counsel, which, we’re instructed, is different from an independent counsel, which is what Ken Starr was. We don’t know how Kavanaugh would come down in a Trump-Mueller showdown, but can guess how Trump believes he’ll rule.
So, here we are. Republicans wouldn’t let Obama’s Supreme Court nominee even get a hearing, saying that the nomination was too close to an election eight months in the future. Now they’re pushing through a justice who was nominated by a president whose own lawyer said in a courtroom, under oath, that he had directed him to commit a felony. And that justice, Trump’s second nominee, may well determine the future of the Trump presidency. And, thus, the nation.