Parker: Advise and dissent — what a hearing that was
WASHINGTON — If you missed Day One of Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court hearing, just try to imagine a mud-wrestling contest attended by banshees howling at the referee.
Between senators interrupting the all-wise-and-patient Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and shrieking protesters, the proceedings were too low-brow to resort to the usual circus metaphor. It was a performance, all right, but it was embarrassing to watch.
The falderol was allegedly about a document dump from the Kavanaugh team that arrived in Democratic members' offices Monday night, too late for staffers to read and analyze everything. These were the last of nearly a half-million pages provided to the Senate — or more than the total for the past five nominees combined, according to Ed Whelan, president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Tuesday morning began with Grassley attempting to begin the hearing, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., attempting to immediately adjourn. Next came Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., followed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., etc., etc.
This choreographed effort to obstruct the proceedings continued most of the morning. Republicans could barely speak without a Democrat barging through the gossamer veil of mutual respect, while the audience, including an organized cabal of shriekers, seemed to think this was a multimedia carnival in which participation is welcome. All that was missing was the canned laughter.
Throughout, Kavanaugh sat solemnly stoic, looking very much the law student who keeps his eyes on the professor's face to avoid staring at the mustard stain on his tie. Every now and then, he appeared to jot down a note, though given the debate taking place, he might have been sketching scarecrows.
So what about those 42,000 pages? It is a rather large cache, you have to admit. And what about the last-minute dump? Isn't that an act of bad faith? Not necessarily.
First, the last-minute dump is a time-honored tradition in the nation's capital and a common tactic in litigation. Lawyers will do what lawyers do. As for the whining about needing more time, really? This is Washington, folks, where Starbucks is literally on all four corners of a downtown park. Teams of fast skimmers and a case or two of Red Bull could have produced a rash of salient bullet points by breakfast — if Democrats were really curious. Happens all the time. Indeed, Garrett Ventry, Grassley's communications adviser, tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the senator's legal documents team did review the full stack Monday. "We had 15 people working on it."
But this is a case of style over content. Tuesday's takeaway can be distilled to four points: (1) Democrats will do anything to postpone confirmation until after the midterm elections, when they hope to blue-wash the Senate; (2) at least two Democratic committee members (Harris and Cory Booker of New Jersey) are running for president and needed to show their chops; (3) the Democratic Party base needed a backrub; (4) Democrats want to be able to say, "We tried."
As for the quantity of documents, Kavanaugh suffers from his own work ethic and productivity, which has resulted in a vast paper trail that is far longer than anyone else's in Supreme Court history. Indeed, members of this Judiciary Committee know far more about Kavanaugh than they've known about any other nominee.
But Democrats remain obsessed with the documents they know they'll never get and this, too, has become a weapon in their arsenal. These 101,921 pages, which pertain to Kavanaugh's tenure as White House staff secretary to George W. Bush are protected by executive privilege because they contain candid deliberations, "the confidentiality of which is critical to any President's ability to carry out this core executive function," according to Bill Burck, former President George W. Bush's presidential records representative.
Democrats now complaining about the inappropriateness of this protection weren't always of such mind. The estimable Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., not so long ago co-signed a letter to the Bush Library acknowledging that some documents should never be released. And Democrats had no objection when some of Elena Kagan's records weren't disclosed during her confirmation hearing. Alas, but for a few rhetorical flourishes here and there, it's all just a partisan show, ladies and gentlemen. Politicians will pontificate; screamers will scream; Grassley will maintain his reputation for fairness and integrity. And Kavanaugh will be confirmed.
Let's get on with it.