WASHINGTON—In Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee played host to one of the most garish exercises in absurdity in which our politics have involved themselves. On the surface, the committee was conducting a hearing into the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. However, at its roots, the hearing was the final, concluding chapter in the attempted destruction of the presidency of Barack Obama.
When he is confirmed—and he will be confirmed, because the votes are there and the Democratic opposition is as bumfuzzled as it always is—he will stand on the highest court of the land as the living representation of a sub rosa determination taken in various caucus rooms eight years ago that the first African-American president should not be allowed to exercise the full power of the presidency. Maybe Gorsuch can live with that. He was confident to the point of being smug, and his gift for oily, pious condescension is undeniable. After all, there is great job security on the Supreme Court and the robe is certainly a nice one.
They’re clinging like drowning people to the tinhorn argument that the president shouldn’t be allowed to nominate someone during an election year. Lindsey Graham was particularly meretricious in this regard, using loose talk from previous Democratic senators on the subject as a counterweight to what his party actually did. He also cited the change eliminating the filibuster for lower federal courts as somehow related to what happened to Garland, which had never happened before in the history of the republic. He also would like a cookie for having condescended to give Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan a hearing and, later, a vote. I’m thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign.
(Graham then spent about 15 minutes plugging his “fetal pain” act. Gorsuch sat there and looked like he’d been hit in the head with a hammer. “The only reason I mention this is that everybody who takes a case to court deserves a person like you,” said Graham, who set a very high bar for sanctimony.)
To be sure, Gorsuch is pretty much the kind of judge that any modern Republican president would nominate. He’s practically got the Heritage Foundation logo stamped on his forehead. He’s solicitous to the point of tenderness regarding the delicate feelings of America’s large corporations. He’s very much on the side of religion in American law; he was quite enthusiastic about the 10th Circuit’s opinion in Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius, and he joined a dissent that argued that the Little Sisters of the Poor’s religious freedom would be circumscribed if they were required to file a form to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement, a position that is weird law and even stranger theology.
Nevertheless, had Scott Walker, or Ted Cruz, or Carly Fiorina been placed in office by the Electoral College last autumn, Neil Gorsuch would have been who they nominated as well. However, the basic absurdity of this nomination—and, thus, yesterday’s hearing—runs on two tracks.