Blogging the Brett Kavanaugh hearing

Today is the first day of the hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. I will live blog it, for a while at least.

Today will feature opening statement. In other words, speeches. Tomorrow will feature questioning by Senators. In other words, speeches.

9:37 Sen. Charles Grassley brings down the gavel.

9:37 Sen. Kamala Harris immediately interrupts Grassley to whine about having just received documents.

9:39 Applause breaks out. This will be a circus.

9:39 Women in the audience are screaming hysterically. The police is removing them.

9:40 There is a motion to adjourn. It’s Sen. Cory Booker’s turn to whine now. Grassley is trying to gavel him down. He’s appealing to Grassley’s “sense of decency.” What a phony.

9:41 Grassley is responding to Booker. He says Booker is taking advantage of Grassley’s decency.

9:42 More shouting from the crowd. Grassley should clear the room — of Democrats too (just kidding).

9:45 The Democrats’ strategy is clear. They have nothing effective with which to beat Kavanaugh up, so it’s going to be all about the documents. All whining, all the time.

9:46 Grassley is responding to the whining. He’s explaining why documents are being withheld due to executive privilege. Some woman is screaming in the background.

9:47 Is it sexist to wonder why all of the screeching is coming from women?

9:50 Grassley has finished his defense and is welcoming Judge Kavanaugh who will introduce his family. Let’s hope most of the screechers have been smoked out and removed.

9:52 Grassley is laying out the ground rules. There will be 10 opening statements by each committee member, with Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member, reserving the right to drone on longer. Then, there will be statements by the “introducers.” After that, Kavanaugh will be sworn in as a witness, followed by questioning by Senators, which will occur on Wednesday.

9:53 The Dems are renewing their motion, by Sen. Blumenthal, to adjourn. Not for the last time, one suspects.

9:55 They are making talking about their rights as “litigants.” I didn’t know this was litigation.

9:56 Sen. Cornyn takes up the litigation point. He says if this were litigation, every member of the the other “side” would be held in contempt. He’s probably right.

9:59 Sen. Booker is complaining again. He’s creating sound bites.

10:00 Grassley has called on Sen. Feinstein to give her opening statement. She’s talking, not about Kavanaugh, but about President Trump. There’s a cloud over this administration, she intones.

10:03: Now she’s whining about the treatment of Judge Merrick Garland. We’ve been going for half an hour with nary a statement about Kavanaugh.

10:04 Finally, a statement about Kavanaugh. Feinstein says that Kavanaugh is the kind of nominee Trump wants. Duh!

10:05 Feinstein says we need to understand the frustration on her side of the aisle. We do, Dianne, and we love it.

10:06 Sen. Blumenthal, the insufferable liar, renews his motions to adjourn and/or go to executive session. Grassley denies them.

10:07 Blumenthal opines that the denial of his motion represents a “stain.”

10:09 More sound bites from Sen. Booker, another liar.

10:13 Sen. Kennedy wonders whether it’s necessary to be recognized by the chair before speaking. It hasn’t been so far.

10:15 Sen. Tillis is reading a report about how the Democrats met over the weekend to plot a strategy of obstruction. He asks whether the Democrats deny this.

10:16 Dirty Dick Durbin responds, but not really. He admits that the Dems met and then renews the Democrats’ whining.

10:18 More hollering from the audience. Sickening.

10:20 Grassley is providing a lengthy response to complaints about documents. More documents have been made available than in any past nomination proceeding. Sound bites aren’t the Chairman’s strong suit.

10:23 Grassley’s response just leads to a response by ageless windbag Sen. Leahy. Grassley should stop arguing and give his opening statement.

10:25 Leahy says he’s sorry to see the Senate Judiciary Committee descend “this way.” I’m sure Grassley is too. It has been a slow and steady descent.

10:27 Grassley points out that nearly half a million pages have been provided.

10:28 Sen. Klobuchar is speaking now. Blah, blah, blah.

10:29 Sen. Cornyn agrees with the Dems that this confirmation hearing is unprecedented. It’s the first one to which “mob rule” applies.

10:31 The main complaint today, for what it’s worth, is about the designation of many documents as “committee confidential.” This means they can’t be made available to the public. That’s because of the highly sensitive nature of the documents.

10:34 Grassley is a sensitive guy. He takes offense to Cornyn’s claim that this is a “mob rule” hearing. Instead of taking offense, Grassley should exercise control and move the hearing along.

10:39 Grassley asks the Democrats if he may proceed to his opening statement. Why is he asking for permission? Just do it.

10:40 The Dems haven’t given permission. Instead, Sen. Harris is creating sound bites. She doesn’t sound presidential. Booker’s sound bites are more impressive.

10:42 Lizardly Sen. Blumenthal renews his motion.

10:43 He renews his motion again.

10:43 Grassley tries to give his opening statement, but Sen. Hirono interrupts him.

10:44 Booker interrupts again. Blah, blah, blah.

10:45 Booker invokes “common sense.” My common sense tells me that the Democrats are engaging in obstruction. It tells me that Kavanaugh’s work on the Judiciary plus half a million other documents provide enough information to evaluate this nominee.

10:47 Grassley finally just does it. He begins his opening statement. More hollering from the audience.

10:48 In a first, a man is hollering. A woman is hollering louder.

10:50 Grassley’s statement is vanilla so far. Predictably.

10:52 More hollering. The left has done a great job of filling the audience with its adherents. Predictably.

10:53 Grassley is citing the “Ginsburg rule.” It’s invoked to avoid answering questions about substantive law on the theory that the issue might come before the Supreme Court. It’s a great tool for nominees and I expect Kavanaugh to invoke it quite a bit.

10:58 It’s Feinstein’s turn now. She says it’s important for people to understand how strongly they feel and why they feel that way. With Feinstein, it’s often about feelings.

11:00 Now Feinstein is giving a rousing defense of legalized abortions. This is he Democrats’ best play because it’s probably the only issue that might gain the traction necessary to peal off two Republican Senators, Sens. Collins and Murkowski.

11:03 I’ll say one positive thing about this hearing. Al Franken isn’t part of it.

11:04 Feinstein is also talking about guns. Kavanaugh has been strong on the Second Amendment. Feinstein claims that Kavanaugh’s views here are “outside the mainstream” and go further even than those of Justice Scalia. It will be interesting to hear how Kavanaugh responds when he finally gets the opportunity.

11:06 Some vulnerable Democrats are from states where gun rights are quite popular. In addition, Sen. Murkowski comes from such a state. So Kavanaugh’s strong support for gun rights isn’t necessarily a negative in these proceeding.

11:08 Feinstein concludes her statement. I have to commend her on it. The statement was low on whining and high on substance.

11:09 Now, it’s Sen. Hatch’s turn. He notes how well Kavanaugh’s opinions have fared with the Supreme Court. That’s a good point, particularly because that Court was ideologically balanced.

11:11 More hollering. There seems to be an endless supply of resisters in the crowd.

11:12 Hatch calls for the “loud mouth” to be removed. Grassley seems to be offended again. By Hatch, not by the loud mouths.

11:13 Hatch is forced to shout over the noise.

11:14 The Committee should consider closing hearings like these to the public. Since they are televised, there’s no real need for a live audience.

11:16 Hatch cites the testimonials for Kavanaugh by (1) his former female law clerks — all of the ones not precluded by their employment from weighing in and (2) 40 or so members of the Supreme Court bar, including prominent liberals.

11:17 He now quotes Bob Bennett, President Clinton’s personal lawyer during the Whitewater/Monica days.

11:18 More screeching. These interruptions are good sound bites for Republicans. I wonder whether the mainstream media will show them on the nightly news.

11:19 Hatch says that anyone who claims Kavanaugh is outside the mainstream is writing half the country out of the mainstream. Great point.

11:20 Feinstein is recognizing a series of leftists in the audience. One of them is Al Sharpton.

11:22 It’s Leahy’s turn now. He says he’s going to introduce “reality” to the proceedings. The key reality is that he and his party are almost certainly going to be outvoted.

11:23 Leahy is focusing on Kavanaugh’s “expansive view” of executive power. Another valid issue to explore.

11:24 Leahy says Kavanaugh was a political operative before he became a judge. Actually, he was a prosecutor and the staff secretary at the White House.

11:26 Leahy reverts to whining.

11:28 Here’s a first. A Democratic is being interrupted. Some woman is shrieking about abortion. Leahy isn’t pleased.

11:30 “What is being hidden, and why?” This is the Dems’ mantra. Leahy repeats it, not for the first time.

11:32 The old man is repeating much of what he said during opening interruptions. And he’s rambling on about the good old days. I remember them. Supreme Court nominees — liberal and conservative — were routinely confirmed on a bipartisan basis and with no grandstanding.

11:34 Leahy claims that the Senate’s vetting role is being “discarded.”

11:35 Now he claims that Kavanaugh misled the Senate during his first confirmation hearing. He promises to question him about this. It should be interesting, if nauseating.

11:36 Grassley calls Leahy’s claim that there is insufficient information to consider this nomination “ridiculous.”

11:39 Now, it Cornyn’s turn. He notes, as I did, that in the good old days judges were confirmed on a bipartisan basis. That’s because Justices weren’t yet viewed as policy makers. In fact, though, they already were that.

11:42 More hollering. Something about Kavanaugh not be qualified to run a laundromat, I think. I’m confident he could run one, though he is surely overqualified for the job.

11:44 CSPAN says 20 protesters have already been arrested. That, I think, is the number of those removed. Let’s hope they are arrested and prosecuted. I think there’s a jail in the Capitol basement.

11:47 Durbin’s up. He calls the hollering “the noise of democracy.” Leahy didn’t feel that way when he was interrupted.

Disrupting events that are part of the democratic process is not the noise of democracy. It’s anti-democratic.

11:48 Durbin is using the interruptions as the basis for his claim that there are valid concerns over Kavanaugh. That’s ridiculous. There may be some, but the hollering doesn’t prove this. Twenty people shouting doesn’t prove anything except the over-the-top obnoxiousness of the shouters.

11:49 Unlike Leahy, Durbin seems fine with the increasingly thuggish nature of the Democratic left. Predictably.

11:50 Durbin is arguing that Kavanaugh shouldn’t be confirmed because he’s “the nominee of Donald J. Trump.” Would Durbin support Kavanaugh if Ted Cruz had nominated him?

11:52 I can’t research this now, but I think Durbin’s claim that hollering at confirmation hearings is unprecedented is false. Certainly, hollering at Senate hearings is nothing new.

11:54 Dirty Dick now says that Kavanaugh is the nominee of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. There’s a tension between this claim and the assertion that he’s Trump’s guy. If Durbin were truly concerned about the Trump angle, rather than just obstructing a GOP nominee, he would take comfort from the fact, if true, that Kavanaugh is the Federalist Society’s guy.

11:57 Now, Durbin is accusing Kavanaugh of lying to him during his first confirmation hearing. This will make for some interesting questioning.

11:58 Durbin says he needs a clear answer to the question of whether the president is above the law. I predict Durbin will get an answer: “No.”

12:00 I think Durbin has just retired the smarmiest Senator award.

12:01 Sen. Lee has commenced his statement. He calls the suggestion that Kavanaugh misled the Committee “absurd.” Clearly, Kavanaugh and his supporters have an answer to the allegation.

12:03 Lee, who has a firm grasp of constitutional history, notes that confirmation hearings for Justices didn’t begin until around 100 years ago. It was for the Brandeis nomination. There was the suggestion that anti-Semitism prompted this, Lee says. Brandeis, though, wasn’t called to testify at the hearing.

12:05 Felix Frankfurter was the first nominee who appeared at a confirmation hearing. This was during the 1930s.

12:06 Lee now discusses the infamous Bork hearings.

12:07 Lee says we’re now at the point where nominees are asked by Senators to trade promises on how they’ll rule in particular cases in exchange for a confirmation vote. Actually, we’re at the point where even a promise, if a nominee were unwise enough to give one, wouldn’t produce a vote to confirm Kavanaugh from most Senate Democrats. (Sen. Whitehouse later effectively admits this).

12:10 Lee makes a strong point. Despite working in the Bush administration, Kavanaugh ruled against the Bush administration numerous times as a judge, says Lee.

12:11 Also, Kavanaugh almost never voted to overturn court of appeals precedent while he was on the D.C. Circuit. The only four times he did, the decision was unanimous, again according to Lee.

12:14 Now comes Sen. Whitehouse. He’s attacking the Roberts court (the Roberts Five) for going off on partisan excursions — i.e. voting as a bloc. Of course, the “Ginsburg four” votes as a bloc too. However, Whitehouse claims that the “Roberts Five’s excursions” always favor corporate interests.

12:17 I think this means that Kavanaugh, if he votes with the Roberts Five, will be a mainstream judge.

12:18 It will be interesting to see whether Whitehouse discusses the legal merits — as opposed to who won — of any the decisions he deplores. He isn’t doing so now. Maybe he will when he questions Kavanaugh.

12:22 It will also be interesting to see whether Whitehouse says anything about Kavanaugh in his opening statement. He hasn’t so far.

12:23 It follows from Whitehouse’s statement that Kavanaugh’s nomination isn’t important. The “good guys” are losing all the big cases 5-4 already. At worst, Kavanaugh’s ascension will keep the 5-4 decisions coming. No change, in other words.

12:27 Finally, we get to Kavanaugh. Whitehouse repeats the claim that Kavanaugh is a political operative.

12:28 Now, he refers to Kavanaugh’s record as judge. Again, it’s all about who has won, not the merits. I hope Whitehouse will engage Kavanaugh on the merits of his decisions. Man up, Sheldon.

12:32 At last we get to Ted Cruz, the star of the Committee in my opinion. I think there will be a lunch break after his turn. Mercifully.

12:34 Cruz says there has been very little said about the substance of Kavanaugh’s judicial opinion so far. I don’t recall anything substantive being said about his opinions.

12:36 Cruz reminds us that the documents in dispute from Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary are (1) documents authored by others (not Kavanaugh) for consumption by the president and (2) the most sensitive and confidential documents the president receives.

12:37 Cruz says the Democrats are demanding documents they know no president would produce and documents that have no real relevance to Kavanaugh’s fitness. Having nothing with which to defeat Kavanaugh, they want to relitigate the Bush administration.

12:39 Cruz makes a key point I should have made. The 2016 election, to an unprecedented degree, was about the Supreme Court. Both candidates were very clear about the kind of Supreme Court Justices they would appoint. Trump even published a list of those he would consider (interestingly, Kavanaugh wasn’t on the original list, presented during the primary seasons, but he was on the list presented before the general election). [CORRECTION: I now see that Kavanaugh’s name wasn’t added until November 17, 2017]

12:41 The electorate gave the nod to Trump in an election that, to a considerable degree, was a referendum on which types of jurists should be on the Supreme Court.

12:43 Now, Cruz is attacking the Democrats and liberal judges on issues like the Second Amendment, free speech, and religious liberty. In other words, the leftism of leftist jurisprudence.

12:45 This is making for good sound bites, perhaps the best of the day. I think Texas will like them.

12:47 Grassley has announced the end of the morning’s proceedings. This will also end my blogging of opening statements, about half of which have now been presented.

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