There are two types of NeverTrumpers. The first type hates Trump, but that hatred doesn’t cause them to abandon long-held conservative principles. The second type’s hatred of Trump leads them to shift positions on matters of policy.
Bret Stephens is an example of the first type, I think. Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin are extreme examples of the second.
I had assumed that Bill Krisol and Mona Charen, both long-time stalwarts of the conservative movement, were in the first category. But after reading this article in the Washington Post, I’m not so sure.
According to the Post, an organization whose founders and directors include Kristol and Charen is “spearheading” a campaign to confirm Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general. Gupta’s policy positions are radically leftist. It’s difficult to imagine that Kristol and Charen would be part of the charge to get Gupta confirmed if their positions on important policy matters hadn’t changed dramatically as a result of Trump’s ascent.
Before turning to specifics, let’s look at the stated rationale of this campaign to confirm Gupta. It’s fraudulent.
According to the Post, the ad states:
Gupta has a record of building bridges across partisan divides. So let’s stop playing politics. Confirm Vanita Gupta and let’s build an America we can all believe in.
“Gupta has a record of building bridges across partisan divides”? Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, Gupta is a hyper-partisan operative. She has relentlessly attacked Republican nominees with whom she disagrees on policy.
Take Brett Kavanaugh. Upon hearing that President Trump intended to nominate him for the Supreme Court, Gupta declared Kavanaugh, a judge on the prestigious D.C. Circuit, “unfit to serve on the Supreme Court.” She stated:
Brett Kavanaugh is a direct threat to our civil and human rights and is unfit to serve on our nation’s highest court. Like President Trump, he would protect the rights of the wealthy and powerful over the rights of all – a fact verified by his prominence on Trump’s vaunted short list of potential nominees.
Earning a spot on this list of anti-civil and human rights all-stars required satisfying the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society and passing Trump’s ideological litmus tests. Trump promised that, if confirmed, his nominee would overturn Roe v. Wade, and undermine the Affordable Care Act, which would have a devastating impact on those with pre-existing conditions, people of color, women, people with disabilities, and millions of others for decades to come. Access to health care is a civil and human rights issue of profound importance.
Kavanaugh believes that the president is above the law, and he would not be a check on Trump’s abuse of power.
And so on.
Are these the words of a bridge builder?
Kavanaugh has, in fact, been willing to reject some of Trump’s positions. And Kavanaugh is less conservative than Justice Scalia. It always seemed to me that Kristol and Charen considered Scalia fit to serve on the Supreme Court.
If anything, Gupta was more hysterical when Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Court. Here is how she greeted that nomination. Here is her intemperate statement following Barrett’s confirmation.
Gupta also slandered Eric Dreiband, Trump’s choice to head the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. Eric had previously served as General Counsel of the EEOC, where he gained the respect of liberal attorneys. Three such liberals of my acquaintance spoke highly of Eric when I asked about him before he came to work at the firm I was with. Rick Seymour, a pioneer Title VII plaintiffs’ lawyer, wrote a glowing letter in support of Eric’s DOJ nomination.
But Gupta raged against Eric’s nomination. Notwithstanding his excellent work enforcing civil rights laws at the EEOC, she called him “woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.” In the same letter, she denounced him for “defending corporations accused of employment discrimination.”
Apparently, Gupta’s bridge building doesn’t extend to lawyers who defend clients she disapproves of, or presumably to those clients.
Gupta also falsely characterized the breadth of Eric’s experience with anti-discrimination laws. And she neglected to note that she did not have experience with the full range of these laws when she took over the Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration — the very charge she leveled at Trump’s nominee.
This is not a bridge builder. This a character assassin.
I wonder whether Gupta supported any standalone Trump nominee. I’m not aware of one. Leftists like Chai Feldblum and others who were on bipartisan slates don’t count.
Now let’s turn to Gupta’s substantive views. They can be found on the webpage of her organization, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which she runs. They are also clear from public statements and from her record when she was in charge of the Civil Rights Division.
Sen. Tom Cotton has reviewed Gupta’s record. He points out that she favors decriminalizing all narcotics, including fentanyl. He also found statements in which Gupta called for decreasing funding of the police and shrinking its responsibilities. Last summer, she declared:
While front-end systems changes are important, it is also critical for state and local leaders to heed calls from Black Lives Matter and Movement for Black Lives activists to decrease police budgets and the scope, role, and responsibility of police in our lives.
When I knew Bill Kristol, he didn’t favor decriminalizing all narcotics and decreasing police funding.
It was with Kristol’s kind encouragement that I wrote an article for the Weekly Standard opposing lenient sentencing legislation (with the Weekly Standard out of business, the article is accessible at the Washington Examiner). Gupta wants more leniency for felons than that provided by the legislation I denounced in my article. In fact, even with the leniency Congress granted, Gupta still considers our criminal justice system “a stain on our democracy.” Check out her beyond-wokey criminal law “vision” here.
Do Kristol and Charen believe that opposing the nomination of someone who takes the extreme positions Gupta does constitutes “playing politics”? Based on the pro-Gupta ad they are backing, it appears they do.
Gupta supports race-based preferences for Black college applicants, at the expense of White and Asian-American applicants. That’s clear from her praise of the decision against the Asian-American plaintiffs in the Harvard case.
Are Kristol and Charen on board now with these kinds of egregious racial preferences?
Gupta is a leader in the crusade to allow biological men into women’s rest rooms, locker rooms, and showers. She filed the Obama Justice Department’s lawsuit against North Carolina for resisting this crusade.
There’s plenty more to Gupta’s radicalism. I may have occasion to discuss some of it as the Senate takes up her nomination this week.
In the meantime, I suggest that the support for Gupta of the organization Kristol and Charen head shows either ignorance of what the nominee stands for or an abandonment by both of important views they held before Trump obtained power.
It’s possible to favor the confirmation of a presidential nominee with whom one disagrees on important policy matters — the theory being that a president should be served by officials of his choosing.
But it’s odd, and probably unprecedented, to launch an ad campaign for such a nominee. And it’s disingenuous to claim that this particular nominee is a bridge builder and that conservative opposition to her confirmation is just “playing politics.”
Unfortunately, this seems to be where their anti-Trump sentiments have led Bill Kristol and Mona Charen.