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Outsiders vs. Insiders: In the great battle for integrity, who wins, Neil Gorsuch or Al Franken?

It may be a little hard to remember now, nearly ten months later, but the newly sworn in President Donald Trump created waves throughout the country when he introduced a little known federal judge from Colorado as the prospective replacement for the late legendary Justice Antonin Scalia at the end of January.

Neil Gorsuch and his wife Marie Louise stood patiently behind President Trump as the announcement was made to the country. The Justice-to-be then delivered a brief but stirring tribute to the man whom he would Franken and Gorsuchsucceed and promised, if confirmed, to do everything in his power to maintain Scalia’s tradition of upholding the original meaning of the Constitution.

Because of his conservative textualist philosophy Gorsuch endured a grueling senate confirmation battle at the hands of the desperate Democrat opposition which ultimately ended in the slim Republican majority’s “nuking” of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, which then paved the way for the appeals court judge to elevate to the high court with 54 votes.

It’s safe to say Gorsuch has not disappointed conservatives ever since, and many see the newest Supreme Court Justice as the most successful fulfillment of any of Donald Trump’s campaign promises.

As would be expected Gorsuch himself has been little heard from since – but he seems to be taking his new responsibilities in stride.

Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner reported, “Gorsuch spoke at a dinner Thursday night held by the Federalist Society in honor of Scalia at Union Station in Washington, D.C., and said the jurisprudential philosophies of originalism and textualism popularized by Scalia had emerged victorious.

“’Tonight I can report that a person can be both a publicly committed originalist and textualist and be confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States,’ Gorsuch said. ‘Originalism has regained its place at the table … textualism has triumphed … and neither one is going anywhere on my watch.’”

If you listen closely you may detect a collective sigh of relief from the vast majority of Americans who voted for Trump specifically because the candidate promised to appoint someone to the Court who would emulate Justice Scalia. It seems the threat of having five committed liberal justices in black robes holding power over America’s longstanding traditions was enough for many to take a risk on a man the media branded as “unfit” and “dangerous”.

The Senate fight revealed a lot about the current state of American politics, too, with the Republicans being effusive in their praise of Gorsuch’s stellar lower court record while the Democrats probed and prodded in a vain attempt to uncover a weakness in the judge’s background. It was difficult to watch as men like ultra-liberal and not-funny comedian Senator Al Franken pontificated and jabbed the nominee in pursuit of some damaging quote or sentence that might sway public opinion against Gorsuch.

All these months later, the left is still at it. Gorsuch is on the Court for life if he chooses but that’s not preventing Democrat-favoring interest groups from smearing the man. Again, Lovelace reported, “The liberal Alliance for Justice, which opposed Gorsuch's nomination to the high court, criticized the newest justice's decision to speak to the Federalist Society.

“’Tonight's speech is just the latest stop on Neil Gorsuch's thank-you tour to honor the people who got him what should have been Merrick Garland's job,’ said Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice president. ‘First he made campaign stops in Kentucky with Mitch McConnell, then he gave a speech at the Trump International Hotel. Now he's speaking at a sold-out fundraising dinner for the right-wing Federalist Society, which is probably more responsible than any other entity for getting him into his current position.

“’We'll say it again: this behavior is unbecoming for a Supreme Court justice, cheapens the court, and undermines the trust of the American people in the court's fairness and impartiality.’”

Blah, blah, blah… When the left lacks anything substantive to criticize Gorsuch for they resort to digging at Trump and the senators who confirmed him. I can’t say for sure but I’d surmise the Court’s liberal Justices do similar-type speaking engagements at any number of leftist organizations and meetings and people like Nan Aron don’t say a word about their compromised “impartiality”. Gorsuch’s never hidden his fondness for textualism and originalism so it’s not exactly as though he lied to his Senate overseers during his hearings.

Everyone knew ahead of time that Chuck Schumer and crowd weren’t going to vote for Gorsuch under any circumstances. The nominee could have said he loved Roe v. Wade and Obamacare and they’d still vote him down; there was absolutely no suspense throughout the entire process. Court confirmation hearings have devolved into little more than preaching partisan tug-of-wars that will be won by the party currently holding the majority. Former Majority Leader Harry Reid saw to it that protections for the minority point-of-view were extinguished from the Senate rules. Democrats shouldn’t cry about it now.

In addition to whining to the press Democrats seem bent on further twisting old traditions to accomplish what they couldn’t do otherwise. Gorsuch may have been the judicial nominee with the most media coverage but there are a host of qualified judges now waiting to receive their hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee only to be thwarted by Democrats abusing the “blue slip” process.

Seung Min Kim of Politico reported, “Grassley says he has scheduled hearings for David Stras, a nominee to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Stras’ home-state senator, said earlier this year that he would not return the so-called blue slip for Stras because of his conservative ideology.

“’The Democrats seriously regret that they abolished the filibuster, as I warned them they would,’ Grassley said in his floor speech. ‘But they can’t expect to use the blue slip courtesy in its place. That’s not what the blue slip is meant for.’”

Kim also noted that in addition to Stras, Grassley is going ahead with hearings for 5th Circuit nominee Kyle Duncan even though Louisiana Republican Senator John Kennedy says he’s uncertain about how he’ll vote on the nomination (Kennedy did return the blue slip, however).

As usual Democrats are claiming the same courtesies were not extended to Obama’s nominees in the two years Republicans held the Senate majority at the end of the former president’s second term. They’ll bring up the scuttled Merrick Garland nomination until they’re “blue” in the face and assert Trump’s nominees are too ideologically driven to judge cases fairly (translation: the outcome is not preordained in their favor) – any excuse to deprive otherwise well-qualified people from receiving a fair hearing.

Needless to say the old comity between Senate colleagues concerning judicial nominees is long dead and buried thanks to the Democrats’ behavior in the eighties with some of President Ronald Reagan’s nominees. Court appointments have become political footballs to be kicked by liberals – but only to members of their own team. The nomination of Judge Robert Bork was stymied by the Democrats – and they almost succeeded in taking down Justice Clarence Thomas as well.

Now they’re trying to use the simple “blue slip” as a de facto veto of judges that would serve several states, not just the one where they’re from. Senator Grassley isn’t about to let them. Grassley wrote in The Hill last week, “Some of my Democratic colleagues are attempting to rewrite history, falsely claiming that the blue slip courtesy is meant to give a single home-state senator veto power over the president’s judicial nominations.

“But history begs to differ…

“The fact of the matter is that the Senate confirmed 329 of President Obama’s judicial nominees—more than President Bush had confirmed. President Obama’s judicial nominees received a fair shake by the Senate. President Trump’s nominees are entitled to the same.”

In his op-ed Grassley thoroughly presented the case for continuing on with hearings regardless of whether Democrats return the blue slips or not. Again, blue slips were never intended to cancel-out hearings, instead they were meant to ensure home-state senators were provided an opportunity to offer input on nominees who might otherwise not be well-known to senators from other regions.

With today’s communications technologies, social media platforms and thorough record-keeping it’s arguable there’s no longer any need for “blue slips” at all. All the information senators require on a nominee is literally right at their fingertips. Democrats are using a time-honored tradition in a manner its originators never conceived would be abused.

A basic “courtesy” has turned into a weapon. It’s sad.

And a weapon in the wrong hands is dangerous indeed. Should a morally challenged leper like Senator Al Franken hold such power over good people willing to serve their government?

Franken’s in plenty of hot water of his own. Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner reported, “Leeann Tweeden said Sen. Al Franken's ‘humiliation’ of her went on throughout their two-week tour to visit U.S. troops overseas and were not limited to the kissing and photo incident she first mentioned Thursday.

“’There were little jabs, there were little comments. I separated myself as much as I could from that tour, from him. I was never alone with him again. But you know, we'd be doing autograph sessions and I'd have to sit next to him because we were the co-emcees and I would literally sit with my back sort of towards him and I'd see a picture of mine being pulled away out of the corner of my eye and he would draw devil horns on me and the devil tail and push it back into my pile,’ Tweeden told ABC's ‘Good Morning America’ Friday morning, one day after she went public about the sitting Minnesota Democratic senator.”

It’s apparent from Tweeden’s descriptions Franken’s behavior didn’t rise to the level of a rapist but just the same it sounds like he’s an unfit sleazebag who shouldn’t be in the senate. This is the man who grilled Neil Gorsuch mercilessly during the nominee’s Judiciary Committee hearings. What gives someone like Franken license to sit in judgment of a jurist with impeccable integrity such as Gorsuch?

The two political sides will continue to accuse each other of disqualifying transgressions that could conceivably bring government legislative business to a standstill. Both sides can’t be right; thankfully conservatives have men like Neil Gorsuch to act as shining examples of integrity.

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