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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Kavanaugh nomination to trigger 2018 version of DC political apocalypse

Let the games begin.

The scene was surreal on Monday night as President Donald Trump slowly approached the microphone in the White House East Room to reveal his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. The Trump nominates Kavanaughsuspense of the moment was somewhat ruined by the rampant speculation – and outright beans-spilling – of the commentariat class on network and cable news shows. They excitedly mumbled their “sources tell us” predictions as though Trump might still pull a fast one on them.

By the time Trump actually uttered the words the fact he would choose D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh was the worst kept secret in Washington, which is saying something considering how poorly anyone can keep something hidden in the DC swamp. Who knows, maybe their copy room spies had seen Kavanaugh enter through the back door of the White House. It doesn’t matter.

For now the real competition starts. Up until the time of revealing his choice Trump held all the cards. Now it’s up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to shepherd Kavanaugh through the politically treacherous confirmation process. It won’t be easy and success is far from guaranteed.

Did Trump make the best choice? Hard to say…but it’s clear he made a sound one. The Editors of National Review wrote, “Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s new nominee for the Supreme Court, is a whip-smart legal conservative. As a judge in the highest-profile appeals court in the nation, he has shown an exemplary dedication to the rule of law…

“It would be utterly implausible, indeed laughable, for Senate Democrats to try to portray Kavanaugh as unqualified. They will instead try to present him as a right-wing monster. They will try to make him pledge to keep the Supreme Court rather than legislatures in charge of abortion policy, even though the Constitution requires no such thing; then they will condemn him for refusing to take the pledge. They will portray his concern for the structural limits on government power as a blanket hostility to government, which it is not. And they will cherry-pick decisions in which he ruled against a sympathetic cause or litigant, as is sometimes a judge’s duty.

“They will call him every name in the book. But before too long, they will, as they should, be calling him ‘Justice.’”

I wish I could be as confident as the National Review editors in their prophecies of a certain Kavanaugh confirmation. As they allude to above, it has nothing to do with the judge’s record itself. While it’s no mystery most principled conservatives leaned heavily towards Judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Kennedy, the pre-announcement tension dissipated immediately after Trump revealed that Kavanaugh was the chosen one.

Kavanaugh’s record is deep and thorough, no doubt providing hundreds if not thousands of man hours to pore over his opinions, legal writings, public documents and anything else his enemies might lay their fingers on. Right this very moment picture some pointy-headed geek with a smartphone interviewing every female or minority Brett’s happened to work with for potential harassment or discrimination allegations; imagine them sending snoops and spies into Kavanaugh’s neighborhood to pick through his garbage and break down the brains of people who could know him and have noticed some sort of off-the-wall tastes of the would-be justice.

And you never know – maybe the left’s ordered some of their deep state pals to delve into Kavanaugh’s email correspondence and credit history to discover possible abnormalities.

These reputation-scorchers don’t make the big bucks for nothing. If they’re creative enough maybe they’ll even go as far back as the 53-year-old judge’s elementary school days (just like they did with Trump advisor Stephen Miller) to discover whether he used to play empathetically with all boys, girls and teachers.

It's all stupid, of course, but it’s a part of life in today’s insane political environment where nosy folks believe one’s personal past provides a direct glimpse into his or her soul. The vast majority of people – myself included – knew next to nothing about Kavanaugh prior to Monday night’s unveiling event. Rest assured we’re all about to learn a lot more about him in the next few months. The left (Democrats) will spare nothing to paint him as the next Neil Gorsuch – and to them that’s pretty darn awful.

But the ones whose opinions matter most are the 99 or so members of the senate (Sen. John McCain’s health is still very much in doubt) who will officially decide whether Brett Kavanaugh’s name goes down in history as a distinguished and likely long-serving Supreme Court Justice or if his name is added to an infamous roster of political victims who were denied their chance by politicians who probably can’t spell “precedent” much less cite one.

Needless to say almost all Democrats can be counted on as “no” votes – though there’s much attention being devoted to the so-called “red state” incumbents who will be feeling enormous political pressure to provide Kavanaugh a fair shake. But what about the “moderates” in the GOP who could just as easily make McConnell’s life difficult?

Apparently, they’re already showing signs of approving of Kavanaugh. Melissa Quinn of the Washington Examiner reported, “Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Tuesday was winning praise from conservative organizations and Senate Republicans, including some of the centrist GOP senators, which has some court watchers saying he's off to a solid start in his bid to be confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice.

“’Judge Kavanaugh is off to a strong start with reactions like these from Republican Senate moderates, and that’s a very good sign of things to come,’ Ron Bonjean, a GOP operative who managed White House communications during Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, told the Washington Examiner. ‘However, it’s a long process, and I’m sure they’re going to have a lot of questions for the judge in their private meetings, as well as during the Judiciary Committee hearing. But that initial reaction is a positive thing.’

“After President Trump nominated Kavanaugh Monday night, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she wanted to assess the nominee, but agreed he has ‘impressive credentials and extensive experience.’”

Quinn’s story reveals Collins was decidedly more positive about Kavanaugh on Tuesday but still reserved judgement until she has time to thoroughly dissect the judge’s record (the same for Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, another RINO who must give Mitch McConnell stomach churns at night). Both Collins and Murkowski initially indicated Kavanaugh was “well qualified” for the lofty position yet couldn’t advance a yes or no position at this time.

Blah, blah, blah. What these two (and maybe others) are really doing is delaying any kind of public pronouncement until interest groups have had sufficient opportunity to bombard their offices with phone calls, mail and perhaps even send some paid unhinged folks to make a spectacle of themselves over inane subjects in front of the senators. Think about it -- if Kavanaugh ever spoke harshly about a tree in his front yard environmentalists would claim he wasn’t fit to serve. It definitely could happen.

Wouldn’t it be easier if these fence-sitters just admitted Kavanaugh’s stellar qualifications made him a near sure-bet to be confirmed? Isn’t that what they’re there for in the first place, to provide “advice and consent” on nominees and treaties sent to them by the president?

It goes without saying all the recent liberal rubber-stamps have easily been confirmed because the moderate/liberal bloc of GOP senators would never withhold their vote from a “well qualified” nominee over political differences. If that’s the case then why is Kavanaugh (or any Trump appointee) receiving a different level of scrutiny? Why doesn’t anyone in the mainstream establishment media call them on their duplicitous treatment of party nominations?

Common sense says Murkowski, Collins and potentially other RINOs are holding out just to draw more attention (and lobbying efforts) to themselves. The highest bidder wins, right? What a collection of principled people we have in high places – no wonder Americans hate the political process and Congress’s approval ratings are so low.

And, isn’t it funny how “offended” politicians (or media commentators) claim to be whenever the subject of a president’s asking a potential nominee about their political views is broached? Or, how about quizzing a candidate for their thoughts on a controversial issue? It’s taboo for a president (at least a Republican one) but no such limitations are placed on senators in their “private meetings” with a would-be justice.

“Gee, Brett, we’ve been talking here for an hour and you haven’t once mentioned Roe v. Wade. If an abortion case makes its way before the Court, how do you think you’d approach it as its newest member?”

The hypocrisy is glaring, but these are politicians (and media figures) we’re talking about. Everyone knows politics has crept its ugly way into every cranium in the land – most definitely including those on Capitol Hill – why should we expect the president to be immune?

These days it’s all about the upcoming midterm elections. Both parties are using the Kavanaugh nomination to maneuver with just under four months to go until November’s vote. Caitlin Huey-Burns of Real Clear Politics wrote, “If all goes according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice and in place for the start of the October session. Such a timeline will likely put the critical vote front and center just weeks from Election Day and up the ante for several red-state Democrats fighting to retain their U.S. Senate seats.

“Already, Republican candidates running against the chamber’s most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election this year have made the nomination part of their pitch to mobilize voters…

“... In 2018, party strategists say the president's second court appointment and recent favorable decisions by the court could work to the GOP's favor in November by enthusing base voters. But since the Kennedy seat could be filled by Election Day, it's unclear whether Republican voters will turn out to simply say ‘thank you’ to the president and his party.”

Therein lies the rub – and the danger for Republican candidates in pushing to get Kavanaugh confirmed before October. A long drawn-out political pitched battle will certainly turn heads and cause people to pay attention when the sparks are flying on TV. But assuming Kavanaugh receives a “yes” on his confirmation, will marginal voters even still remember the issue come Election Day?

Republicans certainly trust Court and administration nominations will remain fresh in voters’ minds but there’s no guarantee. Meanwhile Democrats hope they can somehow stall Kavanaugh’s ascension long enough for a miracle to bring them a senate majority come next January. Everything will change next year, especially if the GOP gains a few seats – and henceforth takes away most of the “it’s all about me” power from the RINO contingent.

In all likelihood the vote should come before October. Dan McLaughlin wrote at National Review, “2016 was a presidential election year, which decides who makes the nomination in the first place; 2018 is a midterm, with just a third of the Senate up for reelection.

“Unlike in 2016, the Senate is controlled by the same party as the president. History shows that when these two factors come together — a presidential election year, and divided government between the White House and Senate — presidents don’t get to fill open Supreme Court seats. Otherwise, they do, routinely. There is no reason why that would or should change now.”

As usual McLaughlin provides all the historical data necessary to back up his thesis. With Democrats trying to play on the public’s ignorance as to the wisdom of waiting until next year to confirm a new nominee – there’s just no precedent for it.

And Democrats love precedents, don’t they? Only where abortion and Obamacare are concerned.

There’s no doubt the next few months will be an exciting time to be in Washington. All eyes will be on the senate as the two parties deliberate over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s future. Democrats won’t hold back on the ferocity of their attacks on the man – will the republic survive?

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