Currently isolating a single story as the biggest story of any week in American politics is difficult. Last week was no exception. All that said my choice is the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. My predictions haven’t changed; I still expect him to come out of committee on a Party line vote and his conformation in the Senate, while not a sure thing, is still likely; (more on that another day.) That is not to say that the hearings lacked impact. Let’s explore.
I learned a few things about Kavanaugh, a lot about the Republicans and the Cory Booker – Kamala Harris “battle” took some interesting turns. There is a lot more there than initially meets the eye and most of it will not be resolved for years.
Other than the fact that Kavanaugh was by far the most “legally challenged President friendly” nominee available to Trump we learned that he is a lair and extreme right team player. The Republicans tried to bury his history but the Democrats succeeded in bringing out enough of it to prove that Kavanaugh had lied in his previous 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings.
As Democratic ranking member Diane Feinstein pointed out on the first day we also learned that Kavanaugh is talented at running out the clock. When convenient what should have been a simple yes or no, or at best one sentence answer ended up being doctoral dissertation.
Day two of the questioning opened up with a battle over the release of documents that were classified “Committee Confidential”. Booker made the bold statement that he was releasing some. Republican John Cornyn reacted by reading the Senate rule that prohibited that action and outlining that the punishment was expulsion from the Senate. Booker’s response was, “Bring it.” Booker outsmarting Cornyn was about as surprising as a major league baseball team beating a college team in a spring training baseball game; it’s not much of a contest. Cornyn couldn’t file the charges because that would bring out the documents the Republicans desperately wanted to suppress and removal of a Senator requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate which they could never get. Soon several other Democrats on the Committee joined Booker. Cornyn and his Republican colleagues on the Committee were defeated. A bunch of documents started to “leak” and you can expect more in the coming days.
The Republicans scrambled to save face and avoid a certain loss showdown. What did they do? What else, they lied. Suddenly they said the documents had been cleared for release at 4am that morning. I find it telling that Cornyn employed his intimidation move. My advice to the senior Senator from Texas is to recognize your cerebral limitations and don’t get into a mental contest with someone clearly superior.
The larger lesson here is that, like President Trump and Kavanaugh, the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are willing to lie if that is what it takes to achieve an objective. This didn’t start with Trump; he is just an obvious example.
In Harris’ questioning she appeared to get Kavanaugh to lie about a conversation he had with a member(s) of a Trump aligned law firm with regard to the Mueller investigation. Did that conversation make its way back to Trump and help Kavanaugh’s case in securing the nomination? That sounds plausible to me.
The intriguing part of Harris’ gambit was that she never identified the exact conversation. Kamala Harris is a lot of things, one of which is very intelligent. I can’t see her pursuing this line of questioning unless she both knew the answer and could prove it. That begs the question: why didn’t she prove it in Committee. I think her strategy is to reveal it at a more opportune and impactful time.
One of the sub-plots of the hearings was who would get better press Booker or Harris? Both are leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Booker is winning at the moment. He enjoyed a slight advantage in that his scheduled questioning times were more conducive to getting good press coverage. He further supplemented that advantage by inserting himself into the early session wrangling between the Parties. I still feel there are others shoes to fall in this contest and will not declare victory for Booker just yet.
I will cover what should have been the main issue here – the confirmation of Kavanaugh – another day. However, if confirmed there is a very good chance enough evidence has emerged that he can be impeached at a future day. It certainly appears he lied to the Committee during two previous confirmation hearings and if Harris has that ace up her sleeve he did it again last week. I am still sticking to my prediction that Trump will resign under the threat of impeachment ala Nixon. It makes us look like a banana republic but I think many of Trump’s actions will have to be nullified in the future and Kavanaugh may well be among them.
Like most of the political stories of 2018, this is definitely a “to be continued” one!
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