By John Daniel Davidson
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
If you want to know why Americans have lost confidence in Congress, yesterday’s hearings in the House and Senate were an object lesson. Instead of simply doing the work the people elected them to do, Democrats spent their time in the spotlight grandstanding and virtue-signaling to their base (and, in the case of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, casting doubt on her qualifications to sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee).
At the Supreme Court nomination hearing for Judge Neal Gorsuch, Democrats began with a chorus of lamentation that it was not Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee, sitting before them. Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision not to hold hearings for Garland “an extraordinary blockade” and, for a bit of hyperbolic flourish, “one of the greatest stains on the 200-year history of this committee.”
(As Dan McLaughlin notes over at National Review Online, the Garland nomination, coming in a presidential election year, was extraordinary: “Only once in U.S. history (in 1888) has the Senate acted before Election Day to confirm a justice who was nominated in the last year of a presidential term by a president of the opposing party.”)
Feinstein, after noting she was “deeply disappointed that it’s under these circumstances that we begin our hearings,” then avowed, “Our job is to determine whether Judge Gorsuch is a reasonable mainstream conservative or is he not.”
And lo, Feinstein decided, he is not. For one thing, Feinstein worried that Gorsuch doesn’t accept Roe v. Wade as a “super precedent,” whatever that is. She submitted into the record 14 Supreme Court cases and 39 other court decisions upholding Roe, then declared: “If these judgments, when combined, do not constitute super precedent, I don’t know what does.” Neither do we, senator, because nothing constitutes a super precedent, because there’s no such thing.
But Feinstein wasn’t done. She then trotted out a parade of horribles under the “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution favored by Gorsuch (and also the late Justice Antonin Scalia). According to this horrid legal doctrine, said Feinstein, “Women wouldn’t be entitled to equal protection under the law,” we would “still have segregated schools and bans on interracial marriage,” and like the Founding Fathers probably did, we might even be burning women at the stake for witchcraft.
Whether she knew it or not, Feinstein was channeling what legal scholar Randy Barnett recently called “oblivious” and “ignorant” critiques of originalism. That is to say, she hasn’t the foggiest idea what originalism is.
For his part, Gorsuch graciously sat through this buffoonery with a puzzled look on his face, channeling the American people.
Ranking Democrat Grandstands At Russia Hearing
Senate Democrats weren’t the only ones with an occasion for showboating. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held its first public hearing on Russia’s efforts to influence the presidential election, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, came to party.
Just minutes before the hearing, Schiff unburdened himself on Twitter, addressing Trump directly:
Then at the hearing, Schiff gave an usually long opening statement during which he made multiple references to the unconfirmed (and suspiciously salacious) “dossier” compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele—the one that alleges, among other things, Trump paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed the Obamas once slept in. Schiff then compared the committee’s investigation to the 9/11 Commission. “The stakes,” he said, “are nothing less than the future of liberal democracy.”
Setting aside the overblown rhetoric, Schiff has a point. The stakes are indeed quite high in this Russia business. Some of us have been saying so for quite a while. Indeed, the headline that came out of the hearing was FBI Director James Comey’s confirmation that the bureau is indeed investigating possible ties between Moscow and Trump’s presidential campaign last year.
We actually do need to get to the bottom of this. Russia really is trying to meddle in our domestic politics. Moscow is a threat, not just to the United States but to all western democracies. The threat from Russia isn’t just going to go away, it’s going to get worse.
The problem is, we’re never going to get to the bottom of anything and we’re never going to be able to push back against Russia as long as the Democrats keep trying to use this to score political points and rally their base. On the one hand, their moral preening would be offensive if it weren’t so cartoonish and ham-fisted. On the other hand, it is offensive because they have real work to do, and we’re counting on them to do it.