The Kavanaugh Dog and Pony Show Commenceth

The Kavanaugh Dog and Pony Show Commenceth

Tuesday morning marked the beginning of Senate Confirmation Hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court of the United States.

It was a circus from the start, as detailed by the Wall Street Journal:

Democrats brought the planned proceedings to a halt from the opening minute, repeatedly accusing Republicans on the panel of withholding key information about a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

“Understand where we’re coming from—it’s not to create a disruption. It’s not to make this a very bad process,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the panel. Democrats, she said, were asking only for “time to do our work.”

At issue were thousands of documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the White House that Democrats said have been improperly withheld by the Trump Administration. Democrats on the panel also said they received tens of thousands of pages the evening before the start of the hearing.

“What is the rush?” said Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat. “What are we trying to hide by not having those documents up front?”

Judge Brett Kavanaugh speaks during the first day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday. Photo: brendan smialowski/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Mr. Grassley vowed that the panel would press on with the hearing. “Maybe it’s not going exactly the way the minority would like it to go,” Mr. Grassley said.

He defended the approach that he has taken as chairman, saying hundreds of thousands of pages have been made available, which he said compares favorably with previous confirmation hearings.

Still, Mr. Grassley indulged the freewheeling, hour-plus-long debate over access to documents, saying that the committee could stay over the weekend or longer to finish the hearing if necessary.

In the first hour of the session, police removed 22 protesters from the room, sometimes forcibly. They will be charged with disorderly conduct, according to a Capitol Police spokeswoman.

Depending on whose math you are using, the Democrat side objected or interrupted the proceedings something like 60 times in the opening hour, including a persistent attempt by Sen. Blumenthal to get an adjournment vote. That, too, was interrupted by protestors.

 

 

But however you view the proceedings, the truth is the outcome is not in doubt.

Two events ensured how this will play out, long before Kavanaugh was the nominee. The first was the much debated and now infamous “nuclear option” of changing the voting threshold on judges. Aaron Blake recaps in The Washington Post:

Here’s a quick refresher.

In 2013, while facing a controversial blockade of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees by filibustering GOP senators, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) decided to go “nuclear.” He effectively eliminated the 60-vote threshold for non-Supreme Court nominees, thereby allowing Democrats to confirm Obama’s nominees with a simple majority.

Then the GOP won the Senate in 2014. With their majority, Republicans forged another, unprecedented election-year blockade of Obama’s pick of Merrick Garland to succeed the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Then, in 2016, Trump won the presidency.

Trump nominated Gorsuch, a young, controversy-free conservative judge who seemed to be out of Central Casting. He
was the kind of nominee who has generally sailed to confirmation — and, in fact, was unanimously confirmed by voice vote to an appeals court position in 2006.

Gorsuch also would not technically have shifted the court to the right, given that Scalia had anchored the court’s conservative flank for decades. But Democrats were upset. They were perhaps quite understandably sore about the GOP’s bogus justifications for blocking Garland and about Trump’s shockingly winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Strategy gave way to the emotion of the moment, and they gave their base the filibuster it demanded.

Then-Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), right, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) talk to reporters in 2016. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

They filibustered even though it seemed obvious that Republicans would just invoke the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominees, as Reid had for other nominees. They filibustered knowing it was almost certainly an exercise in futility. And they filibustered knowing it would probably take the filibuster off the table for a situation just such as this: when the balance of the court actually is at stake.

That lead to the now famous speech by Mitch McConnell, then Minority Leader, to the Democrats: “You will regret this, and you will come to regret it a lot sooner than you think.”

Which came about when the Republicans took control of congress, then retained it along with President Trump winning the White House. This second event made any nomination by President Trump a foregone conclusion. Democrats, already upset over the holding of the Merrick Garland nomination, suddenly found themselves on the wrong end of the math.

And here we now are. With a looming midterm election in which Democrats are expected to do well, their base is demanding more action than the senators on the Judiciary Committee can deliver. Add in at least two 2020 POTUS aspirants on the dais in Senators Harris and Booker, respectively, and the volume is assured to be even louder. But volume does not trump math. The Democrats do not have the votes, and barring something very unforeseen there will be a vote on Judge Kavanaugh some time in the next 30 days or so.

There are some interesting sub-plots, especially among red-state Democrats that are up for election in November like Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitcamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W.V.), all of whom voted to confirm Justice Gorsuch. But such drama is just that, subplot. This movie will end like the Gorsuch show did, the outcome having been scripted with the 2016 election results. Everything between now and then is just show.


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Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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49 thoughts on “The Kavanaugh Dog and Pony Show Commenceth

  1. I watched the first 3 hours of this today. From a pure theater perspective it was amazing. Loved every minute of it. I was particularly interested in how Harris and Booker would do, considering their 2020 plans. Harris impressed me less than Booker. He is very polished and has this down-to-earth way of speaking that makes him very likable, at least to my ears.

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  2. Last week I saw an advertisement urging people to call their Senators and urge confirmation of Kavanaugh. Someone told me that similar ads aired for Gorsuch but this is new to me. I acknowledge that the Supreme Court Justice confirmation process has always involved politics and many of the heated decisions are political ones. Still, an advertisement for a non-elected role disturbed me.

    I’ve already seen articles in the liberal press whine that Democrats blew it. Barring a miracle, McConnell and crew was going to stop at nothing to get Kavanaugh on the seat as quickly as possible especially because polling has Democrats up by 14 points.

    The more positive to the Democratic Party article says that the Democrats are trying to highlight bad-faith procedure and normbreaking by the GOP. This might work:

    https://www.vox.com/2018/9/4/17819022/brett-kavanaugh-hearing-supreme-court-process

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  3. I am skeptical of the notion that we’d be in a different place today than we are if Reid and Schumer had held off in 2014.

    Maybe we are. I don’t have the ability to read the minds or intentions of any of the players, least of all Mitch McConnell. And yet McConnell seems more than willing to overturn norms when it works in his favor.

    I think the thing that irks me the most is all the stuff I’ve seen conservatives posting about what a nice man Kavanaugh was, how smart he is, and what a nice family he has, and aren’t you ashamed of opposing him?

    If being a nice person who is smart and has a nice family were all it took to get on the SCOTUS, Merrick Garland would be a Justice. Cut the crap.

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    • I think it has overstepped here and there, but the fundamental problem is that Congress has decided its job is basically optional, so we’re left with the Executive and SCOTUS stepping in to fill the power vacuum.

      It’s sort of a natural corollary of checks and balances, but that doesn’t make it a great deal less dysfunctional.

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  4. Okay. We have someone sitting behind Kavanaugh accused of giving the White Power/OK sign surruptiously, we have had 30 protesters being arrested (including actress Piper Perabo), and there was a handshake rebuff incident involving one of the parents of the victims at Parkland.

    Remember what you were outraged about in July?

    Remember what you were outraged about in April?

    Remember what you were outraged about in January?

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    • Zina Bash’s father’s parents were Polish Jews who barely escaped the Holocaust. Her mother is Maria Esperanza, who his dad met in Mexico.’

      “So having her flash the secret white power symbol behind Kavanaugh shows how the Nazis are winning!”

      What a circus.

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    • Eh, I’m not sure how much this is about outrage per se.

      Seems more like generic political protest, like when Code Pink used to get thrown out of hearings. It’s just that for lots of folks these days, the default mode of political protest looks a lot like outrage.

      I can’t say that I think Kavanaugh is worth protesting, but he is Trump’s nominee, so that’s going to come with some political baggage that Kavanaugh has to carry. Small price to pay for the job.

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    • Here’s Zina Bash’s husband’s Twitter comment about the claims she flashed a white supremacist hand sign.

      The accusers are pretty much insane, even arguing that Jews turned in a lot of Jews to the Holocaust, so of course a Jew would be a white supremacist.

      Normal folks are even posting pictures of Oprah, Obama, Hillary, and Beyonce flashing the Okay sign, but it doesn’t phase the outrage mob one bit.

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      • It really is pretty nutty stuff.

        Would that the roughly two year history of 45’s campaign and political staffing choices were such that it was so obviously nutty it could be dismissed out of hand, without even knowing that the particular person in the photo is Jewish and Latina and the grandchild of Holocaust survivors. Like, where the very notion of someone who got past the vetting to sit behind the President subtly throwing a white power gang sign would be just obviously beyond consideration – no specific defence of the individual accused person needed.

        Alas, we do not live in that world.

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        • 1. People are jumping at shadows, here, and have clearly been snookered by yet another bit of *chan bullshit.

          2. The argument that she couldn’t possibly have white supremacist sympathies due to Jewish or Mexican ancestry is badly flawed [1], however. Look at Milo, who also has Jewish ancestry and yet is Nazi as fuck.

          [1] And if that were the only basis for the defense it would be untenable. However, “This is a well-known bit of *chan bullshit,” is more than enough of a defense.

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        • Alas, we do not live in that world.

          While the media needs to do some basic fact and sanity checking (Half of them do not seem to be aware that the ‘white power symbol’ being talked about is the okay sign.(1)) and should get in a hell of a lot of trouble for repeating utter nonsense like this…

          …I will point out that the Trump Campaign was so stupid to keep sitting the ‘Blacks for Trump’ guy behind Trump without bothering to vet him or the URL on his sign. Spoiler aler: He’s a former cult member charged in one murder, implicated in attempted murder of someone else, and actual assault of yet a third person. And his web site is full of deranged conspiracy theories.

          So, yes, while we do need to actually, uh, not repeat nonsense that is clearly invented trolling…it also would be nice to live in a world where this sort of accusation was obviously bogus to start with, because we could trust the administration not to seat such people in clear view.

          1) Incidentally, I haven’t seen anyone point out that making a circle low like that is not really the ‘okay sign’, but a very childish game called the ‘Circle Game’ to try to get people to look at it so you can punch them. I mean, it’s super-silly to do as an adult on live TV, and maybe we should have a discussion about that. But it’s possible it was intended as a flat okay sign.

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          • Actually, pressing the thumb and forefinger together is a very common relaxation technique to deal with stress and negative emotions. I think it’s from yoga.

            And we live in a world where the father of the Orlando shooter, who killed fifty people in a gay night club, sits in the VIP box behind Hillary.

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            • It’s pretty obvious to me as a woman who’s occasionally had longer nails, that she’s futzing with the tip of her thumbnail absentmindedly. She also looks chilly in a bare-armed top and has her arms crossed in front of her for warmth so the idle futzing looks weirder than it really should. In the interest of science I recreated the pose and it felt familiar to me, not at all as awkward or strange as it looked in the video. Definitely conjured memories of being really bored and really cold.

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                • I really don’t get this comment. I get that you’re being humorous. I get the joke. It’s funny. But I feel like you’re issuing me some sort of subtle rebuke over the phrase “as a woman who has had longer nails”.

                  Do I have to issue a disclaimer? Not all women have longer nails. Not all people with longer nails are women. Ok?

                  That having been said, I suspect I have more experience than the average OT participant at having longer nails. This is likely because I have embraced a certain subset of gender-based behaviors most people (probably wrongfully) have mentally filed under “woman”.

                  In this case my gender identification does actually seem to matter since I can imagine those who have not experienced irritatingly longer nails and inappropriate public chilliness might look at that video and think “what on earth is she doing? who assumes that position?” I am simply testifying to my personal experience as a longer-fingernailed individual, having performed that exact same thumbnail flicking maneuver on numerous occasions. Some of these incidents took place in frigid rooms while I desperately cuddled my bare arms for warmth and regretted the lack of a sweater I left on the bed that morning. Thus I can confirm that this could actually be a position a person did take on accidentally, without any larger intent.

                  Letter rearranging doesn’t seem to be quite so tied to certain gender roles as having long fingernails and public bare-armed-ed-ness. So whether you’re rebuking me or mocking me for making the point in a less artful way than you might, either way it really doesn’t add up because my experience “as a woman” actually does shed some light on Zina Bash’s physical positioning .

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                  • You’re absolutely right. I used your phrasing (which was relevant) as a launching board for my comment (which was a joke) and didn’t take your serious comment into consideration beyond using it as a launching pad.

                    I shouldn’t have done that.

                    You know, I was thinking, as I was driving around, that there might be some actual and for real gender stuff going on with the question because guys might cross their arms one way and have it be comfortable and women might have to cross their arms another way due to… erm… logistical issues that guys generally don’t have to think about at all.

                    So when they cross their arms, they think “this doesn’t work for me” rather than “I don’t have boobs.”

                    (Yes, there are a number of guys out there with moobs. It’s different, as much as I’m sure they want to point out that, for them, it’s exactly the same.)

                    Anyway, I don’t apologize for making the joke (I mean, *I* thought it was funny) but I do apologize for using your comment as nothing more than a launching pad for my joke when I ought to have engaged with it seriously because, hey, it was a serious comment. I should have dealt with the real stuff it addressed and *THEN* I should have made my joke.

                    So I’m sorry. I’ll try to not do that.

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              • Yeah, it’s a perfectly normal pose. It’s just the ‘front and back, grab each elbow with hands’ version of crossed arms, instead of the ‘top and bottom, one had tucked up and one hand tucked down’ version. Front and back is slightly more work to keep in the air, but not, like, a huge amount more work. And top and bottom takes up more vertical space, and thus does seem more likely to run into breasts (Whereas front and back can be entirely below the elbows), so there might indeed be some gendered assumptions in which is used normally, as said.

                The only slight oddity is she also put her index finger on her arm also, instead of just her thumb. Which, as you point out, could easily just be ‘fiddling with fingernails’ or…anything, really. Maybe the inside of her elbow itched or was cold.

                I just googled ‘women crossing arms’ on google image (Man, what a weird thing to google), and it returned pictures women their crossing arms both ways. And then I googled ‘men crossing arms’, and, believe it or not, it entirely returned ‘top and bottom’ crossing. I don’t see a single man crossing his arms like that.

                You can easily tell the difference by whether or not you can see both sets of fingers. (1)

                So maybe there actually _is_ a difference in how genders cross their arms. (Or, technically, how people with breasts vs without cross their arms.)

                1) A lot of men, strangely, have _no_ fingers visible, and if you cross their hands like they have, you’ll realize their bottom arm literally has no support at all. What’s keeping that arm up, dude? You just holding it in the air? The entire point of crossing your arms is that they support each other, if you’re just holding one in midair and resting the other arm on it, you’ve sorta missed the point.

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                • I’d never thought much about what was keeping my arms in place when I stand with them crossed. Let’s see…

                  Man, am I weird. If I google “men crossed arms” and look at the images, no one is doing it the way I find comfortable. If I google “women crossed arms”, of the top images only Jennifer Aniston crosses her arms the way I find comfortable. From straight on, no fingers would be readily visible.

                  What’s keeping my right arm up in that pose is that it’s pinned against my body by my left arm. Left arm is literally doing all of the work.

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                  • What’s keeping my right arm up in that pose is that it’s pinned against my body by my left arm. Left arm is literally doing all of the work.

                    Well, I mean, if people actually do that, I guess they do that. It just seems like a weird pose to me to hold, needing constant attention to keep the uncrossed arm from falling out.

                    The thing that seems really odd to me about that position is, while the inside arm is completely unsupported, the outside one is fully tucked in. One arm needs full support, cannot hang on with just a thumb…and the other arm needs no support at all?

                    If I cross my arms very quickly, like I’m going to have them crossed for a second, I find my inner arm is indeed not supported…and also my outside arm has barely hooked its thumb on that side. If I adjust to more supported, the inside arm is the first to change….changing it to front/back…and then maybe the outside does also, changing it to top/bottom.

                    Having one arm fully supported entirely on the weight of the other arm and that arm not supported at all just…results in the unsupported arm quickly falling out. At least for me.

                    Additionally: I am now wondering if apparent differences in gender of arm-crossing pictures is not particularly related to breasts per se, and is possibly related to how the pose that half the women, and none of the men, are doing, is a more open pose, whereas the pose that men are doing looks more closed off.

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            • Actually, pressing the thumb and forefinger together is a very common relaxation technique to deal with stress and negative emotions. I think it’s from yoga.

              I don’t think it’s a relaxation technique for one obvious reason: You don’t cross your arms to _relax_. In fact, that’s a really unrelaxing pose…try it. Her thumb and finger are basically supporting her arm. It’s hard to explain this stuff, but if you try crossing your arms you will see it. She’s basically in the ‘holding the outside arm up’ corssed-arm position, although most people just use their thumb, and don’t add in a finger. If she wanted to relax, she needed to go all the way and stuff that hand between her arm and her torso.

              And while I’m not a yoga expert, but it seems really unlikely that would be any sort of yoga technique. Yoga does touch the finger and thumb in plenty of positions…while laying them on the _legs_. (Aka, the classic meditation stance of cross-legged and armed down legs, and thumb and middle finger touching.) What she is doing is so weirdly awkward I find it completely implausible it’s _taught_ as anything. If her arm had been laying on her leg, and her fingers touching, yeah, but…not that.

              That shouldn’t be read as me saying she was making any sort of sign on purpose. When you are bored or tired, you often do weird things with your hands. Including temporarily taking weirdly awkward positions to just shake things up.

              I was just saying that, even if we were reading that as a deliberate sign, (A lot of people are making noise off the fact she just got a text, ignoring the fact that…getting a text means her hands moved, and then she have to put them somewhere.) it’s either her making an okay sign…or possibly playing a child’s game.

              And we live in a world where the father of the Orlando shooter, who killed fifty people in a gay night club, sits in the VIP box behind Hillary.

              I perhaps didn’t make it clear, but the ‘Blacks for Trump’ guy was _deliberately_ seated behind Trump, repeatedly, at multiple events, apparently because they liked his message and his sign about ‘Blacks for Trump’, and didn’t bother to do any work checking on who he was, or follow the URL on the sign he was holding.

              As opposed to the _father_ of a mass shooter, which, setting aside whether or not we should punish someone for what their children do, just sat behind Clinton without anyone’s knowledge.

              There’s a difference between failing to recognize someone who really has no reason to be recognized (Someone who, again, appears to have done nothing wrong and fully cooperated with the authorities.) and just sat in front of the cameras, and taking someone, and their sign, and putting them front and center multiple times. _Competent_ campaigns, at minimum, look up URLs on signs they’re delibarately placing in the camera frame.

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                • What would she have to do to convince you she was trying to stay calm, a downward dog?

                  She wouldn’t have to do anything. If she said she was trying to relax, I would believe her.

                  You, however, aren’t her, and are just guessing. However, I will repeat: Crossing arms is not generally considered a way to relax, and laying your hand on your arm like that is not any sort of yoga position I’ve been able to find. Your guess is very odd.

                  Crossed arms generally happen when stressed or bored or as a defensive position. Or when cold. People don’t do that to relax. People basically do that for the opposite reason. People who want to relax while sitting down generally lay their arms on their legs. Perhaps put their hand together in their lap. And slouch in some manner.

                  She could, of course, find crossed-arms personally relaxing, I have no idea. But let’s not pretend sitting with crossed arms and touching thumb and index finger together is some sort of actual known relaxing position. It’s really not.

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                  • Reading this comment, I recall I have a nervous finger-related tic where I habitually push my cuticles down when I’m nervous. Again and again and again without even realizing I’m doing it. I also tend to get super cold when I’m nervous (even if the room isn’t ice cold). So I’m going with a fairly stressful event, a cool room, and a nervous habit, coupled with a gendered type of arm crossing that some online may not recognize, being exploited by online jerks.

                    This reminds me of that famous mystery Nancy Drew and the Case of the Haunted Fifteen Minutes of Fame.

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    • White Power/OK sign surruptiously

      Said white power sign, of course, being the okay sign. That’s it. The okay sign. Well known as a white power sign because…a bunch of trolls at 4chan decided to see if they could trick people into thinking it was. Hey, good work, racist trolls.

      The next media outlet that takes this sort of bullshit seriously needs to be blacklisted. 4chan and other white supremacy trolls have _repeatedly_ trolled the media and others by inventing white supremacy meanings for normal behaviors. And then using them as such.

      For another example: Right now, Dragon Con just wrapped up, and some people on Facebook in the Dragon Con group were complaining about how ‘KekCon’ had a table there, as they were white supremacists. They were asserting that ‘Kek’ is a white supremacist term.

      No, it’s not. ‘KEK’ is a reference to how ‘LOL’ appears in chat World of Warcraft if you’re one faction and don’t speak the other faction’s language. I haven’t ever played WoW, so don’t know the specifics, but apparently within the WoW community it’s a very common joke, spilling out of the games auto ‘translation’ into forums and stuff. 4chan trolls decided to pretend it was a white supremacy term, on purpose, to see if they could get WoW players yelling at WoW players.

      People need to stop believing this bullshit and especially stop repeating it. The media especially. White supremacy does not get to steal our damn language piece by piece.

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