Sunday, April 15, 2018

Un-Borkable Wendy

Last week, New Orleans's world famous very woke racism expert Mitch Landrieu lent his approval to President Trump's nomination of Wendy Vitter to a federal judgeship. 
Landrieu's support came in the form of a letter sent March 1 to Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee. The Democratic mayor wrote that he has "had the great pleasure to know and work with Wendy for many years" and added he "can personally attest to her strong moral character."
We have to wonder there if, by "strong moral character," Mitch was referring to Vitter's disturbingly extreme positions on abortion expressed at several public events. Here she is leading a panel where a pro-life activist claimed that abortion causes breast cancer and that birth control pills can cause you to be murdered. Here she is telling the Clarion Herald that Planned Parenthood "kills over 150,000 females a year."  Vitter came under criticism during her confirmation hearing for leaving this as well as speeches she gave at a Tea Party rally and at an anti-Planned Parenthood protest off of her disclosure form.

She also caused a stir for refusing to answer this question.
At her Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, Wendy Vitter was plainly asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Do you believe that Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided?” Her initial response raised an immediate red flag: “I don’t mean to be coy,” she began, before continuing: “I think I get into a difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions—which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with. Again, my personal, political, or religious views I would set aside. That is Supreme Court precedent. It is binding. If I were honored to be confirmed I would be bound by it and of course I would uphold it.” Asked again by a befuddled Blumenthal whether she supported the ruling, Vitter replied: “Again, I would respectfully not comment on what could be my bosses ruling—the Supreme Court—I would be bound by it, and if I start commenting on ‘I agree with this case’ or ‘don’t agree with this case’ I think we get into a slippery slope.”
What's going on here?  Could it be the former attorney for the Archdiocese of New Orleans has a certain affinity for the more or less de-facto segregated school system it operates?  Maybe.  But, according to the American Bar Association, that's really none of our business.
The American Bar Association's Model Code of Judicial Conduct advises that a candidate for judge "shall not, with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court, make pledges, promises or commitments that are inconsistent with the impartial performance of the adjudicative duties of the office" and "should emphasize in any public statement the candidate's duty to uphold the law regardless of his or her personal views."
Vitter is following a script adhered to by (most especially by conservative) judicial nominees ever since the stuffing of President Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork in 1987 over published opinions of his that leaned heavily toward the radical right. The key to getting confirmed now is to say nothing. In other words, the key to getting confirmed is to undermine the entire purpose of the confirmation process.

The notion that these judges are there "to uphold the law regardless of personal views" is an unexamined absurdity that devalues our commitment to democracy. The law is political. This is the sole source of its legitimacy.  Our laws are written and executed by elected representatives. They should be interpreted and arbitrated by individuals with accountability to the people as well. This is why Louisiana is among the states that elect most of their judges.  The federal appointment process is less pure. But the advise and consent role of the Senate is supposed to provide at least some assurance that the judiciary is subject to the will of the citizenry and not the other way around.  Nominees who refuse to talk about issues on which they are likely to rule are displaying contempt for the Senate's oversight role.

Sidestepping the question by pretending the courts exist in cloistered isolation from politics is plainly bullshit. Every judicial appointment is a political matter.  Mitch McConnell understands this. He's made it his highest priority to embed as many right wing judges as he can manage to stuff in there before he or Trump or both are removed from power.
But here you have an opportunity, particularly if you get highly intelligent, relatively young people into lifetime positions, you can have a long-term impact on the country. So that’s what we’re in the process of doing, and if you believe as most of us do, that we’d like to see America right of center, this is the most consequential year since I’ve been year, and I’ve been here a long time. Supreme Court, deregulation, 12 circuit court judges, comprehensive tax reform. So if you’re a right-of-center person, 2017 was an incredibly successful year, and in my view the linchpin of it, the thing that will last the longest, is the courts.
Wendy Vitter's nomination is part of McConnell's explicitly stated strategy to orient the federal judiciary along right wing ideological lines for a generation. Her disingenuous "Bork-proof" strategy of speaking no evil should be apparent enough to everyone.  It doesn't seem to bother Mitch Landrieu, though. No wonder he's become such a hot property among Democrats lately. They do enjoy getting whipped by McConnell. Might as well keep that going.

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