Ginsburg to Kavanaugh, How Far We’ve Strayed

Dear Group,

Last week we watched as Republican Senators twisted themselves in knots. Their fervent desire is to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States, and to do so as fast and with as little scrutiny as possible. The nation watched as Dr. Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Brett Kavanaugh, then a teenager, sexually assaulted her. Kavanaugh, for his part, mirroring the antics of the man who nominated him, came out swinging and emotional…and carefully dodged questions as to why he would object to an FBI investigation. In his confirmation hearing he posed himself as a man of gleaming virtue. Is he now concerned a former classmate might put the lie to his self-characterization by recounting drunken, hormone-fueled exploits of Kavanaugh’s teenage years?

All of that brings me to Judge Ginsburg. No, not Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is not related to the man whose Supreme Court nomination I wish for you to remember. The man to remember is Douglas Howard Ginsburg, currently still a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

On October 23, 1987, Ronald Reagan’s nominee, Robert Bork was voted down by the full Senate 58-42. Democrats held a slim majority at that time, but in the final vote 6 Republican Senators crossed over and voted against confirmation and 2 Democrats voted for it. On October 29, 1987, six days after Bork was voted down, Reagan tried again, nominating Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg for the vacant Supreme Court seat. 

On November 7, just nine days after his nomination, Douglas Ginsburg withdrew from consideration. It was revealed by Nina Totenberg of NPR that Judge Ginsburg had used marijuana. He withdrew in response, rather than try to weather the storm. Consider that for a moment. Had he killed someone, had he assaulted a teenage girl, had he robbed a store in a youth? No, the assertion he had used marijuana while he was professor was sufficient for him to withdraw. At the time marijuana was illegal…and ubiquitous. His use had hurt no one, but it was clear to him that the fact of use itself was disqualifying for the Supreme Court. He remains a Circuit Court judge in good standing to this day. Hardly anyone remembers his nomination.

Contrast that to Kavanaugh’s Trumpian combativeness at his hearing last Thursday, coupled with his complete unwillingness to say he would agree to an investigation of assault of which he is accused. Add other women who have come forward to contradict Kavanaugh’s personal recollection of an unblemished past. Consider Ginsburg’s fate. He is sits in judgement on the D.C. Circuit. The Senate confirmation process is a job interview, not a judicial proceeding. Kavanaugh in his partisan combativeness last Thursday has already demonstrated he is not Supreme Court material.

How far we’ve strayed…

When you vote in a few weeks remember that our own McMorris Rodgers is an integral part of the Republican/Libertarian bloc that wants to see Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. It would be a crowning achievement of Republican/Libertarian insurgency. She would like us to think she is detached from this unseemly brawl. “In my understanding…” are not credible words from a woman who is nominally “the fourth most powerful Republican in Congress.”

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Let’s add a little more context. Lewis Powell (a story for another day) announced his retirement from the Supreme Court June 26, 1987. Reagan’s third nominee, none other than Anthony Kennedy, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 3, 1988, by a vote of 97 to 0. Take note: That was 7 months after Powell stepped down. In contrast, we are now only 3 months after that same Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his intent to retire. These same Republicans who are now so anxious to replace Justice Kennedy with Kavanaugh saw fit to simply ignore the nomination of Merrick Garland for nearly 10 months, the longest nomination “process” (failed or successful) in U.S. Supreme Court history. If the Republicans were interested in the preservation of democracy and the perceived legitimacy of the Supreme Court they would take their time and nominate a candidate as broadly acceptable as Anthony Kennedy. Instead, this is a naked, high-stakes power grab.

Keep to the high ground,