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,
There is a odd exchange in the debate at the Bing on September 19. You can watch it courtesy of KHQ, starting around 21:00 on the youtube post.
CMR: “The only dark money in this campaign right now is coming from…[turning to Lisa] some group in New York, I don’t know if you’re fa-familiar with who they are, uh…”
Lisa [helpfully]: “The Congressional Leadership Fund?”
CMR: No! Um. They are, it is, some group in New York…they…they’re an outside group…I’m not sure who they’re funded by…[CMR points her hand toward Lisa] maybe George Soros! [Laughter, then some clapping]
Watch it again. You can almost see the wheels turning in McMorris Rodgers’ head. “Here’s my chance to insert George Soros!”
Did you notice the trigger words, “George Soros,” when you first watched the debate? Did you wonder, “Why did she say that?”
If the name “George Soros” didn’t light up any image in your brain you live in a comfortable liberal news silo. Over the last twenty years in the fever swamps of Republican/Libertarian media Mr. Soros has been painted as the puppet master of liberals, the dark force that has deluded Democrats into thinking the way they do, the man fronting the money individually paying the busloads of protesters who came out for the Women’s March, for one small example. For people living in the right wing news silo the name “George Soros” lights up the image of a dark lord with a foreign accent manipulating gullible liberals. His name is shorthand for a vast liberal conspiracy bent on undermining American values.
This line of wing nut conspiracy theory is so well developed in the fever swamps of the right that Soros was invoked as hanging out with Dr. Blasey Ford in an eagerly shared photo on Twitter meant to assail Dr. Ford’s credibility. Never mind the woman in the photo looked nothing like Dr. Ford.
McMorris Rodgers coils in her news silo, coached by her handlers, and hurls her fireball, “…funded by…maybe George Soros!” she inserts, confident she has lit up the mind frame in her fully primed base. The name drifts by most people, who, if they hear it at all, wonder, “Who is this George Soros, anyway?” Could McMorris Rodgers explain in any detail the actual story of the man George Soros? You’d have to ask her. I suspect for her George Soros is nothing more than a coached soundbite.
George Soros is an 87 year old U.S. citizen, a Jewish immigrant from Hungary. He speaks with an accent. His Jewish immigrant background and accent, of course, make him an easy target for the xenophobic, anti-immigrant right. When Nazi Germany invaded Hungary in 1944, George was 13 years old. He survived the war masquerading as the Christian godson of an agricultural official, escaping the fate of nearly a half million of his Jewish countrymen killed in the Holocaust, The war left him with an indelible bias in favor of liberal democracy and a fierce critic of totalitarianism, fascism, and Marxism. Soros is wealthy, having succeeded as a hedge fund investor. He is the founder and major benefactor of the Open Society Foundations, groups with a presence in 37 countries that aim to support civil society. Of course, his internationalist, humanitarian globalist perspective has made Soros a target from the right.
Let’s define “liberal democracy,” since the Libertarian right’s propaganda wing is so good at twisting language. For George Soros (and for me) a liberal democracy is “characterized by fair, free, and competitive elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and political freedoms for all persons.” None of this is possible without a free press. Donald Trump’s attacks on reporters and the Republican Party’s scorched earth assault to take over the Supreme Court should be setting off alarm bells…
Side note: It is ironic the Soros Foundation provided the funding for Viktor Orban, the nationalist, anti-immigrant prime minister of present day Hungary, to study at Oxford. Orban, one of few European leaders who is an open ally of Trump, has made Soros unwelcome in the country of his birth. “Orban accused Soros, who is an American citizen, of plotting to overwhelm Hungary with Muslim immigrants in order to undermine its Christian heritage. He attacked Soros during campaign rallies, and his government plastered the country with anti-Soros billboards.”
I recommend two articles on Soros: “George Soros is a favorite target of the right — here’s how that happened” from the Business Insider and a more recent, and much longer and more comprehensive article in the New York Times entitled, “George Soros Bet Big on Liberal Democracy. Now He Fears He Is Losing.” The wikipedia entry on Mr. Soros is also useful (especially if you hit a pay wall at the other two).
At 87, George Soros’ story is complex, but he is nothing if not a stalwart promoter of the sort of democracy we are fast losing. Does McMorris Rodgers have the bandwidth to understand something of the man, his background, his viewpoints, his philanthropy or is she only capable of absorbing the caricature of him assembled in the Libertarian news silo? You would have to ask her. I hope someone will.
Keep to the high ground,