With President Donald Trump’s announcement Monday night that Judge Brett Kavanaugh is the man he wants to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, the air is already thick with theatrics ahead of the upcoming confirmation process, even though Republicans have the majority in the House and the Senate.
Monday night on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” best-selling author Raymond Arroyo, a Fox News contributor, said he thinks Kavanaugh could experience some of the same attacks that have occurred in the past.
Arroyo pointed out to host Laura Ingraham that like Robert Bork, who served as President Nixon’s attorney general for part of 1973, Kavanaugh’s role as a White House staff secretary under then-President George W. Bush may irk some Democrats.
“I think that type of language, that dystopian nightmare, the back-alley abortions, all that dark vision — they’re going to try to use that [language] against Kavanaugh. It worked against Judge [Robert] Bork because he was very defensive. He didn’t quite know how to fight back, so Kavanaugh should be wary.”
Arroyo was referring to the events of 1987, when President Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee was voted down, 42-58, after then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) verbally assaulted him during the hearings.
“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions,” Kennedy said at the time. “Blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, and schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution. Writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”
Protests against Kavanaugh’s nomination began in a number of places across the country almost immediately after Trump announced the pick. Kavanaugh has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2006.
Four years after they shut down the Bork nomination, Democrats also attempted to knock out Clarence Thomas, a President George H.W. Bush Supreme Court pick. Thomas ended up making it onto the high court on a vote of 52-48, but only after the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled him, attempting to use sexual harassment allegations by Anita Hill, a former employee, against him.
“It’s a national disgrace,” Thomas told the committee about his treatment at the time. “And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I’m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to the old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree.”
Laura Ingraham, who worked for Thomas as a law clerk, said Thomas handled the intense scrutiny he was under well.
“Never have truer words been spoken by my former boss, Clarence Thomas,” she said. “Brilliant juror, and he’s had an amazing career on the court. Ultimate revenge is life tenure.”
In the past decade, other controversies have surrounded Supreme Court nominees. President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court appointee, Sonia Sotomayor, irked the Right due to her use of identity politics.
In a 2001 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, she said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” as CBS reported.
As a result, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) pressed Sotomayor on the racial comment.
“Aren’t you saying you expect your heritage and background to influence your decision-making?” he asked her.
Ultimately, Sotomayor clarified her past statements and said her ethnicity would have no impact on her rulings.
At times, hopeful nominees have used humor during the hearings. That was the case, certainly, for President Obama’s appointee, Elena Kagan, during her hearings in 2010.
Most notably, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked her where she was on Christmas Day, she replied, “You know, like all Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant.” The room burst into laughter at her response.
With the Kavanaugh nomination, there’s also a good chance for some bipartisan support.
Trump’s last Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, was approved 54-45 in the Senate last year, with Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota reaching across the aisle to OK the nomination.
The three of them are also up for re-election in states that Trump won by double-digit percentage points in 2016.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.