Wednesday, September 19, 2018


No, I have no opinion on whether or not he did what he's accused of having done during high school.

I do find this passage from a piece by Quinta Jurecic at The Atlantic thought-provoking:

What level of certainty about the nominee’s guilt should drive a senator to vote against that nominee? The standard to convict a defendant in criminal court is often understood as requiring anywhere from 95 to 100 percent certainty of the defendant’s guilt. In civil court, the “preponderance of the evidence” standard requires 51 percent certainty. As the economist Justin Wolfers asked on Twitter, “Would you appoint someone to the Supreme Court if you think there were a 25 percent chance they’ve done bad things? A 10 percent chance? A 5 percent chance? A 1 percent chance?”

And what about the nature of those bad things? What about whether an adult man, against whom no further charges of sexual harassment or assault are known to have been raised, should be denied a seat on the highest court in the land because he did something objectionable—even horrifying—as a boy on the cusp of adulthood?

The only advice I'd give a Senator who was dumb enough to ask me for advice would go something like this:

Assuming that he's qualified credentials-wise by whatever criteria you deem relevant (the only actual qualifications for serving on the Supreme Court are that the president nominates you and the Senate confirms you -- if the president chose the White House janitor or his kindergarten-age kid's favorite playmate and the Senate concurred, it would be so), does your gut say that he's honest and trustworthy or that he's a lying, scheming weasel? Vote accordingly.

I haven't seen more than a few minutes of Kavanaugh's Senate hearing testimony. He pings my Lying, Scheming Weasel Meter pretty hard. Or at least my Smug, Entitled, I'm in the Club so Let's Get These Formalities Over With and Quit Pretending You're Actually Thinking About This, Shall We? Meter.

I'm less bothered by what Kavanaugh may or may not have done 30 years ago than by who he is. Former fellow in the office of the Solicitor General of the United States. Former Associate Counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel. Former Associate White House Counsel. Former Assistant to the President. Former White House Staff Secretary.

In. The. Club.

I'd like to see a constitutional amendment that rips out the open door and puts up a wall, or at least a time-locked door, between the legislative and executive branches of government on one side and the Supreme Court on the other. Something like:

No person shall be appointed to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States who has previously [alternative weaker version: within a period of 20 years prior to his or her appointment] served as an elected official of, or an employee in the executive or legislative branches of, the government of the United States.

If I could pick my ideal Supreme Court justice, he or she would have spent a couple of decades working as a criminal defense attorney (possibly a public defender, non-federal) and have never, ever, ever fed at the federal trough.

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