Gorsuch vs. Kavanaugh

And during the hearing, some real questions were raised about Kavanaugh’s honesty and his judicial temperament. Even among some of his friends. In general, I agree with this article:I Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn’t Confirm Him

He starts saying how hard it is for him to write this article.

This is an article I never imagined myself writing, that I never wanted to write, that I wish I could not write.

If I were a senator, I would not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.

These are words I write with no pleasure, but with deep sadness. Unlike many people who will read them with glee—as validating preexisting political, philosophical, or jurisprudential opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination—I have no hostility to or particular fear of conservative jurisprudence. I have a long relationship with Kavanaugh, and I have always liked him. I have admired his career on the D.C. Circuit. I have spoken warmly of him. I have published him. I have vouched publicly for his character—more than once—and taken a fair bit of heat for doing so. I have also spent a substantial portion of my adult life defending the proposition that judicial nominees are entitled to a measure of decency from the Senate and that there should be norms of civility within a process that showed Kavanaugh none even before the current allegations arose.

After weighing the evidence carefully, he comes to this:

To be clear, I am emphatically not saying that Kavanaugh did what Ford says he did. The evidence is not within 100 yards of adequate to convict him. But whether he did it is not the question at hand. The question at hand is how a reasonable senator should construct the evidence to guide a binary vote for or against elevation of a judge to a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. By my read, we have two witnesses who both profess 100 percent certainty of their position—one whose testimony is wholly credible and marginally corroborated in a number of respects, and the other whose testimony is not credible on a number of important atmospheric points surrounding the alleged event.

It’s not a tie, and it doesn’t go to the nominee.

He ends with this summary:

Faced with credible allegations of serious misconduct against him, Kavanaugh behaved in a fashion unacceptable in a justice, it seems preponderantly likely he was not candid with the Senate Judiciary Committee on important matters, and the risk of Ford’s allegations being closer to the truth than his denial of them is simply too high to place him on the Supreme Court.

We are in a political environment in which there are no rules, no norms anymore to violate. There is only power, and the individual judgments of individual senators—facing whatever political pressures they face, calculating political gain however they do it, and consulting their consciences to the extent they have them.

As much as I admire Kavanaugh, my conscience would not permit me to vote for him.

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The other thing I mean by controversial is about the nuclear option. As I wrote elsewhere:

The Nuclear Option at work.

Before the Gorsuch nomination, Supreme Court nominations required 60% of the Senate to avoid a filibuster. Most major Senate decisions did, and this was one of the advantages of the Senate – a deliberative body that had to take the time to come to sufficient agreement to decide.

Changing that to allow a simple majority was called “the nuclear option” – an analogy to nuclear weapons, the most extreme option in warfare. As predicted, this made the process bloodier and more political. Each side wants to make sure it looks like it was the other side’s fault and get as much leverage as it can for the next round of elections.

We elect the government to govern, to work together to make sensible decisions. The Senate cannot be a battlefield and govern at the same time. No matter what politics you prefer or what you think of Kavanaugh.

I don’t think the nuclear option is the right way to pick lifetime Supreme Court justices. But even though Gorsuch was affirmed using the nuclear option, he was less controversial than Kavanaugh.

Abortion, Civility, and Rule Breaking

We probably disagree on this, but as I see it, people like Putin, Duterte, and Trump are not actually restoring law and order. I don’t think that is what authoritarian leaders do, it is what they promise. Remember that Nixon was the “law and order president”. As I see it, they are making a mockery of law and order, turning it into a tool that an authoritarian leader can use to advance his own interests, hound his enemies, protect his friends, hide his own actions, and enrich himself. I am extremely concerned about law and order, I just want to make sure that it applies to the president as well. I have some examples in mind, I want to avoid giving them now simply because I want to avoid putting hot-button issues into a post at this point of the conversation. We may well disagree on my examples, I would like to find a calm way to discuss them in order to be able to discuss and learn together.

In the long run, if I’m right and this becomes obvious to people, then they may judge both Christianity and the pro-life movement as political pawns with little moral authority if we are fiercely loyal to them. I think that’s what happened in Europe as the children of Germans realized that their Christian parents had generally supported the Nazis. I think the same might well have happened in the United States if Christians of all races had not marched together against racist laws.

I think it is really important to have some moral distance from any political leader. I’m probably a lot more concerned about Trump than you are.

.. I don’t think democracy “works” and I don’t think it’s stable in the long run. I don’t really sit around worrying about “how to make democracy work”, either.

.. I guess the difference is I’m not part of the “we” of trying to make political change happen – instead, I think political change happens because God is ultimately orchestrating the affairs of men. If men don’t voluntarily choose to stop doing a grievous sin like abortion (or world wars, or the Holocaust, or all manner of other evil), God eventually intervenes. And I don’t think God is constrained by the democratic process.

.. Ending abortion, or dealing with roving drug gangs, is definitely restoring some kind of law and order. It’s not an ideal, but it’s improvement in the right direction. And I think it’s a consequence of us more progressive-minded people being so obsessed with laws and rules that we end up letting criminals get away with turning cities into war zones because we were so fixated on the rights of criminals to due process and so forth.

.. I do pray that God will intervene, but I worry about American Christians anointing a strongman who promises to beat up our enemies. I see some religious leaders treating Trump as “God’s anointed”, sent to save America from our sins. The Trump Prophecy and many things coming out of Liberty University seem to approach idolatry, as does the billboard Jeremy mentioned.

.. If I were to advise Christians, I’d tell then to follow the Bible, which necessarily means not voting, not fighting in wars, not killing people, and so on. Regardless, abortion will only be ended through force. God is in charge of using that force. Persuasion doesn’t stop murder.

.. I think abortion will not be ended by force, unless you mean the return of Christ as an act of force. Abortion pills are too easy to transport, even if they were to become illegal.

A change of heart, that is conversion (not persuasion, although that too will help), is the best way to end abortions. Meanwhile, we can reduce abortions with easy free access to birth control, free prenatal care, free birthing centers, and reducing other financial barriers to parenthood.