Monday, April 04, 2022


A couple of hours ago, Politico reporter Marianne LeVine tweeted some clickbait about Lindsey Graham and the Senate Judiciary Committee:

With no further information, I interpreted LeVine's tweet to mean that Graham had openly acknowledged that President Biden's judicial appointees will be blockaded if, as is likely, Republicans retake the Senate in the midterms. I'm certain that's what Republicans will do, but that's not what Graham said:

What Graham wants us to believe -- for all I know, he actually believes it -- is that a suitably moderate nominee would have been given a fair hearing, but not a dangerous radical like the fire-breathing extremist Ketanji Brown Jackson. (The fact that only Republicans regard Jackson as a fire-breathing extremist doesn't matter to Graham or any other GOP senator because Republicans don't care about winning any votes other than Republican votes.)

Graham seems to be harking back to a moment before President Biden announced his choice of Jackson, a time when there was a lot of talk about another possible nominee, Michelle Childs, a moderate and fellow South Carolinian. Graham has lavished praise on Childs and has insisted more than once that she would have won 60 votes, including his vote and the vote of fellow South Carolinian Tim Scott. (This is also not true. If Childs had been the nominee, Republicans would have concocted reasons to call her a radical, just as they did with Jackson. Graham and Scott would probably have had sudden changes of heart, professing themselves shocked, shocked at her newly discovered extremism.)

Democrats have handled the filling of this Court vacancy reasonably well. It was probably shrewd to contrast Jackson with the more moderate Childs and the more progressive Leondra Kruger -- Jackson was presented as a middle-ground choice. But it probably wasn't helpful that Congressman Jim Clyburn -- another South Carolinian -- publicly pressed Biden to appoint Childs, arguing that she'd win many Republican votes. (By the way, what's up with all this South Carolina chauvinism? Critics of Biden's selection process said he shouldn't have limited his choices to Black women, but it's good for America to treat certain picks as uniquely qualified largely because they're from your home state?)

Clyburn's cheerleading for Childs had a few unfortunate effects: It was one more example of Democrats making the case that their approach to governance isn't really valid unless it has Republican buy-in, it made party leaders appear momentarily at odds with one another, and it helped the GOP argue that Jackson was an extreme, deliberately polarizing choice, a message that, fortunately, has caught on only with Republicans so far.

In the clip above, Graham is imagining a scenario like the one that took place in 1988, when, after Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination failed and Douglas Ginsburg withdrew, President Reagan sought Democrats' advice on who could get through a Senate their party controlled; Anthony Kennedy was suggested (by then-Senator Joe Biden, the story goes), and he was nominated and confirmed. Maybe Graham believes that's what will happen if President Biden gets another Supreme Court pick and Republicans control the Senate. But no one who lived through the blockade of Merrick Garland in 2008 should be under any illusions that Democrats could get a hearing even for a centrist appointee. I can't tell if Graham is lying to us or to himself, but he should know better, and no one should be fooled by what he says.

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