We keep hearing and reading how polished, nimble and skillful Judge Gorsuch was in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. One NPR reporter even likened him to God – at least with respect to voice – that SHE either must have heard or assumes to be male. This despite the Judge’s annoyed response to a Senator Franken question, with “I’m not God.”
The commentators who have praised Gorsuch’s performance may be comparing it to some other type of theater, but seem ignorant of both degree of difficulty and style scoring in this one. The judge’s performance has been marked by unprincipled evasion, deception and apparent dissembling. Apparent only because you either believe or don’t the judge when he testified he did not know the source of the $10 million funding the Judicial Crisis Network’s campaign in support of his nomination. And Gorsuch didn’t know if any of that dark money came from Colorado multibillionaire Philip Anschutz, owner of The Weekly Standard, conservative opinion magazine (a former client of your blogger).
Gorsuch was Anschutz’s lawyer, owes his seat on the 10th Circuit to great extent to an Anschutz lobbying effort and speaks regularly at his dove-hunting retreats (you can’t make this stuff up). The same Judicial Crisis Network also spent $7 million on the effort to deprive Judge Merrick Garland of hearings and a vote. Given those two efforts spanning a full year, and Gorsuch’s nexus to them, his lack of knowledge is either willful blindness or not credible.
Several times Gorsuch testified that he did not like or appreciate when other people “characterized” him – cause he speaks for himself. But he seemed comfortable with the fawning characterizations ladled over him by committee Republicans and in the scores of testimonials they introduced into the record.
Also several times he expressed, without specifying, the many things about the confirmation hearings he disliked. Correction, one specific, he regretted subjecting his family to it – though he did beam as President Trump hugged and kissed Mrs. Gorsuch twice during the nomination news conference. And he did suggest satisfaction with an alternative confirmation process – one like Byron White’s that lasted 90 minutes while “Whizzer” smoked. Gorsuch thinks 90 minutes is enough time to put him on the Court for 40 years, maybe 50 since he doesn’t smoke.
Aficionados of confirmation hearings will each have their own favorite among Judge Gorsuch’s evasions. Not saying I’m one, but your blogger has testified and participated in several SCOTUS confirmation hearings, and for me it was the judge’s refusal to answer whether Judge Merrick Garland, who was not afforded a hearing or vote, had been treated fairly. Gorsuch, who allowed that it was “disheartening” and “demoralizing” when any federal judge was criticized (including any that might lie or cheat) refused to say. His implicit rationalization was that a future Senate might do to a nominee what had been done to Garland. In turn that might spawn a lawsuit claiming that the Senate’s power of “Advice and Consent” must be exercised and may not be withheld, as with Garland. That lawsuit would ultimately come to the Supreme Court where he might serve.
That attenuated and tortured evasion typified the three days of Judge Gorsuch’s testimony and was disheartening and demoralizing to say the least.