A Belated Reply to Ramesh Ponnuru on Kavanaugh and Roe

Ramesh Ponnuru has responded to my column last week at LifeSite, in which I take issue with his defense of Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony regarding Roe v. Wade. I appreciate the opportunity for a serious exchange on the subject; hopefully we can clarify some of the Right’s thinking on a tradition that’s caused so much trouble.

Ponnuru accurately summarizes my position; I think he can be fairly summarized as believing nominees shouldn’t commit to overruling specific precedents, but should be more willing to discuss a precedent’s strengths or flaws (from which senators and voters would obviously be able to draw more useful inferences).

Certainly, I agree that it would be improper for a judge to promise, for instance, “I’ll always rule however the National Right to Life Committee wants me to.” I also recognize the legitimacy of certain qualifiers, such as noting that a case involving abortion in some way doesn’t necessarily mean Roe’s legitimacy will be the question it hinges on.

Beyond that, though, I have never heard a persuasive reason why it would be improper for a nominee to commit to ruling certain ways on known legal questions. If a precedent is in fact illicit, I’ve never gotten a good answer why it’s wrong in principle to make reasonably sure that a nominee would overturn it.

Obviously, I can see potential danger in a judge agreeing to deliver a particular outcome in exchange for an appointment, but a bad ruling is hardly mitigated just because its signatories honestly believe in it. So shouldn’t the legitimacy of a pre-confirmation commitment depend entirely on whether the judgment being committed to is correct?

It seems perfectly straightforward to me that a judge’s explanation for his position would demonstrate to fair-minded observers whether it’s rooted in illicit partisanship or defensible legal philosophy, regardless of what conversations he and the president might have had beforehand as to whether they’re on the same page.

It also seems to me that consistently applying the no-commitment principle would take us to some pretty absurd places. Is anyone who’s ever openly criticized Roe, like William Pryor or Michael McConnell, automatically disqualified from joining SCOTUS? Sitting justices who’ve previously declared themselves for or against Roe in majority or dissenting opinions also have a “commitment” on the record that will telegraph their disposition in future abortion cases; how is that meaningfully different?

What’s the limiting principle to the no-commitment rule, and what do the above questions say about the rule’s merits for judicial nominees?

Finally, I’d like to make clear that despite my reservations about nominating Kavanaugh in the first place, I fully support confirming him in light of the Left’s vile campaign to destroy him.

It’s all-but inconceivable that withdrawing him at this stage would lead to confirming anyone better, his powerful testimony calling out “the Left” by name for its “calculated and orchestrated political hit” gives me some hope that he’s more of a movement conservative than he let on during the first round, and most importantly, the Left’s tactics of demonization and intimidation cannot be rewarded.

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New at LifeSite: Our GOP Congressional Leaders Are Lousy on Life

Here’s my latest piece, highlighting some of the details NRLC and SBA List left out of their statements slobbering all over Paul Ryan:

Over the years, Ryan voted for and presided over multiple budget resolutions that continued the more than $500 million Planned Parenthood receives from taxpayers annually. Pro-life leaders called onthe GOP to make defunding Planned Parenthood “non-negotiable” in budgets passed under Barack Obama, but Ryan defended not doing so on the grounds that “in divided government, no one gets exactly what they want.”

Last month, Ryan said that supporting the most recent budget was necessary to fund the military. But critics like Rep. Thomas Massie, R-KY, argue that under Ryan, the House forbade lawmakers from voting on amendments concerning Planned Parenthood or any other conservative objections to the bill.

“A more complete betrayal of the electorate I have not witnessed,” Massie tweeted.

Moreover, while Ryan’s House passed several pro-life measures, only the one letting states defund Planned Parenthood ever became law.

There’s a lot more at LifeSiteNews. And here’s a snippet of my piece from earlier this week detailing how ostensible Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (for all intents and purposes, Chuck Schumer is really calling the shots) continues to let Democrats slow-walk judicial nominees, in the hopes of delaying as many as they can until Donald Trump no longer has a GOP Senate majority to confirm them:

An October 10 memo signed by more than one hundred conservative leaders, including Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, former Attorney General Edwin Meese, and Tea Party Patriot’s Jenny Beth Martin, blames part of the problem on the McConnell Senate’s “continued insistence on working no more than 2 ½ days a week – arriving on Monday evening for a handful of votes, and departing, on average, by 2:30 p.m. each Thursday afternoon.”

Even under the 30-hour rule, the leaders add, McConnell could “easily make this painful for them by forcing continuous session overnight and through the weekend.” They estimate this would enable the Senate to confirm up to five nominees per week even with the added hours of debate.

On a related note, the insipid myth that McConnell is the real hero in getting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court continues to make the rounds, even among people who should know better like Matt Walsh:

Harvard Republican Club Wants Hillary Clinton to Be President

They don’t say so, of course. In fact, the name Hillary Clinton doesn’t appear anywhere in their announcement that they won’t endorse Donald Trump. But that’s the inescapable conclusion of their sanctimonious, tunnel-vision screed.

“[F]or the first time in 128 years, we, the oldest College Republicans chapter in the nation, will not be endorsing the Republican nominee,” they declare…a decision so well thought out, with the consequences of the election’s outcome so carefully weighed, that not once do they mention who will become president if the Republican nominee does not. Continue reading

Last Night, Ted Cruz Told Conservatives That Saving America Is Optional

Ted Cruz is by far the best candidate I’ve ever had the opportunity to vote for…and still, he let me down last night. He let his country down last night.

I know Donald Trump’s moral, intellectual, and philosophical deficiencies by heart. I was #NeverTrump for a few days after he secured the nomination. But a few days was all it took for me to confront, process, and admit two realities: first, that on every issue, the wrong things Trump may do are negated by the wrong things Hillary Clinton will do; and more importantly, that we may not have the opportunity to reverse Clinton’s actions in a term or two, because she will stack the Supreme Court for decades to come and grant amnesty to enough future Democrat voters to prevent conservatives from winning another presidency or Congressional majority in our lifetimes.

Ted Cruz understands this, because he himself has referenced both: Continue reading

Awful #NeverTrump Arguments, Part 1: Steve Deace

The intense disgust Donald Trump inspires in most conservatives is unquestionably valid, seeing that he’s a loathsome, unqualified buffoon who ruined the best chance we’ve had since 1984 to put a truly worthy movement conservative, Ted Cruz, in the White House. The emotional difficulty of looking past his offenses and weaknesses is understandable, and there are legitimate concerns about Trump’s fitness for office, chances against Hillary Clinton, and representation of the Republican Party.

However, it’s increasingly apparent that Trump Derangement Syndrome has so consumed most of the #NeverTrump movement that they’ve lost the ability to objectively evaluate both Trump’s weaknesses and the consequences of another Clinton presidency. Not only are opposing arguments ignored without serious consideration, many NeverTrumpers hurl indignation and condescension at any suggestion there are opposing arguments. Ugly though it sounds, it’s hard not to conclude that some have decided that the future of their country is less important than projecting their self-image as morally and ideologically purer than the rest of us.

It’s time to start calling out this arrogant negligence. The following is the first in a series of posts calling out the shoddy logic and irresponsible flippancy dominating #NeverTrump arguments. To be clear, not everyone we’ll discuss is guilty of all the sins described above, but all display a distinct lack of seriousness unworthy of the future generations who will suffer if they get their way and Hillary wins. Continue reading

National Disgrace Marco Rubio Wants to Inflict Himself on America Again

The one silver lining to this disaster of an election was supposed to be that at least we’d be getting rid of Marco Rubio. Unfortunately, Rubio has just decided he wants to stay in the Senate after all.

If the Right really held honor at a premium, the very possibility would have been met with such a unanimous hail of incredulity and disgust that Rubio never would have considered it (then again, if that were the case his presidential ambitions never would have gotten past a momentary delusion of grandeur).

Rubio ran for Senate claiming to be an anti-amnesty candidate, then when he got there he repeatedly lied to the country on behalf of the Gang of 8 amnesty bill. That left the GOP base even more distrustful they could trust anybody in elected office, giving Donald Trump his opening to gain a real foothold with the electorate. Not once has Rubio taken responsibility for his dishonesty.

Then, when he ran for president, he repeatedly lied about Ted Cruz, the only plausible alternative to Trump. Finally, he ensured Trump’s victory by helping to split the conservative vote and screw over Cruz’s delegate prospects long after it was clear he wasn’t going to become the nominee…and yet, after all he did to both Cruz and the country, Rubio has the gall to ask Cruz to help his new vanity campaign?

You have no honor, Mr. Rubio. The country cannot trust you. For the incalculable harm you’ve done to your country, the only way you could regain a sliver of your honor would be to acknowledge you don’t belong anywhere near public office.

Why is Truth Obvious to Conservative Readers but Not Conservative Pundits?

It’s really remarkable, in a depressing sort of way, how many of the comments on articles at leading conservative websites are consistently more insightful than the articles themselves. Today’s example comes from Dan McLaughlin’s recent National Review piece on how #NeverTrump needn’t have been inevitable — not because the people who knew better had numerous opportunities to prevent Trump’s rise, mind you, but because Trump could have been someone he’s not.

Thank God commenter Patrick could see the obvious:

Flip it around: NeverTrump needn’t have been inevitable if mainstream Republicanism, including other major presidential candidates, had recognized the same important issues that Trump and Santorum realized and championed them in a more mainstream way than Trump is capable of doing.

In retrospect (except that retrospect was actually spect to millions of us a year ago) NeverTrump could have been avoided and Trump could have been stopped just by, as Ann Coulter forcefully prescribed last summer, “Taking his issues away from him and beating him with them.” But 14 Trump rivals ignored or mostly protested his policies. Cruz followed along timidly in his wake, doing nothing to make Trump voters prefer his half measures to Trump’s full ones. Santorum himself had always been leading the way on working class conservatism, but he was damaged goods having been caricatured as a religious obsessive with no other interests, and few Republcians were even aware of what he stood for.

As for Ryan, McConnell, the RW pundits, think tanks and donors, they were Trump’s best allies in assuring voters that they wouldn’t dream of adopting any of Trump’s policies. They went on record as giving him a monopoly on populist conservatism. And the voters believed them.

In putting the onus on Trump, you’re assuming this 70 year-old dog is capable of learning new tricks. That’s not realistic. He’s been an erratic, bombastic blowhard and gadfly his entire life. The solution never was for Donald Trump to become someone he’s not. It was for someone who’s not Donald Trump to start standing up for ordinary Americans instead of Wall Street and other special interests. That didn’t happen, so Trump won by default, the two sweetest words in the English language.

I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that comment is the single best thing I’ve read on the Internet in a month.

Sadly, instead of starting the Right’s long-overdue housecleaning to make sure we never wind up in a mess like this again, so many of the people whose shortsightedness forced us into this ugly choice are instead devoting all their energy to increasingly-implausible fantasies about convention revolts and third candidates that will correct none of our root problems and instead give Hillary the opportunity she needs to make us all irrelevant by turning the Supreme Court solidly against our freedoms and amnestying enough new Democrat voters to keep control for generations.

Sigh.