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:

New at Live Action: Christie Lied About Backing Sotomayor at GOP Debate

There was no significant discussion of abortion at Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate, except for a brief mention by Ted Cruz of New York being a relatively pro-abortion place (a crazy idea he must have gotten from Americans United for Life’s ranking of New York among the ten most pro-abortion states, or NY Governor Andrew Cuomo outright saying pro-lifers “have no place in the state of New York”), and Marco Rubio criticizing funding of Planned Parenthood.

In a brief segment, Rubio criticized Obama for making Planned Parenthood funding a priority instead of the military. In another, he accusing Chris Christie of having donated to Planned Parenthood and of having supported pro-abortion Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

The ensuing argument between Cruz and Donald Trump on New York didn’t touch on abortion again, but sparks flew on the latter incident…

RUBIO: Unfortunately, Governor Christie has endorsed many of the ideas that Barack Obama supports, whether it is Common Core or gun control or the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor or the donation he made to Planned Parenthood. Our next president, and our Republican nominee can not be someone who supports those positions.

Read the rest at Live Action News.