Sitting in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for four days last week probably caused Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the sole witness, to imagine himself watching an episode of the old Superman comic; the one where Superman is transported into an alternate Bizarro World universe. In that Bizarro World, you may recall, everything is the opposite of the real world.
For Kavanaugh, watching the hearing play out before him, he easily could picture not only two very different political parties before him, but two different worlds. On the Republican side were senators clearly interested in the substance of a Supreme Court nominee’s thinking on, and approach to, the Constitution and laws of the United States. On the other side – the Bizarro World, if you will – were men and women interested in a combination of playing “Gotcha!,” displays of adolescent bad manners, and exhibiting a degree of repetitiveness that would lead one to conclude no one of them could hear what any of the others were saying.
These bizarre theatrics were played out with an audience behind Kavanaugh that periodically erupted into unintelligible shouting by spectators sometimes dressed in weird costumes. Although Sen. Lindsey Graham opined at one point that the hearings were “not fit for children” (or words to that effect), I would differ – the antics displayed by the Democrats were of such low degree that children probably would have enjoyed watching them.
Children, of course, might not appreciate the difference between a “textualist” and an “originalist,” understand the principle of “separation of powers,” or be concerned whether “privacy” is a right protected under the Constitution. However, for those of us who actually care more about a Supreme Court justice’s legal thinking than in how many ways he can tell a Senator, “I am bound by precedent and judicial ethics to not answer that questions explicitly,” there is much to digest in Kavanaugh’s testimony.
We know, for example, that Judge Kavanaugh actually has read the Federalist Papers. Even more important, based on his testimony we know he understands that each of our three branches of government has defined and limited powers; and that “policy” concerns definitely are not a proper basis on which federal judges are to render verdicts. It seems clear to anyone with even a scintilla of objectivity that the Justice-to-be is neither a fan of nor an enemy to regulations per se; but rather that he bears little patience for regulatory power not clearly defined or firmly based on a power enumerated in the Constitution.
It also is clear from a reading of last week’s hearing transcripts that Judge Kavanaugh – unlike Sen. Dianne Feinstein, along with many others on her side of the aisle – understands the Second Amendment. He apparently knows that the Amendment guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms was not placed into the Bill of Rights simply to ensure Americans could hunt or target shoot. The Judge also showed us he maintains a degree of real-world common sense and grasp of history; as when he explained the manner by which former Justice Antonin Scalia properly dissected the Second Amendment, in finding the District of Columbia’s long-standing ban on firearms to be unconstitutional.
During one exchange between Kavanaugh and Feinstein regarding firearms rights, the Judge showed he far more clearly than the Senator understood what “in common usage” means, in the context of analyzing the Second Amendment’s scope. In that particular discussion, the Senator’s deep animus toward firearms came through loud and clear, in her almost laughable effort to justify banning the AR-style rifle simply because it was not “commonly used” in mass shootings.
Interlaced with discussions of true substance were threads of humor; sometimes apparently unintended, as when Sen. Cory Booker rendered his idiotic “I am Spartacus” declaration. The New Jersey Senator worried that his feigned heroism in releasing e-mails would be the “closest” he would ever get to such a “Spartacus moment.” In all likelihood, the Senator’s worry will prove to be unfounded. Knowing of his desire to be his Party’s 2020 nominee for President, and after witnessing his unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that the Committee had preempted his heroics by releasing the e-mails earlier that day, the American electorate surely will witness future such “moments” by Sen. Booker.
Besides, the more apt declaration by Mr. Booker would have been to declare his move the “I am the Big Lebowski” moment, in recognition of his deeply silly performance during a proceeding intended to be among the most consequential in which a United States Senator could participate.