Shameless Hypocrisy Didn’t Start With Donald Trump

It is important to keep in mind that Donald Trump didn’t invent the genre of politicians who engage in shameless hypocrisy. Take a look at what Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said yesterday about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

I have no problem with his initial statement about the need to get over “dumbass” partisanship. It’s just interesting that he brings that up in regards to how a Republican president’s nominee is handled. But to suggest that Republicans didn’t treat Democratic nominees to these positions the same way Kavanaugh is being treated is nothing short of shameless hypocrisy. The only way to avoid that conclusion is if you assume he meant that Republicans treated Democratic nominees worse.

It was Senator Hatch who, before President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, said this:

A Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Thursday he would help moderate jurist Merrick Garland win Senate confirmation if President Barack Obama nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Senator Orrin Hatch said he had known the federal appeals court judge, seen as a leading contender for the Supreme Court, for years and that he would be “a consensus nominee.”

Asked if Garland would win Senate confirmation with bipartisan support, Hatch told Reuters, “No question.”

“I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of (Senate) votes. And I will do my best to help him get them,” added Hatch, a former Judiciary Committee chairman.

Obama took Hatch up on that promise and nominated Merrick Garland. But Hatch joined Senate Republicans in refusing to even hold hearings on the nomination.

But that wasn’t the first time Sen. Hatch engaged in “dumbass” partisanship when it comes to Supreme Court nominees. He voted against the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor and identified this as his primary reason:

In that speech, Judge Sotomayor acknowledged that race and gender affect how judges decide cases generally, and “the facts I choose to see” specifically…

These are troubling statements that appear to conflict with the impartiality that I believe is essential, that most Americans expect, and that the oath of judicial office requires.

Before that, Hatch voted to confirm Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court after he said this during his confirmation hearing:

Because when a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position…

But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, “You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country.”…

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.

So for Hatch, it is perfectly fine when Alito draws on his roots to adjudicate from the bench, but it is disqualifying for Sotomayor to do so. Granted, that may be a result of racism and/or sexism as much as partisanship. But it certainly contains elements of both.

By getting rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, Majority Leader Mitch McConnelll has ensured that no president who has at least 50 votes in the Senate is ever likely to nominate a moderate. That increases the kind of “dumbass” partisanship that will engulf nominations as well as confirmations to the Supreme Court. The day Hatch admits that is when we can take his admonitions against partisanship seriously. I won’t hold my breath.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.