Pence Conveniently Forgets … Well, Everything

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Really, Mike Pence?

He wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: "Justice Antonin Scalia was confirmed 98-0 and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received support of 96 Senators. If we lived in a more respectful time, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be overwhelmingly confirmed by the United States Senate."

Yeah, this one annoyed me. Never mind that Pence seems to somehow forgotten that Republicans refused to consider Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court pick despite his attempt to select a compromise candidate. Or that many Republicans opposed Obama’s previous two selections. 

Or for that matter anyone from the Trump administration trying to lecture us on being respectful to one’s political opponents. 

Just to consider Pence’s claim as is: Yes, it’s true that some Supreme Court justices have been confirmed overwhelmingly. But that’s because those nominees — and the presidents who selected them — worked hard to win the support of the Senate. It’s also because of some of the particular political circumstances of those moments. 

But it’s not because 1986 or 1993, the years Scalia and Ginsburg were confirmed, were (as Pence puts it) a “more respectful time.” After all, between those two confirmations were the defeat of Robert Bork in 1987 and the near-defeat of Clarence Thomas in 1991. Nor were they the first controversial selections of the modern era; two of Richard Nixon’s nominees were defeated, while Lyndon Johnson’s nominee for Chief Justice was defeated in 1968. 

Look: There’s no way that Brett Kavanaugh, who was blocked for three years by Democrats because of his intense partisan background, was going to be a 100 to 0 confirmation case. Not after all but four Democrats voted against him the last time. Kavanaugh would have been a controversial pick in 1986, 1993, or any other year.

Which is fine. Presidents have every right to choose a controversial, partisan nominee for the high court. And without the possibility of filibuster after Mitch McConnell and the Republicans eliminated it, a president whose party has a majority in the Senate is likely, if not certain, to get such nominees confirmed. But it’s a little much to consider a highly partisan vote on a highly partisan nominee a sign of a lack of respect; if anything, the one failing to show respect here is the vice president.

1. Abby K. Wood and Christian R. Grose at the Monkey Cage on how voters react to campaign finance scandals

2. Heather Hurlburt on Trump’s (phony? potential?) trade deal with Mexico.

3. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Tyler Cowen on the trade deal with Mexico

4. Ed Kilgore on Trump’s latest inaccurate bragging on the Johnson amendment. 

5. And Greg Sargent is absolutely correct about the importance of policy, and not just scandal, oversight from Congress — and that the only way to get it is going to be from Democrats. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.