Just because the current political landscape in Washington suggests that most, if not all, Senate Democrats will oppose Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court while their Republican counterparts are likely to endorse it, the Senate is not absolved of its constitutional duties. Advice and consent should be informed. Kavanaugh’s nomination deserves to be fully scrutinized and the American people better educated on the consequences of his lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.
That includes reviewing not just the legal cases Kavanaugh heard as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia over the past dozen years. It also requires a thorough examination of his years as White House staff secretary to President George W. Bush, a position of far greater importance than its name implies and one that the nominee himself suggested in a first-person law magazine article was instrumental and “most instructive” to preparing him to serve as a federal appeals court judge (a point he’d also made years earlier when he last faced Senate scrutiny).
Yet a request for documents from this 2003-2006 period is in danger of becoming a purely partisan exercise. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, has described the Democratic requests for documents from the staff secretary years as “bloated” document demands representing “an obvious attempt to obstruct the confirmation process.”
It’s entirely possible that Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., delights in the idea that a request for White House paperwork — similar to the one GOP senators insisted on for Elena Kagan’s time as solicitor general under President Barack Obama — might give Democrats more time to scrutinize Kavanaugh’s record or perhaps even push his confirmation vote until after the November election. But so what? The alternative available to Grassley is to keep secret the nominee’s involvement in such legal matters as gay marriage, partial birth abortion and the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, all of which came across Kavanaugh’s White House desk in some form.
That’s not to recommend that every piece of paper that Kavanaugh ever viewed — serving as an intermediary and screener for the president on legal matters is a major part of the staff secretary job, after all — can be justified, but what Grassley and his Republican colleagues have offered to date is to request from the archives only the papers from Kavanaugh’s time as White House counsel and none from his time as staff secretary. That’s not a compromise, that’s the beginning of a cover-up, and the American public should not tolerate it.
Surely Grassley and others can at least pretend to be interested in a full review of Kavanaugh’s background. To refuse to allow one not only reflects badly on the Senate, it also diminishes the public’s regard for the judiciary, a worrisome prospect in a nation where respect for the rule of law is supposed to be more than an empty slogan.
This editorial was written by the staff of the Baltimore Sun. It does not necessarily represent the views of The Lima News or its owner, AIM Media.