It’s too bad Neil Gor­such can’t be the pres­i­dent

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Kath­leen Parker

atch­ing the Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings of Supreme Court nom­i­nee Neil Gor­such, one might eas­ily find one­self wish­ing he were pres­i­dent of the United States.

Alas, he’s not. But Gor­such’s se­lec­tion to re­place the late Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia is the san­est act com­mit­ted by a pres­i­dent whose first 60 days have left him with an ap­proval rating un­der 40 per­cent and per­sis­tent ques­tions about his sta­bil­ity.

Don­ald Trump should be send­ing cham­pagne to Gor­such — for life — for pro­ject­ing enough grace to ben­e­fit those who haven’t a knack for it. This, ob­vi­ously, would in­clude Trump, whose fit­ful Twit­ter tantrums tend to over­take any no­ble as­pi­ra­tions he might pre­tend to. But then, I de­lude my­self.

The week has not been kind to Trump, though he alone has earned the text that will fol­low him into his­tory books. Imag­ine know­ing that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will read about the Twit­ter-fevered il­lu­sion­ist who in­vented sto­ries to dis­tract the crowds, ac­cus­ing his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama, of wire­taps in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Imag­ine know­ing what the world now knows — that Trump’s para­noid fan­tasy was just that. Tes­ti­fy­ing Mon­day be­fore the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey said there is no ev­i­dence to sup­port the pres­i­dent’s claims. He also said that the FBI is ac­tively in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the Trump cam­paign had any con­nec­tion to Rus­sian op­er­a­tives re­spon­si­ble for the hack­ing of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s com­put­ers, the con­tents of which were de­liv­ered to WikiLeaks.

Comey’s re­mark that Vladimir Putin hated Hil­lary Clin­ton so much that he was try­ing to hurt her — and if it ben­e­fited Trump, fine — seemed to dis­pel sus­pi­cions that Trump him­self had any­thing to do with Rus­sia’s bla­tant in­ter­fer­ence with U.S. elec­tions. But, who knows? Comey was care­ful to re­veal as lit­tle as pos­si­ble about the bureau’s find­ings. So that was Mon­day. Most of the fo­cus Tues­day turned to Day 2 in Judge Gor­such’s con­fir­ma­tion process. Amid much blus­ter and box-check­ing by sen­a­tors on both sides of the aisle, Gor­such con­tin­ued to re­mind ev­ery­one why his peers, es­pe­cially other judges, con­sider him as qual­i­fied as any­one could pos­si­bly be. Calm and un­flap­pable through­out, Gor­such wore the face of some­one ac­cus­tomed to lis­ten­ing in­tently with­out be­tray­ing any pre­dis­po­si­tion or bias.

Democrats nat­u­rally had to set out their ar­gu­ments for their base and spent most of their time ques­tion­ing Gor­such’s in­de­pen­dence and fair­ness, re­peat­edly try­ing to get him to sig­nal whether he would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Gor­such said noth­ing to ap­pease or ag­i­tate, point­ing in­stead to his record of par­tic­i­pa­tion in 2,700 lower-court rul­ings. He also made as­sur­ances that he takes prece­dent se­ri­ously, not­ing that Roe has been reaf­firmed mul­ti­ple times.

Gor­such’s stub­born (and eth­i­cal) re­fusal to of­fer opin­ions on prece­dent spoke di­rectly to his in­de­pen­dence. To ex­press an opin­ion, he said, would dam­age his cred­i­bil­ity and per­cep­tion of fair­ness with fu­ture lit­i­gants. It didn’t seem that there was any ques­tion that would throw Gor­such off, which is what usu­ally hap­pens when one is se­cure in the truth and con­fi­dent of one’s con­vic­tions.

But, im­por­tantly, all got to make their points, in­clud­ing the re­pel­lent Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, D-Conn., whose own record, frankly, should dis­qual­ify him as an ar­biter of ju­di­cial in­tegrity. Here is a man who com­mit­ted one of the most craven be­tray­als of his gen­er­a­tion — not sex with an in­tern, nor traf­fick­ing with pros­ti­tutes, but with stolen valor.

How does a man who em­bel­lishes his mil­i­tary ca­reer — im­ply­ing that he fought in Viet­nam when, in fact, he re­ceived five de­fer­ments be­fore serv­ing state­side — con­sider him­self wor­thy to pros­e­cute the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of one of the na­tion’s most bril­liant ju­rists? When he did serve in the mil­i­tary, Blu­men­thal was able to se­cure a cushy po­si­tion in the Ma­rine Corps Re­serves (which is not to im­pugn his abil­ity to meet the Corps’ rigid phys­i­cal re­quire­ments), where he was given such jobs as re­fur­bish­ing a chil­dren’s camp­ground and run­ning a Toys for Tots drive. Not that those aren’t im­por­tant. Blu­men­thal did is­sue a pub­lic apol­ogy in 2010, say­ing he had meant that he had served dur­ing the war, which was and is non­sense. Blu­men­thal, nonethe­less, has found the courage to hit the air­waves and bray his in­ten­tion to be­come Gor­such’s fiercest op­po­nent, promis­ing to fil­i­buster and de­mand­ing a 60-vote ma­jor­ity, which he has de­clared the stan­dard for Supreme Court nom­i­na­tions. It isn’t, ac­cord­ing to Wash­ing­ton Post fact-check­ers.

Gor­such’s hear­ing should re­as­sure Amer­i­cans that there are still grown-ups around who are will­ing to serve. It was also heart­en­ing to hear him say that “No man is above the law, no man.” E-mail Kath­leen Parker at kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com. Fol­low her on Twit­ter: @kath­leen­parker

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