‘A commanding presence with a resolute manner’
“Nobody speaks for me. Nobody. I don’t have spokesmen. I’m a judge. I speak for myself.” — Neil Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 21, 2017.
At 49, writes John Greenya, Judge Neil Gorsuch had “a commanding presence with a resolute manner” as he testified before the committee. As Fox News’ Charles Krauthammer put it, “This guy is out of central casting. This is a Gary Cooper character. Attacking him would be a losing proposition.”
In ordinary times, given Judge Gorsuch’s impeccable personal and professional record, his nomination would have had encountered only the predictable partisan opposition. A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law (interestingly, his academic record, in many ways, tracks Barack Obama’s); clerking for a D.C Circuit judge, then for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy.
This was followed by a year studying for a Ph.D at Oxford, then 10 years at a Washington, D.C. law firm, the Justice Department for a year, a nomination by President George W. Bush to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, covering his home state of Colorado, as well as Kansas, Oklahoma,
Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, for which he was confirmed quickly, with no significant opposition. In all, a model nominee.
But in 2017, the world had changed. Donald Trump had defied all political odds and predictions and defeated Hillary Clinton, and a stunned and embittered Democratic
Party became an organization with only one purpose — defy President Trump, thwart whatever initiatives he proposed and do everything necessary to drive him from office, allowing him no significant victories in the process.
Central to this process was the matter of a Supreme Court nomination, perhaps the single most important issue in the opposition’s playbook. Whoever controlled the Supreme Court, they believed, controlled the national agenda for years to come.
And this meant that no Trump nominee could be confirmed, and certainly no young Gary Cooperish Westerner with decades of service ahead and who — even more terrifying — like Justice Antonin Scalia, one of his judicial idols, was a textualist and originalist interpreter of the U.S. Constitution. (Also, like Justice Scalia, a believer in opinions written in clear, intelligent and interesting prose — indicative, to some critics, of a touch of elitism.)
John Greenya, a widely respected Washington, D.C., writer and the author or co-author of more than twodozen books that frequently deal with the law and politics (one of which, “Are You Tough Enough,” was written with Anne Gorsuch Burford, Judge Gorsuch’s mother), guides us quickly and expertly through the confirmation process, giving credit to Sen. Mitch McConnell for his masterful political maneuvering.
Interestingly, Mr. Greenya quotes Harry Reid, former majority leader and fierce no-holds barred Democratic infighter, who puts it all into political perspective. Under President Obama, Mr. Reid wrote in a New York Times op-ed, Democrats “‘changed the Senate rules to guarantee a president’s nominees a simple-majority vote … I doubt any of us envisioned Donald J. Trump’s becoming the first president to take office under the new rules. But what was fair for President Obama is fair for Donald Trump.”
In this first biography of Justice Gorsuch, Mr. Greenya, in the clear, direct prose familiar to the readers of his pieces in such publications as The New York Times and The Washington Times, he sets out to tell us who Neil Gorsuch is, what kind or man he is, what he believes in, and what we can expect from him as the youngest judge to be nominated to the Supreme Court in 25 years.
To this end he’s done comprehensive research, conducted extensive interviews with people who have known Justice Gorsuch all his life, both friends and opponents, and drawn on his own personal knowledge of the family’s history, gained in no small part through his book collaboration with the justice’s mother, who died in 2004, and for whom he retains great respect and admiration.
“In writing this book,” Mr. Greenya concludes, “I feel as if I have come full circle: the book is about Neil, but it is also for his mother.”
Interestingly, Mr. Greenya quotes Harry Reid, former majority leader and fierce no-holds barred Democratic infighter, who puts it all into political perspective.