Vetting

By

Leonard Zwelling

It was the most explosive beginning to a congressional hearing that I can remember. I heard it only on the radio returning from an exercise session.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Charles Grassley (R-IA) opened up its initial discussion of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) wasted no time protesting the hearing and the fact that the committee had just received thousands of pages of documents on the nominee the night before and were still missing many thousands of additional pages pertaining to his time in the Bush White House. Apparently executive privilege was asserted retrospectively by a lawyer who worked in the Bush White House.

Senator Harris was joined in protest by many other Democratic senators (some of whom have presidential aspirations like Harris herself, Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)). The Democratic minority wanted to postpone the hearing until they got the documents—and read them. Senator Grassley was having none of this nor of the protests from the audience. He plowed on and the committee did get to make its opening statements and so did the nominee. It was a truly partisan affair on the committee’s part which is both disappointing and expected.

The Democrats are still miffed that Senator McConnell blocked giving President Obama’s nominee to fill Justice Scalia’s seat in 2016 a hearing, but now that the filibuster rule (it would require 60 votes to confirm a judicial nominee) has been suspended, the Republicans have the votes (51 with John Kyl named to replace McCain) to confirm Kavanaugh unless they can delay the vote until after the midterm elections and can retake the Senate. Such a delay is unlikely. I know the Dems hope to persuade Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to defect, but I bet they don’t.

That means that indeed the nominee may ascend to the Court without a complete vetting of his past record. I am sure he will be asked about Roe v. Wade, guns and presidential power (can it be checked by a subpoena?), but you can bet he will dance around each of these issues as every nominee has since Justice Ginsberg was selected by Bill Clinton.

What this means is that someone will get into a powerful position without really having his record thoroughly examined. This is always dangerous.

How do I know? Two words. Ron DePinho.

Had anyone in the Executive Vice Chancellor’s office called one of Dr. DePinho’s acquaintances in Boston or New York before his hiring, I suspect they would have moved on to other candidates. Dr. DePinho’s reputation is essentially that of Donald Trump—narcissist, self-serving, cruel, and merciless. Dr. DePinho amply demonstrated all of those traits during his six years at the helm of Anderson as Mr. Trump is doing it in D.C. now. If we are to believe the early reports of the new Bob Woodward book about the White House under Trump called Fear, the current occupant of the Oval Office is, in fact, a danger to the country and to the world. That should surprise no one.

It is always hard to know when you have asked enough questions of an applicant for any job. I have made errors in this endeavor more than once. The bottom line is that if you inadequately vet a candidate for a job and that candidate proves wanting, it’s your fault. I blame Ken Shine completely for Ron DePinho. He either didn’t ask the right people (DePinho’s colleagues), didn’t ask the right questions (stance on conflict of interest, self-dealing and nepotism), or didn’t want to know the answers.

The same is true of America and Mr. Trump, although he is doing exactly what he said he would do so for those who voted for him, I guess he’s doing what they want.

But the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee are correct. The vetting of Judge Kavanaugh has been too hasty and incomplete. Then again, elections have consequences and Judge Kavanaugh may be the best the left could have hoped for in a new Supreme Court justice.

Here’s what the Democrats might negotiate with the appointee for. Please recuse yourself if the issue of the president’s ability to be subpoenaed or indicted comes before the Supreme Court in the next 24 months.

I know it ain’t gonna happen. But it should.

Leonard Zwelling