- - Monday, July 15, 2019


By Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino

Regnery Publishing, $28.99, 376 pages

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“Justice on Trial” is a strongly written, impeccably researched account of the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, solid in its reporting and profound in its conclusions. The authors, Mollie Hemingway, a widely published author and senior editor at The Federalist and one of the star panelists on Brett Baier’s “Fox News Special Report,” and Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, are highly regarded political analysts.

In a note to readers on the credibility of “Justice on Trial,” they tell us that this book “arose out of a desire by participants in these extraordinary events to tell their stories to writers who had not joined in the media’s public opposition to Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment. While both authors admit to a right-of-center perspective, they have endeavored to produce an objective account that reflects a respect for the rule of law and the presumption of innocence.”

It was bad enough for the liberal left and the national media that the Trump era opened with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to succeed Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. At the very least, that was exchanging one conservative justice for another. But replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy with an upstanding conservative family man with an impeccable legal record, and a Catholic to boot, just wouldn’t cut it.

Justice Kennedy, a man of conservative sensibility (as George Will might put it), was nevertheless considered to be the Supreme Court’s swing vote on the abortion issue, as well as perceived to be generally liberal on matter involving sexuality — issues that speak to a large portion of the new Democratic constituency, as well as much of the national media, a constituency that the aging leadership of the party is desperate to pacify.

Thus, the announcement of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination set off a political/media firestorm. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader and nominal leader of those aging politicians trying to ingrate themselves with the new generation of activists, announced that he would oppose the Kavanaugh confirmation with everything he had at his disposal. And Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania reportedly instructed Democrats to take a page from “The Godfather” and go to the mattresses.

They didn’t go to the mattresses, but they did take to television. The process of getting to know the nominee was largely hijacked by various militant groups and their allies in the national media bent on destroying Brett Kavanaugh’s good name and character, and culminating in the nationally televised drama that included a cast of characters already auditioning for the presidency.

Among them was a malign Kamala Harris, spreading fabricated tales of sexism, and at one point shouting down Sen. Chuck Grassley’s attempt to introduce Justice Kavanaugh’s wife and daughters in a hearings room routinely disrupted by demonstrators, one of whom, the authors tell us, came costumed as a condom. In cameo appearances, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren played their scripted candidate roles, and Cory “Spartacus” Booker provided a self-serving side show, which ended by leaving him looking somewhat doltish.

The campaign was out to destroy Brett Kavanaugh by any means possible, including unverified and nonsensical accusations of sexual assault by a series of increasingly unhinged women, in part engineered by low-life lawyers like Michael Avenatti. These unverifiable accusations continued to multiply, each, the Kavanaugh opponents insisted, demanding full investigation.

And as other unverifiable charges surfaced, much of the national media increasingly declared the Kavanaugh confirmation dead. But then, write the authors, Brett Kavanaugh decided to speak in his own defense, and with his powerful statement, everything changed. (“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit. Never.”)

His supporters were heartened, his enemies thrown off-stride, and “media personalities” like Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow struggled to understand what they’d just heard, pontificating, incorrectly as usual, about the effect on ordinary Americans. But despite the unending hostility of the national media, Brett Kavanaugh was finally confirmed, 50-48.

It was a messy, distasteful process, with many distasteful and dishonorable characters, all of whom the authors call out. But they also give credit to those who richly deserve it, among them Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, an honorable man, and Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, a courageous lady.

Finally, the authors remind us, with each Supreme Court vacancy, the nominating process has become increasingly nasty. And if President Trump is re-elected, chances are good there’ll be another vacancy during his second term. Let’s hope the authors are there to cover the story.

• John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley).

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