Call it a Connecticut Minute. That’s the short space of time that elapsed between President Trump’s announcement of appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his latest Supreme Court nominee and Connecticut Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy coming out against it.
Sure, Kavanaugh was one of 25 on President Trump’s list of conservatives, pre-screened by the right-of-center Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.
And, sure, President Trump said each-and-every nominee of his would “automatically” vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
But don’t Supreme Court justices change over time? Doesn’t the majesty of the marble-pillared court building give them a few goose bumps, making them question shallow ideological commitment in the face of the court’s historic grandeur?
Look at Justice David Souter, nominee of President George H.W. Bush who was said to be a “slam dunk” for conservatism. Didn’t turn out that way.
And let’s not forget Justice Harry Blackmun, choice of “strict-constructionist” President Nixon. Blackmun earned the nickname “Minnesota Twin” because he was thought of as a clone of his fellow Minnesotan, conservative Chief Justice Warren Burger.
Blumenthal knows a thing or two about Blackmun — he served as a clerk for Blackmun in 1974-1975.
That was two terms after Blackmun authored — you guessed it — Roe v. Wade.
Didn’t Blackmun change over time? Was he really ever the “Minnesota Twin?” (And let the record show the Burger, Nixon’s choice to succeed very liberal Chief Justice Earl Warren, joined Blackmun in the 7-2 Roe ruling.)
Blackmun “got a bum rap and he resented it,” Blumenthal said.
So what about Kavanaugh?
“Times are different,” Blumenthal insisted. Blackmun was “chosen without the kind of hard-right test that (Kavanaugh) had to go through. The hard-right groups have, in effect, made the president into a puppet.”
In other words, while Blackmun “did evolve,” Blumenthal said, Kavanaugh is a case of what you see is what you get.
One small footnote: When I covered the Supreme Court in the 1990s, I was in a conference room with other reporters and then Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a conservative’s conservative.
Through clouds of cigarette smoke, he berated reporters for referring to justices who go from right to left as “evolving.” Evidently, nothing made him madder than the idea that he — a conservative through and through — had not evolved.