By Keisha Russell, Counsel
You know it’s coming. Americans are bracing for the Democrats’ “October Surprise.” Usually reserved for the final weeks of a presidential election, this year’s October Surprise may arrive any day now in the United States Senate. Although it may not be all that surprising. For the confirmation hearings of conservative nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, surprises have become a bit routine.
In 1987, then-senator Joe Biden ended his campaign for the presidency to focus on his duties as Senate Judiciary Chairman. He presided over the hearings that made President Reagan’s nominee a verb in the dictionary instead of a Justice on the Supreme Court. The “Borking” began when someone leaked Judge Robert Bork’s video rental history. That invasion of privacy somehow led to a debate about the “right to privacy” and Bork’s views on Roe v. Wade. It paid off for Senate Democrats, and Anthony Kennedy would take the Associate Justice seat Reagan intended for Bork.
A few years later, again while then-senator Biden presided over the Senate’s confirmation proceedings, Clarence Thomas would receive the surprise of his life. What began as a benign hearing turned R-rated when Anita Hill, a onetime associate of Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accused the nominee of unwanted sexual advances. It was a close vote, but Thomas made it to the bench.
There were no such surprises with the nominations of Justices Ginsburg and Breyer. The Left loved them, and conservatives hoped collegiality and civility had been restored to the confirmation process.
Any civility Chief Justice John Roberts received during his confirmation was short-lived, ending when Senator Ted Kennedy’s vicious attacks drove Martha Ann Alito from the confirmation proceedings of her husband, Justice Samuel Alito. It came back for Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan’s confirmations. Justice Neil Gorsuch escaped the Borking but was subjected to the first partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee in U.S. history.
And then, there was Brett Kavanaugh. In case you forgot, the Left threw everything at Kavanaugh—from assault to alcoholism. Borking became an art form against Kavanaugh, though he managed to survive and become the latest Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
So, what about Amy Coney Barrett?
Thus far, her confirmation proceedings have been mostly docile, though word on the Hill is that something is coming from the Left. It can’t be her religious beliefs. They tried that in 2017. It didn’t work then, and we now know that a majority of Americans believe attacks on religion have no place in government business today.
We can probably rule out sexual assault. Not only does that seem unthinkable of a mom of seven kids who drives a minivan in Indiana while managing a busy docket on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, but Senator Mazie Hirono already asked, to no avail.
The surprise certainly isn’t written in Barrett’s notes. In response to a question from Senator John Cornyn about what notes she had in front of her, Judge Barrett smiled and held up a pad of paper, blank but for the letterhead of the U.S. Senate. It seems she needs no crib sheet to answer the questions of her interlocutors.
Senator Dick Durbin thought he had the surprise. Perhaps, he thought, the white woman sitting in front of him would stumble in response to a question about George Floyd. She did not. Maybe Sen. Durbin forgot that Barrett is the mother to two black children.
Now, we can only speculate about what is coming. Barrett owns a gun, we know that. Perhaps we will learn that she not only understands the meaning of the Second Amendment as a constitutional scholar, but knows firsthand what it means to actually “keep and bear arms.” That can’t be good…or can it?
Maybe we will find out that Barrett mooched animal crackers from the kids she taught in Sunday School at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in South Bend, Indiana. Perhaps she tore off the consumer safety warning tag affixed to her mattress. It is possible that she once skipped ahead in the carpool line or forgot to sign up for “room mom” duty at her children’s school. Has anyone heard from Michael Avenatti? Have we read her grade-school diary yet?
Maybe the surprise is just how few blows the Senate Democrats managed to land on Judge Barrett. They have printed enough foam-core poster boards to fill a small landfill, but to little effect. The more Judge Barrett speaks, the more everyday Americans love her.
No more surprises. The nation knows a good nominee for the Supreme Court when it sees one, even if some Democratic senators do not.
Note: This article was first published on Newsweek and is re-published here with permission. The article presents the main points of an op-ed published in Newsweek. This work was authored co-authored by Keisha Russell. The full article can be found on the Newsweek website, here.