Megyn Kelly used her interview with Republican Senator Jeff Sessions to help advance Republican messaging over its obstruction of an Obama nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
In her interview with Sessions, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kelly first went after President Obama.
KELLY: Barack Obama, back when it was Justice Alito, Samuel Alito, being proposed to the U.S. Supreme Court, had a very different view of what he now says, this whole process of confirming nominees. What he said back then, as he filibustered [her emphasis] that nomination – it wasn’t just a no vote, it was a filibuster, trying to decline a vote on this justice – was very different from what we heard today, which was today he said, “Supreme Court nominations are different. …They have to be treated with the respect they deserve.” Your thought.
Of course, Sessions went right to it.
SESSIONS: Well, he’s been totally hypocritical and inconsistent on that. Justice Alito is a fabulous judge, he did a great job at the Judiciary hearing and he [Obama] filibustered and tried to deny him having a vote.
This is not analogous to the current situation. President Obama joined what he knew would be a futile filibuster attempt after the Senate held hearings on Alito because Obama thought Alito’s legal views were inappropriate for a Supreme Court justice. Furthermore, Obama made it clear he thought a better path would have been for Democrats to do a better job in making a case against Alito.
Not surprisingly, Kelly did not challenge Sessions’ characterization. Nor did she challenge his next statement that indicated Republicans would not even allow a hearing.
SESSIONS: We’re just not going to move this nominee because it’s going to allow the next president to fill this seat. We’ve lost a great, conservative, brilliant justice.
Kelly nodded her head as Sessions praised Scalia.
Kelly made a disingenuous stab at non-partisanship by briefly noting Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's hypocrisy and then quickly moving away from it in order to further denigrate Democrats.
KELLY: Mitch McConnell sounded very different on this issue, too. There is hypocrisy on both sides. But when you look at folks like Chuck Schumer, who has completely reversed himself on the appropriateness of confirming Supreme Court nominees in an election year. He didn’t want it to happen within 18 months of the presidential election, never mind 11 months, where we are now.
Actually, that’s not what Schumer said at all. From Talking Points Memo, which reviewed Schumer’s entire speech on the subject:
Schumer quite explicitly never said that the Bush shouldn’t get any more nominations. He also didn’t say that any nominee should be rejected. He said they should insist on proof based on judicial history, rather than just promises that they were mainstream conservatives rather than conservative activists, which both have proven to be. But again, set all this aside. He clearly spoke of holding hearings and being willing to confirm Bush nominees if they met reasonable criteria.
Next, Kelly moved on to attack Democratic Senator Pat Leahy. “Listen to Senator Pat Leahy!” she exclaimed. She played a clip of Leahy first saying, in 2006, “The Thurmond Rule, in memory of Strom Thurmond – he put this in when the Republicans were in the minority, which said that in a presidential election year, after spring, no judges would go through except by the consent of both the Republican and Democratic [leaders]. We will institute the Thurmond Rule.” And now, “Well, there is no such thing as a ‘Thurmond Rule. Well, the fact of the matter is – a Supreme Court justice, let’s have a vote.”
In Kelly's own clip, Leahy was talking about "after spring," which is clearly not where we are now.
But rather than note any of the mitigating factors, “straight news anchor” Kelly giggled derisively at the Democrats. “It’s ridiculous! It’s ridiculous!” she chummily told Sessions.
However, after having established her Republican cred, Kelly asked Sessions to explain why Republicans shouldn’t hold a hearing and vote on a Scalia-replacement nominee.
KELLY: To those who are home saying, “I don’t know, I don’t trust any of these politicians, but when there’s a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, there’s almost a year before we get the next president, why wouldn’t you Republicans allow the president a hearing and give this person at least an up or down vote?” What say you?
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: Well, I think it’s the—the president’s had two confirmations to the Supreme Court, two very activist judges, in my opinion, that don’t allow—don’t maintain their fidelity to the words of our Constitution and laws and I don’t think he’s entitled to have a third one at this late date. As a matter of fact, the tradition is not to confirm someone in the last year and as Pat Leahy, when he chaired the committee, has chaired the Judiciary Committee for many years, he just refused time and again to move nominees. They never got a hearing, they never got voted on, many withdrew as time went by and they couldn’t get a hearing. So he’s certainly—so what we’re talking about in this case is so important that the American people should be the one to decide which direction the Supreme Court will go.
Kelly never challenged a word of Sessions’ very serious accusation that Obama’s previous Supreme Court appointments were “very activist judges” who “don’t maintain their fidelity to the words of our Constitution.”
Furthermore, while Kelly was so excited about Democratic hypocrisy on the nomination process, she gave Sessions a complete pass on his own flip-flopping.
From Media Matters:
Kelly failed to note that Sessions himself disputed the idea that nominations should be halted during an election year in 2008. Speaking on the Senate floor in that year, Sessions said [emphasis added]:
I would say there has been talk about invoking the so-called Thurmond Rule. The Thurmond Rule could sort of be, if you want it to be, an excuse for slow-walking nominees and not approving the nominees who ought to be approved just because there is a Presidential election on the horizon. Majority Leader Harry Reid mentioned last night that the so called rule would be invoked in June. Senator Leahy has mentioned before he would invoke it in the second half of this year. Let me say this about the Thurmond Rule. It is a myth. It does not exist. There is no reason for stopping the confirmation of judicial nominees in the second half of a year in which there is a Presidential election.
We're not even in the second half of the year yet.
Watch “straight news anchor” Kelly’s bias and baloney, below, from the February 16 The Kelly File.
The GOP is really stuck now. They’ve committed themselves to obstruction. If they back down and actually do their jobs, their base will think they’re caving. If they don’t back down, the Dems campaign against them as being tantrum throwers. That, and they’re looking at the prospects of having to deal with Donald Trump as their presidential nominee. I don’t envy those guys this year at all.
NOTE BARBIE KELLY
Take our advice and let your contract run out.
But let’s remember, as we’ve noted before – this is all happening based on the right wing’s love of Antonin Scalia. And why did they love him? Because Scalia was to their mind the greatest achievement of the Ronald Reagan presidency. This was the major appointment that survived Reagan’s presidency by 30 years. And it was part of the right wing move that pushed the Supreme Court very far to the right – at one point actually landing at a 6-3 right wing majority with the appointment of Clarence Thomas. For the past 30 years, really from the time that Kennedy was appointed, the court has tilted to the right. When a liberal is appointed to fill this position, the court’s current 5-4 majority will reverse to a 4-5 majority by relatively moderate liberals. As opposed to the hard right positions taken by Scalia, Thomas and Alito.
But let’s look at the falsehoods as they get brought up. First, Kelly says that President Obama actually filibustered Samuel Alito. Really? Does anyone have footage of this filibuster in the same way that we currently have footage of Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham? Or can the right wing accept that there was no filibuster? Because there wasn’t one. What happened with Alito was that several Democrats in the Senate did a show vote for a filibuster that they knew would not go forward. The point of the vote was not to have a filibuster, nor was it to block Samuel Alito from having any hearing, nor was it even designed to stop Alito from taking his seat on the Supreme Court. The point of the vote was to note that Alito’s positions were inappropriate, and to note that both Alito and Roberts had obviously lied about their positions during their Senate testimony. Alito’s lies were most egregious concerning his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton. He frankly should have been called out for that at the time – particularly if the right wing wants to hurl around Contempt of Congress citations to anyone. But there was no filibuster. It was a protest vote – designed to make a statement even while everyone knew Alito would still be confirmed. (And we should remember that Alito was actually a hard step to the right from Sandra Day O’Connor, thus giving the Supreme court those three hard right voices.)
The second lie is Sessions talking about how Alito is a fabulous judge who “did a great job at the hearing”, compounded with a repetition of the first lie about President Obama doing that fictional filibuster and having “tried to deny him having a vote.” First, not everyone agrees that Alito is a “fabulous judge”. I think most people would agree he is a fabulous partisan – particularly given his conduct at President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Second, if Sessions believes Alito did “a great job” at that Hearing, this means he is applauding duplicity and outright falsehood in front of the US Senate. I don’t know that anyone should be applauding that. Third, the repetition of the “filibuster” lie doesn’t make it true, and neither does the fraudulent statement about President Obama trying to deny anyone a vote. As stated, then-Senator Obama joined other Democrats in making a protest statement that was known by all to not have any chance of stopping the vote or the confirmation of Alito to the high court. I would add that many people in Congress have participated in similar protest votes over the years. It’s the same thing when several Republican Senators vote against a measure they know will succeed, just so they can go on the record as opposing it.
Sessions’ stubborn insistence that he will refuse to move any Obama nominee forward isn’t just obstinent. It’s frankly chilling. It’s great that Sessions loves Scalia like the rest of the right wing does. But Sessions doesn’t get to decide whether the President gets to present a nominee.
Next, as Ellen correctly notes, the right wing is happily confusing what Chuck Schumer said in 2007 so they can make him sound hypocritical. There is nothing hypocritical in Schumer’s statements. He was extremely clear – then and now.
Next, regarding the clip of Pat Leahy citing the Thurmond Rule: we could also listen to similar material from Jeff Sessions taking different positions on whether it applies or not. The short version is that the GOP wants to expand it as far as this President goes.
Next, after Kelly served up the softball version of the question to Sessions, we now hear his courageous stance that President Obama is only to be permitted two confirmations to the Supreme Court. Regardless of Sessions’ horrifying misunderstanding of the centrist positions of Sotomayor and Kagan, the fact is that Jeff Sessions and the GOP do not get to decide how many Supreme Court justices the President may appoint. I would point back to Ronald Reagan, who appointed 3. I could point back to FDR, who appointed 8. Or to Andrew Jackson, who appointed 6. Or to Eisenhower, Lincoln and Taft, who appointed 5 each. If Jeff Sessions had any sense of history, he would not be making such bizarre statements.
Sessions then makes two separate serious charges, neither of which has been proven. The first is that “tradition is not to confirm someone in the last year”. Nobody has been able to prove this as true – simply because it’s not true. But the other charge is to say that Pat Leahy was refusing to move nominees to the Supreme Court, since that’s what’s being discussed here. If Sessions has any actual evidence of Pat Leahy stopping a Supreme Court nominee from even getting a hearing, I’d love to hear it. In fact, there are only two nominees I’ve heard about not even getting a hearing in the past 30 years. One was Douglas Ginsburg, who withdrew his name before any hearing could happen because his past marijuana use was made public. The other was Harriet Miers, who actually did have private meetings with the Senate Committee before she was forced to withdraw her name from consideration due to being unqualified for the position.
Finally, once again Sessions is reaching when he decides he’s the one to tell us what the American people want in this matter. The fact is that the American people re-elected Barack Obama in 2012. They did not do so in the belief that he would only govern for 3 years. They did not do so in the belief that he would spend his final year in office waiting to depart. (Or perhaps the right wing would prefer if he were to just leave right now and let “the American people” decide on their next President in peace and quiet?)
Past Sessions’ falsehoods, there’s another fun idea that’s been floated from the right wing – that somehow President Obama is a “lame duck” and therefore should not be able to nominate anyone. Now, as even Chris Wallace noted a few days ago, President Obama has been a “lame duck” from the moment he was re-elected, since he cannot serve a third term. To paraphrase Wallace, does this mean that President Obama should not have been making any appointments or judicial nominations at all during his second term? That’s an interesting thought. It would mean that no president can do anything in their second term. Like George W. Bush naming both Roberts and Alito. Like Reagan promoting Rehnquist and appointing both Kennedy and, wait for it, Scalia! In other words, using the right wing’s own reasoning, the nomination of Antonin Scalia was inappropriate since it happened during Reagan’s second term…
And he’s willing to shove whatever tradition may exist to support his far-right racist beliefs. (No wonder he liked Scalia. Birds of a feather and all……….)
The same Republicans who repeatedly show up on Fox News to diaper fill mean ol’ partisan Obama refuses to work with them. Including a—hats like Ted Cruz who then openly boasts he won’t work with Democrats. Poor Christie got slaughtered by Republicans for merely shaking Obama’s hand after he got hurricane relief aid. Sheesh!
But left unsaid is what will they do if a Democrat is our next President? Fox News and their GOP buds hate Hillary worse than Obama. Forget Bernie who is so left of Hillary he makes Hillary look like she belongs in the Tea Party. 😉
The issue isn’t timing. It’s the excuse to sell their partisanship. I said it before but I’m not the only one to point out if Obama puts out a qualified moderate then the Republicans are in a quandary gambling if they lose then they’re stuck blocking a real liberal while being under intense pressure to act because they dragged their feet for a year. Good luck with that one, Jeff. 👍
The sad news is Trump probably will beat a crippled Hillary or Socialist Bernie meaning we’ll get a cross between Bork and Hitler. 😜