Halfway into the radio segment that turned into this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (click here to tune that in), host Todd Wilken asked a totally logical question.
Oh, by the way, this was recorded while Brett Kavanaugh was still offering testimony. I was following the story online, while avoiding the emotion-drenched reality show airing on cable-TV news.
Backing away from the current headlines, Wilken noted that, these days, it seems like EVERYTHING in American politics — good or bad, sane or insane — is linked to Donald Trump. Is it possible that the take-no-prisoners war over the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh is just another one of those stories?
My answer was linked to piece of aggregated news that just ran at The Week: “George W. Bush is reportedly working the phones for Kavanaugh.” Here’s the overture:
President Trump isn't the only one standing by his man.
With Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination coming down to the wire, The Washington Post reports former President George W. Bush in recent days has been calling key senators to whip up support. …
Although The Washington Post's report doesn't clarify whether Bush made any calls after Thursday's hearing, the former president's chief of staff confirmed to Politico after the testimony that he still supports Kavanaugh, who worked in the Bush White House as staff secretary and assisted in the 2000 Florida recount.
In the Senate, Kavanaugh needs 50 votes to be confirmed, and with 51 Republican lawmakers, only two would need to break from the ranks for the nomination to go up in flames. Some of the key votes include Republican senators who aren't necessarily the biggest Trump fans, which is where the 43rd president comes in. And Bush isn't the only one working the phones, as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that she has received calls from both the former president and the former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.
What does this have to do with a discussion of media coverage of religion angles in this agonizing story (click here for my first post on this topic)?
Well, note this throwaway line in the block of material: “Some of the key votes include Republican senators who aren't necessarily the biggest Trump fans, which is where the 43rd president comes in.”
That’s stating it mildly.
You see, to be blunt, Kavanaugh is one of the last Republicans that political experts would have linked with Trump. To put it in Hillary Clinton terms, Kavanaugh is not the kind of guy who would automatically be tossed into the Democratic Party’s “basket of deplorables.” Trump guys don’t get waves of compliments (before the hearings) from some folks in the liberal legal establishments, people who had actually worked with him.
Let me be candid. Going into the nomination process, I thought — as a life-long Democrat turned third-party guy — that Kavanaugh was simply too rich, too Beltway, too country club, too prep, too ESTABLISHMENT. I was rather amused that his Catholic parish was quite popular with progressives and Catholic Democrats whose views would not, well, worry Planned Parenthood.
Thus, I told Wilken the following (my apologies for the awkward sentence structures common in normal speech):
If the president of the United States, right now, was Marco Rubio or anybody else from that long line of people who sought the presidency in the last election … had nominated someone to fill the chair of Justice Kennedy, in which there was any chance whatsoever that this person was a legal and cultural conservative, exactly the same thing would be happening to that man.
If I could seen ahead a few hours, I would have said President Jeb Bush. But you get the point.
Oh yeah, and also:
… If it was a woman, most of the women being considered were all quite religious, we would then be seeing a louder, fiercer version of the religious test hearings that greeted Amy Coney Barrett just a couple a months ago, or a year ago.
In other words, if Trump had nominated someone to fire up his base, it’s highly likely that all of the screaming we heard in the past week or two would have been about religious issues — almost certainly linked to abortion, LGBTQ rights and the Sexual Revolution.
We may end up there anyway. As Ross Douthat put it:
In other words, the GOP establishment that lives in country-club-prep land really doesn’t want to have to defend a “deplorable,” someone who hails from “flyover country” between New York City/Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles/Silicon Valley.
I mean, what if the nominee was a Catholic who didn’t attend a Beltway parish full of Democrats? What if the nominee was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? What if she/he was an African-American or Latino Pentecostal?
Imagine the debates, Twitter, the headlines, the late-night comedy routines.
Enjoy the podcast, if that’s possible these days.
MAIN IMAGE: White House photo.