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Friday, February 10, 2017

What is this kabuki dance you speak of?

by digby

And I'm not talking about Trump's meeting with the Japanese Jrime Minister today ...

I was rolling my eyes the other day about this Gorsuch flap because it was so obvious that they were trying to give some red state Democrats room to vote for him or at least help block a filibuster. I noted that Mitch McConnell knows very well how to get a right wing judge confirmed. They are all very good at this kabuki dance.

Here's the New York Times explaining it:

Veterans of the Supreme Court confirmation process note that the ritual of private meetings with senators is almost completely staged for minimum controversy and maximum impact, with questions discussed in advance, answers honed and rehearsed, and no remark made unless it is intended to withstand public scrutiny.

“You don’t want any surprises, so there’s nothing that you don’t prepare for going into a meeting,” said Stephanie Cutter, a top Obama administration official who shepherded the nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “They knew this question would be coming, and they would have practiced an answer, and this was what he planned to say.”

Ms. Cutter recalled preparing Justice Sotomayor for a meeting with Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in which she worked to explain her remarks that that a “wise Latina woman” could reach a “better” decision than a white man. Mr. Leahy left the meeting and promptly repeated the explanation to the assembled reporters, an effort to dispense with the issue before she came before the Senate for confirmation hearings.

“This might have been an attempt to make him look more independent,” Ms. Cutter said of Judge Gorsuch. “He could have created a story line about standing up to Trump.”

Of course it was. The problem is that Trump won't have anyone, not even a winking and nodding Supreme Court nominee, publicly express the intention to stand up to him. He just can't do it. So, it didn't go down as planned:
White House officials insisted on Thursday that Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, was not referring to Mr. Trump’s recent denigration of judges when he said privately that he was disheartened by attacks on the courts.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that the nominee’s remarks had been misrepresented, a sentiment echoed by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, during a contentious briefing. A day before, members of the White House team guiding Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation verified that the judge had expressed his dismay in response to questions about Mr. Trump’s insults of judges.

The administration’s abrupt shift highlighted the degree to which Judge Gorsuch’s nomination — a top priority for the president and his core supporters — has become mired in a broader debate over Mr. Trump’s attitude about the constitutional principle of judicial independence.

The president’s feud with the judiciary — he referred to the district court judge who blocked his targeted travel ban as a “so-called judge” and called an appeals court hearing “a disgrace” — is dominating the Senate’s consideration of Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. Senators from both parties are demanding that the judge answer for the president who named him.

Mr. Spicer said that when Judge Gorsuch told senators that he considered such criticism “demoralizing” and “disheartening,” he was referring broadly to any such attacks on the judiciary.

“The judge was very clear that he was not commenting on any specific matter, and that he was asked about his general philosophy,” Mr. Spicer told reporters during a series of testy exchanges. “So you can’t then take that and equate it back to the specific. He literally went out of his way to say I’m not commenting on a specific instance.”

Here's how the Democrats responded:

“We take Sean Spicer at his word that Judge Gorsuch did not mean to distance himself from Donald Trump’s attacks on the judicial branch,” Zac Petkanas, a senior adviser for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. Mr. Petkanas called it proof that the nominee “will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for this out-of-control Trump presidency.”

They literally cannot do anything right.