Hemmingway heartens at 25th annual dinner (Whipple)

A coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding, the Caucus scheduled its annual dinner (no. 25) at the usual time (a Sunday afternoon) in October. The event took place in the Harry Savoy ballroom, with all health-related requirements (e.g., crowd dispersion and mask-wearing) observed. What fun to get out for an in-person social event for a change, and no ill effects were reported afterwards.

Our guest speaker was Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at the Federalist and Fox News contributor. She was the latest in a series of distinguished speakers that had included the late Justice Antonin Scalia (2013), UK leader Nigel Farage (2017), and investigative reporter James O’Keefe (2019).

Ms. Hemingway began by reprising a book (
Justice on Trial) that she co-authored with Carrie Severino (chief counsel and director of the Judicial Crisis Network) on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice. Kavanaugh was nominated on July 9, 2018 and confirmed by the Senate on October 6, 2018.

After a thorough review of his record and exhaustive Senate committee hearing, Judge Kavanaugh was ambushed by previously undisclosed sexual assault claims dating back to his high school and college years. None of the accusers provided a clear statement of the particulars (when, where, who else was there, etc.), yet Kavanaugh was seemingly expected to disprove their claims versus the other way around.

Shades of how the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas had nearly been derailed by Anita Hill’s sexual assault claims in 1991, an experience that had caused the normally reserved Thomas to characterize the ensuing proceedings as “a high tech lynching for uppity blacks.”

Hemingway was eager to get an account of what had happened on the record while the details were still fresh in everyone’s minds. She and Severino worked tirelessly on this project, between them interviewing over 100 people (including President Trump) who had been involved with the Kavanaugh confirmation process in either a professional or personal capacity.

Justice on Trial was the first major book on the subject; it was published on July 9, 2019, one year after Kavanaugh’s nomination. The speaker referenced turning points in the battle, which may show that things tend to work out OK in public debates even if the rhetoric gets heated at times.

1. The GOP senators involved in the hearing (all men) wisely lined up Rachel Mitchell (a sex crime prosecutor) to question the first (and most credible) of the complaining witnesses, Christine Blasey Ford, rather than attempting to handle this matter themselves. Mitchell’s approach of drawing the witness out and getting her committed to a specific version of events proved quite effective, whereas an aggressive cross-examination (a likely tack for Sen. Lindsey Graham and others) might have fueled sympathy for the “victim.”

2. Kudos to Sen. Susan Collins (not a member of the Judiciary Committee) for refusing to support the nomination based simply on party loyalty. Collins takes her Senate responsibilities very seriously, and she even arranged for an independent review of Kavanaugh’s extensive record of judicial decisions. At the same time, she fended off numerous liberal constituents who were attempting to pressure her into voting “no.”

3. Then there was Leland Keyser, a high school friend that Ford had apparently envisioned as a corroborating witness. Keyser was a registered Democrat and not disposed to support Kavanaugh’s nomination. Contacted by a reporter, she initially said she believed Ford but then backed off. Bottom line, even though Keyser didn’t want to be painted as having refuted Ford, she didn’t recall ever meeting Kavanaugh, let alone being present when the alleged events took place, and wasn’t going to say otherwise.

An obvious question after publication of
Justice on Trial was how the next Supreme Court vacancy would be filled. Exactly this situation had arisen by the time of Hemingway’s talk, with Senate review in process for the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett (staunch conservative) to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (uber liberal).

However the Barrett confirmation turned out, Hemingway predicted, Democrats would seek to avenge the appointment of three conservative Supreme Court justices in a row by “packing the court” at their earliest opportunity.

At this point Mark Hemingway (also a conservative journalist) joined his wife at the lectern. A free flowing Q & A session ensued, including the following:

Q. Was the Department of Justice going to prosecute anyone on the left, or were they only interested in going after conservatives? The word was that the Durham report and/or any related indictments wouldn’t come out before the election. Don’t expect accountability for the phony Russian collusion investigation, FISA warrant abuses, etc. unless President Trump is reelected.

Q. Why did Sen. Mazie Hirono ask Amy Barrett about sexual harassment? There was no basis whatsoever for this line of inquiry. Probably Hirono hadn’t done her homework in preparing for the hearing, but in any case Amy kept her cool and answered the rote questions.

Q. What kind of follow-up has there been on the Hunter Biden laptop, which was left in a Delaware computer repair shop? The FBI held the laptop for nearly a year, apparently doing nothing with it. FBI Director Christopher Wray is operating in a defensive crouch and just wants to protect the FBI. Rudy’s team should have notified the White House.

Q. Are Biden family corruption charges being covered objectively? No. Thus, the mainstream press readily accepted Joe Biden’s denial of a $3.5 million wire transfer to Hunter Biden from the widow of a former mayor of Moscow. No one asked whether the transfer had taken place (as stated in a recent Senate report) or what it was for.

Q. What gives with Nancy Pelosi? She has gotten used to operating in a media bubble and seems to be losing touch with what’s happening. Notice that her most touted achievement of late, impeaching the president, wasn’t so much as mentioned at the Democrat convention.

Q. What do you think about Donald Trump? He’s a nice, enjoyable and hilarious person, who grows on you. Only Nixon could go to China, it’s been said, and only Trump can challenge the conventional wisdom as he has done in so many ways.

Q. Conservative Delawareans have been stifled for decades. How can we change this? Don’t settle for being on the defensive, learn to push back. The other side won’t pay attention unless they feel some pressure.
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