tv Carl Hulse Confirmation Bias CSPAN August 24, 2019 8:00am-9:01am EDT
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visit booktv.org for the full schedule. now we kick off the weekend with new york times chief washington correspondent carl hulse on filling antonin scalia's supreme court seat. >> good evening, everyone. can everybody hear me okay q it is not on. how about now? that is better. okay. thank you for coming. i am laurie gillman and i'm happy to welcome everyone here tonight. anyone in this crowd here for the first time?
one person? welcome. we are very glad you are here. normally we have half the crowd here for the first time but this is very much a hometown crowd this evening so i hope everybody behaves for you. we are always happy to have all our repeat customers back and some of you we see in here often and i want to say a heartfelt thank you to everybody for supporting the bookstore. before we get started if you logistics. please silence your cell phones. when i forget to say that i always rejected it so please do that. books are for sale upstairs for anyone who missed that. if you haven't purchased the budget and you would like to you will have time after the talk to purchase and come back down for signing.
we will take a couple minutes to set up the table right here and do the signing right here. final important detail, restrooms are upstairs, to the left and passed the registers in the back of the shop. moving on to tonight's event. i think the majority of you know carl so i'm going to stick with a short and sweet bio. carlos chief washington correspondent for the new york times, he also served as washington editor of the times and chief congressional correspondent. he has reported in washington for three decades and is still somewhat sane, right? carl has been a resident of capitol hill for 30 years and devoted to our neighborhood. he asked me to say that. his book "confirmation bias" leads us to the machinations in
the senate that brought us to the present system for judicial confirmation and we have time for audience questions after the talk so take advantage of this opportunity for inside information. please join me in welcoming carl hulse. [applause] >> i have to say this is an odd experience to look out and now almost everybody here quite well. sort of a very hometown crowd so it is great. i'm sure many of you are surprised i have actually the book, lots of familiar faces as i want to note that c-span is recording and will air this show so if you're a fugitive from justice or other problems, stay away from the camera. i am a huge c-span supporter and do a lot with them, they are great. let's talk about the book
called "confirmation bias" and people have asked me about the title. it was proposed by one of my agents, matt latimer, who is a very good writer himself and when we were brainstorming titles we had a bunch of them, some were terrible and we settled on this one. i thought it was perfect for a couple reasons, it is snappy, people look at it, what does that actually mean but it actually sums up what i think is one of the complicated aspects of this whole fight that i talk about in the book, both parties, democrats and republicans feel that they are grieved in these confirmation fights that have been going on since the late 60s. and to some degree they are right, both parties have been treated badly by the other in confirmation processes and in
doing so they have inflicted a lot of damage on each other, the nomination process, the senate and the government of the united states. a big problem going forward. i will talk about that a little later. but what happened here, everyone sees this on capitol hill from their own point of view. everyone thinks they've been taken advantage of, treated badly, what happens? when they get the chance to do this to the other side they do it and that is what has happened here. it has become a corrupt process. what has happened since february 13, 2016, has only heightened that buys the minister and a set of circumstances what i say in the book and i said several times, a snap decision on february 13, 2016, changed the course of history i'm not exaggerating. february 13th was a very eventful day, saturday before valentine's day during a congressional recess.
i was at band practice and that was as we know now that david antonin scalia died or was found dead in his luxury hunting lodge in west texas under kind of strange circumstances. i will say people always ask me about scalia, was he murdered, was there some conspiracy theory related to this and i talk to people at the highest levels of the us government at the time, none of them suspected any foul play, you can find us on the internet but he was an older guy, he liked to smoke and drink and wasn't very healthy, no one suspected any foul play. he is found dead in his room, the presidential suite at this resort and that set off a lot of activity. i was at band practice, we finished, my phone. up.
what happened? mitch mcconnell, the kentucky republican and majority leader of the senate at the time was in the caribbean on what turned out to be his annual beach visit but i was surprised that he had an annual beach visit. i think his wife liked the beach. mitch isn't a guy you see hanging out at the resort and around the pool. but at the beach he was. he got early word as i described in the book the justice had died. normally in these cases with such a big figure on the national stage there is a morning period and everyone wants to talk about justice scalia, and leave the politics out of it but of course people
have worked in congress and know about this, that is on the outside. on the inside everyone is talking about the politics and that is the way it goes and it is like good taste to hold back and not immediately start talking about politics and even the media we do it. i'm sitting at home trying to digest this and it's like can we start talking about filling the vacancy now or do we have to wait a day? as it turns out it was not one of those cases where anyone was willing to wait. you can read little bit about this. mitch is down in the caribbean. as he sat in his hotel room transfixed by reports of scalia's are death of the luxury hunting lodge in texas the collapse first thoughts were of his own dealings with nino scalia beginning with his
days as a lowly staffer in the shadow of 3 impressive officials in the department of justice, the other ones were lauren silverman and robert bork. he says i remembered being intimidated by the intelligence and weight of these guys interacting with each other every morning. mcconnell told me this in an interview about a year and a half ago, he was the first person i interviewed for the book. i knew i had to have mitch mcconnell at story to tell the story correctly. 10 years later mcconnell was in the senate and able to enthusiastically support scalia's nomination to the supreme court by ronald reagan. the two developed a warm personal relationship and dined together occasionally. from a the death of scalia represented a huge loss, quote, the oliver wendell holmes john
marshall class, he said, a big, big deal, this being mitch mcconnell, a political animal through and through he quickly put aside personal emotion so he could pragmatically 0 in on what really mattered, who and what would come next. a second thought was to immediately turn to the politics of the situation, the first and became to my mind was that i knew if the shoe was on the other foot they wouldn't fill this vacancy. i knew it for sure. they, the democrats. mitch is sitting there with his caribbean sweet thinking if this happened, republican president, democratic senate 11 months left in the president's term the democrats would obviously not go along with it. i get asked this question a lot. what do i think the democrats would have done in the same situation? as we know, it came up, schumer had earlier talked, kind of suggested they wouldn't do it which became a big talking point of the republicans during this whole fight and my
experience is the democrats would have totally caved because that's what democrats do. they would not have been able to sustain this blockade, just wouldn't have done it. democrats are pro-government and we will never know what would have happened, maybe i'm wrong about this but barney frank said that putting the republicans in charge of the government is like putting me in charge of the miss america contest. i will do it but i really won't be into it. i don't know what would have happened. mitch mcconnell is thoroughly convinced it would have been the same result. i don't think so but he has set in motion a really extraordinary chain of eventss so a lot going on that night. so much going on. this is why things happen.
i am sitting there right before 6:00, this now famous email from the majority leader's office, antonin scalia died, we need to appreciate his service. we also need to recognize the democrats are not going to be able to focus a seat. so close to the election we need to let the people decide who will fill the supreme court seat. it is february, obama is leaving january 20th the next year. it is not like the moving vans are in the circle of the white house. this night is extraordinary. everything that went on explains how this played out. mcconnell is down there, there is a republican primary debate that night in south carolina and this is a huge thing that drove everyone's decision-making.
as he's weighing his choices on how to do this mcconnell talks to josh holmes, his chief of staff, super sharp political operative runs a private strategy so he is on the phone with mcconnell and says if you are going to do this strategy and totally prevent them from going forward you need to do it really fast because there is a presidential primary debate that night, degrees president, ted cruz a former supreme court court, has a lot of experience in this area and if this becomes ted cruz's idea to block the nominee the republicans are not going to want to do it because nobody wants to do 10 cruz's bidding so that is why mcconnell acted so quickly. he needed to get in front of this so everybody is looking at scalia's death knowing it will be a big thing at this debate
and trying to strategize around it. another person who is strategizing around this is donald trump. don mcgann, a major character in the book, very interesting guy, don mcgann, trump's campaign attorney, had been appointed to the fec, by george w. bush and put on with mitch mcconnell's help because don mcgann i have known a long time. i call him a radical libertarian, don is anti-bureaucratic person and when he got on the fec, became the chairman, he basically shut down the federal election commission and stopped them from doing some of the regulation. to don mcgann that is what he wanted to do and exactly what mitch mcconnell wanted him to do so he is trump's attorney but he knows a lot about the nomination process having been through it himself and he knows
a lot about conservative jurisprudence and he is talking to trump but john is also in a band by the way and a very good one and he had a weekend gig so here's what happened between trump and don mcgann. don mcgann, trump's campaign lawyer was driving to ocean city, maryland, his car packed with band gear for a weekend gig in a group called scott's new band. scott's new band, big beach bar, really good. he glanced at an incoming text from his wife, shannon, scalia died, she wrote, mcgann pulled off the highway into the parking lot of a gas station and convenience store, shocked, shaken and saddened by the news, then, like mcconnell immediate return to the political implications.
mcgann knew that his candidate might be at a disadvantage against senators who had more experience with judicial politics, he was particularly worried about ted cruz who served on the judiciary committee and clerked on the court for chief justice william rehnquist, ted cruz was still hanging on as a rival, a potential alternative to trump and would inevitably try to capitalize on the political implications of scalia's death. began called trump to warn them not to be the first to politicize scalia's passing. what about putting out some names, trump asked, instinctively recognizing that specific prospective nominees might go over well with the conservatives he was courting. mcgann agreed that was a good idea and ran through some possibilities. brett kavanaugh was the first name that came to his mind, promoting the judge recognized in washington as a rising conservative star of the federal bench. he and trump kicked around a few others including appeals
court judges william pryor junior of alabama and diane sykes of wisconsin, two favorites of hard-line conservatives. as they weighed the pros and cons the candidate and his lawyer concluded perhaps it wasn't the best time for trump to embrace brett kavanaugh. washington insider and george w. bush appointee to the court who had also produced chief justice roberts, another w appointed currently in republican disfavor for upholding the new healthcare law. the moderator john dickerson of cbs news opened with a moment of silence for scalia but the silence didn't last long. dickerson asked trump if with 11 months to go and in his hypothetical presidential term he would bow to democratic demands that he not put forward a nominee to the vacancy. if i were president i would certainly want to nominated justice, he acknowledged.
i'm sure that frankly i'm absolutely sure that president obama would try to do it. i hope our senate is going to be able, mitch and the entire group, is going to be able to do something about it and by doing something about it trump meant doing nothing about it. right from the get-go with brett kavanaugh. mcgann when he was sworn in was sworn in in brett kavanaugh's chamber and walking out, he turned to her and said that guy will be on the supreme court sunday but didn't know he would be the guy to put him on the supreme court. this was the beginning of the famous list for trump. the idea of putting forward some names to reassure conservatives. conservatives were worried about trump at this point. he had been a democrat in new york, contributed to planned parenthood, his sister was a federal judge in the new jersey
pennsylvania district and had pulled on abortion rights issues so ted cruz was running around spreading the idea that trump would appoint his sister who is pro-abortion rights or somebody like his sister and using this pretty well, so they are trying to figure out a way to stop it and one way to stop it was to start throwing out names of conservatives. trump because of his sister being there got the federal judiciary and a little more than he got in other parts of the government. he didn't understand it perfectly, talking about bills his sister signed as judge so that didn't happen. the book makes the case that this vacancy, trump's ability to use the list to do some other things was crucial and
instrumental in his election. that's what i mean by making history. i think of this happened happened there is a very good chance trump had not been elected and i will talk more about that and you would have a completely different situation on the supreme court, obama would have gotten his pick, maybe hillary would have won, complete opposite, some other dimensions somewhere this is happening. now the obama administration. here's this vacancy and they've got to figure out a way to get there guy in there and the debate and the news cycle is affecting obama. he is out there playing golf on a holiday weekend. they are getting the news out there and are astonished mcconnell has come out so quickly and said we are not going to let you fill this vacancy. they also had to scramble
around and get him decent clothes because he was playing golf. there is a debate whether they should just issue a statement or he should go on video because this is quickly getting out of control. chuck schumer called dennis mcdonough, the chief of staff of the time, at his kids soccer game, i would ask everybody where they were when they got the news scalia died because everyone was scattered. he was at his kids soccer game and his phone rings and chuck schumer says watch out, the republicans are going to say you can't fill this vacancy, what are you talking about? of course we are going to nominate somebody to fill this vacancy. they were having a hard time accepting how radical the republicans were going to be on this one. important part of the book, a meeting the wednesday after scalia dies at the white house where they brought in some
people with real experience in doing judicial nominations including ron who worked on a lot of nominations and also the guy in charge of the recount for outdoor. really experienced person. they have a meeting, let's go through the motions, we are going to go through the interviews, interview the people, we have done this twice before, we know what we are doing, we have a big book that tells us how to do this and we are going to go by that book and the meeting is ending and he goes to dennis and goes dennis, we have to -- we know president obama is going to nominate merrick garland to the seat. merrick garland has been kept specifically for this situation, has republican support, you need to have the president go out to the rose
garden tomorrow, thursday after scalia died and nominate merrick garland. otherwise we are going to wait a month, it will get away from us and we are going to lose and they decided to go by the book so what happened was one of my -- i like this part is a harry potter fan and we are in a bookstore, have to throw in some literary stuff. merrick garland is a huge fan of the harry potter books. his daughter had some reading issues and they read the books to her and she read back and if you look up merrick garland and harry potter you will see records he uses that his speeches and around the white house he became known a little bit as -- in a positive way, that is how they characterized them to themselves. i've got to keep an eye on the time.
here was this guy, outstanding individual. i don't think anyone would dispute that. had given so much. so they throw him out there because they don't want, there are other younger ones they think they could put forward but are afraid -- this is merrick garland's last chance to be on the supreme court. he is a model for the democrats. many of the democrats, the model for the supreme court but there is pushback because he is older and is sort of moderate. there are people in the party thinking obama should pick a younger, minority, a woman to exercise the base. maybe they are not going to get the person through but that will help dr. democratic voting in november but the obama administration with logic says let's go with merrick garland and what happens is they just
ran into a stone wall, chuck grassley, not getting anywhere. grassley is a big key to this, used to be bipartisan, the republican party in iowa became much more conservative and led by evangelicals, moved away from his bipartisan attitude. he did not want to move ahead with this either and they came up with an opponent for grassley named thad judge. patty judge had been the ag commissioner in iowa, previously elected statewide, in her 70s, kind of old for senate run but still a decade younger than grassley so they got this candidate, every time her name is mentioned people will remember they are blocking a judge, didn't work for them.
one of the big problems was the money wasn't there. they had a big plan i lay out in the book, $36 million they were going to raise into a big campaign, the money just was not there and the reason it wasn't there was because most democrats assumed hillary was going to win. either she will get to appoint somebody or they will go with garland. there was a lot of press events and things on the hill but it ran out of steam. they go to the convention in philadelphia, the republicans have made a thing of the supreme court at their convention. merrick garland's name was not mentioned one time. it was a conscious decision. they didn't want to politicize, they are playing by the rules, nothing so there is a meeting at the white house, they come
back and valerie jarrett gets the interest people from the judiciary and progressives, how are we going to solve merrick garland, what are you doing to get merrick garland through? and the head of one of the boldest democratic leaders in this area says what are we going to do? you just had a convention and didn't mention his name once and now we have to do that? it was interesting how the republicans approached this, i interviewed grassley and orrin hatch and they didn't think it was that big a deal because they thought trump is going to lose, clinton is going to win, this is just a postponement, the democrats will get who they want and it will all be forgotten. everybody including trump thought he was going to lose. mcconnell's people and ryan's people assume trump was going to lose and that they were going to lose the senate for sure.
it just didn't happen. mitch mcconnell follows the election at the senatorial committee, the reagan building, reagan headquarters and as the night goes on it becomes clearer and clearer trump might actually win. since c-span is your i will not do my mitch mcconnell limitation but basically -- all right. i will do it. basically he turned to somebody at some point and said are we going to make america great again tonight? and they did from his perspective. lots of history, how it all happened, from the 60s to me, nixon, member of congress, maybe in that round of nixon,
nixon lost back to back nomination, a lot of hostility for that. a new staffer on the judiciary committee, he participates in huge nomination fight in the 60s. .. >> particularly patronage. these were jobs and positions that were really prominent, and senators would use to reward their, you know, lawyer buddies back in the states. they had a lot of control over this. carter tried to reform it. reagan comes in and really starts pushing conservative judges on abortion and school prayer. he does put on sandra day o'connor, first woman. is so it just becomes more and more intense. the parties start to clash more
intensely over these judges. bork, of course, clarence thomas. clarence thomas got married that weekend here in washington, so we have a special affinity for that, because the wedding was over by the senate building, and everyone at that wedding totally remembers being here for the clarence thomas hearing all that weekend. so, but i focus a lot in the book on the post-w. election nomination fights. and you have to remember how w. got elected, by the supreme court, by the way, in what was considered a super partisan decision. is -- and the democrats on the hill consider him illegitimate. they don't think he should have an easy time getting his nominations through, and they start putting up a fight. but weirdly enough, james
jeffers gives the democrats control of the senate. chuck schumer at this time really interjects himself into nomination fights, and he wants to allow members to openly talk about ideology in moving ahead with nominations. because at this point, you know, everybody tries to keep that out of the picture. you're only supposed to be talking about judicial qualifications. obviously, it's all about ideology, and it's kind of hidden. so hen wants it to be more -- so he wants it to be more open, and republicans don't like that. these fights get more intense. and i actually have a whole chapter on gil estrada who was a prominent hispanic, conservative lawyer who became the first appeals court nominee to ever be defeated by filibuster. long, drawn-out fight. the democrats opposed him, tom daschle, harry reid. and if you talk to democrats now, they would say they wish they hadn't done that. miguel estrada, they would much
rather have him on the supreme court right now than some of the other people who are there. so that was probably a mistake by them, and they admitted it. this extremely intense partisan warfare over the judicial nominations, bill frist becomes majority leader, we remember what happened to trent lott. so the democrats are really challenging them x. frist and the republicans are getting so furious that they are threatening to detonate the nuclear option and change the rules of the senate. and it seems so extreme that a group of senators got together now known as the gang of 14 led by mccain, susan collins, ben nelson who is the democratic leader in my book -- and i have some funny stuff from ben -- and they get a together and cut a deal to let some of these judges through and sort of take the pressure off, the gang of 14. it's a defeat for bush and the -- and frist who later leaves the senate.
because it took a lot of the power away from the majority. they made this deal. some of them got through, some of them didn't. the agreement really didn't last. but, so they make this deal. things calmed down for a while, but this is one of my favorite parts of the book. so i'm there that night, it's -- i can't remember if it's a monday or tuesday, and everybody's all stirred up. it's one of these big moments in the senate, and everybody's giving these speeches. john warner was a big part of the gang of 14. i'm sure or many people here know john casher, central casting senator. super dignified but really a guy who loved the institution. i'm going to read a little bit of my john warner story. outside the senate chamber in the narrow marble hallway, warner -- the distinguished virginia virginian -- eloquently held forth on the rights of the
majority, the constitution and the need to preserve the traditions of such a glorious institution. it was a bravara performance. quite a speech, senator, i told warner. you ought to write a book. a book, said warner, a famous playboy of the senate who had once been married to the movie star the elizabeth taylor. if i wrote a book, he mused, all anyone would want to know is how liz was in bed. [laughter] we all laughed uproariously. well, i said, maybe that could be a chapter. oh, no, said warner, his eyes lighting up as the elevators closed, it would be with more than a chapter. [laughter] great story by a guy who was a very good senator. so all these machinations really set the stage for the garland fight that was to come.
and it really started again, and one more little piece here. in 2013 harry reid, very frustrated that the republicans are holding up obama nominees to the d.c. circuit court, very important court. we all, you know, they make a lot of decisions that affect us directly, actually, because of government policy. so he decides to, he's going to change the rules to get these obama nominees in. and he does. and there's a big moment in november 2013. harry reid finally detonates the nuclear option that everyone's been talking about for years. senate rules have changed. he gets a bunch of obama judges through, but they didn't do one thing they probably should have done at that point, it still allowed republicans to block a lot of judges.
so, you know, republicans are furious over what happened. first chance they got, they got their revenge. mitch mcconnell has changed the rules twice since then; one to eliminate the filibuster against supreme court nominees to get gorsuch in, and then recently to limit postcloture time. senate term. it's only two hours. and it's really allowed them to speed up their pushing through of federal judges. they've got more than 125 through. they're going to fill every vacancy they can just in case a democrat were to win the white house. and the results are showing. the last few days, there was a big argument this week in louisiana on the affordable care act. the trump-nominated and confirmed judge was extremely hostile to the aca. and then i think a ruling came out today in the district, fifth
district court here against the emoluments case that maryland and the district of columbia has brought against the trump administration with one of the new trump judges joining in the majority on that. so this is, these things are real, and it's going to have an effect for a very long time. and i can talk a lot more about implications of this in the future, but i've been telling people, i said, you know, you or your kids in 20 or 30 years, you're going to see some decision come down, and you're going to go how did that, how did that come down? and you'll go, oh, that was a trump-appointed judge. it's pretty -- i hate to be pessimistic. things are very bad. [laughter] on capitol hill in terms of how, how this is all going to may out. i mean, super hostility, now if you're in one party, you vote against the nominees of the president's party. you see this with the democratic
presidential candidates, they oppose every nominee. if it's turned around, say there's a democratic president and a republican senate. that's actually not an unlikely scenario with at all. how do you get any nominees through? the republicans are just going to be -- they're going to say, well, the democrats opposed all our nominees for trump, we're going to do the same, and we'll probably do it a little more. because that's what happens, they all do it a little more. not seeing a real way out of this right now. you'll see in the presidential campaign a lot more discussion than democrats have normally talked about the courts, because they realize republicans have been much better at using the court as a voting weapon. the democrats have a new group, demand justice, that is trying to hold democrats more accountable on this. there's a new republican group that sprang up called the article iii project, so it's a mess. and, hopefully, there'll be some solution. but i think it's going to take a
while, and i think it's going to have to be some kind of structural change. democrats -- everybody except biden right now is sort of arguing for some changes in the court, maybe expanding it, making it more like an appeals court. biden said he would nominate merrick garland if he got the chance which, to me, merrick garland is a great choice, but with he would be 68. all the trump judges that he's putting in are younger and more conservative than the people they are replacing, even the republican-nominated judges. so, you know, somebody said maybe we need another constitutional convention. got to have some big changes, but it's going to be difficult. it's a big election coming up. so anyway, i'll take questions and happy to talk about any of this or news of the day. [applause]
i know it's paining some of you to have to clap for me. [laughter] go ahead. >> when you look at the census issue -- >> yeah. >> -- the possibility of trump doing -- do you think it's the actually conceivable that, basically, trump -- [inaudible] or another issue to supreme court, and what could the supreme court do if, basically, the president of the united states says i'm going to do this, and i don't care what with you say? >> i actually predict in my book with -- [inaudible conversations] >> so he's asking what are the prospects for trump actually defying the supreme court on the census question if he doesn't get his way, and what would the court be able to do about this, and i'm so glad he asked it, because i have a whole bunch in my book about this subject. and it's a real dilemma. because i said in the book once the legitimacy of the courts get
threatened by once people see them as subjective operators, there could be a moment then when people start to say the, the other branches of the government say, well, we're just going to ignore the court. i thought that was done the line -- down the line, but we're looking at a possible -- the justice department attorneys had given up on the census. they weren't going to do this. and trump gets calls from his conservative friends, you can't give up on this, and he says we're not giving up, that's fake news. this, evidently, really disturbed the people in the justice department who had announced they were giving up and they didn't like being characterized as fake news. they've been blocked from doing that by a judge. but i think it's, i've had this argument with people, he could maybe try to do this by executive order. he could end up doing something that the court has ordered him
not to do, and i think then you're in, like, the definition of a constitutional crisis. that's the definition of a constitutional crisis. and the, so what does the court do? the i say in my book the court doesn't have an army or anything. they rely on their own credibility and authority for the other people in the government, in the executive and congressional branches to enact and conform with their opinion. so what happens when that stops? and i've asked some people, what does john roberts do about this? and, you know, roberts is a very political chief justice. we can -- in trying to make the court seem less political, he's making himself seem way more political s. so i don't know how they would respond to this. but, you know, did that actually -- if they were to do that, i've been assured by some people that the administration would never do that. we've said that a lot. [laughter] about things. so would that increase pressure
on nancy pelosi to move towards impeachment if you have the president of the united states defying the supreme court? maybe it won't even happen, but this is -- we're in really tricky territory here. and all the norms are out the window. so what we think is normal and what we think people are going to do, you can't count on that anymore. so i think it's a huge and big issue that we're watching really closely at the times, that's for sure. john. >> carl, is there anything that president obama could have legally done to play harder ball with mcconnell to get his nominees through? i mean, what would president mcconnell have done with a speaker obama to get that -- [laughter] >> i think, you know, it's funny that joe biden the other day said we should have -- the democrats, the democrats should have been more aggressive in pushing garland. he left out the fact that he was the vice president.
at that time. [laughter] and he would have also provided the -- not critical of joe biden. i mean, i know him, but also that he's provided the republicans with their main talking point by giving a speech, really long speech by the way, in 1992 urging clinton -- no. saying that the democrats, that was in election time, that george h.w. bush shouldn't move ahead with a nominee this close to the election. but it was much closer to the election. i think it was june. it certainly wasn't february. but so that's the question. so even joe biden now says, well, we should have done more. what should they have done. and obama, in the book, he was really kind of the most pessimistic about this, because he'd been dealing with mcconnell now for six years -- no, seven years. and, you know, gotten totally blocked by mcconnell, certainly when they had taken the majority back. and so he wasn't that optimistic about it himself, that's why
they didn't want to go with a younger person with more future, because they didn't want to see their reputation destroyed. however, i thought ron klain had a decent idea, they should have moved faster. but at this point i think it would have taken millions of people surrounding the capitol almost to get mcconnell to move. he just wasn't going to do it. the guy is cyber stubborn and very -- super stubborn and very disciplined. i've watched him for decades now, and he's one of the few people in a press conference, you just can't budge him. he just is disciplined. he wasn't going to do it. now, did he think all these events were going to happen? he was, in some ways, protecting himself because he was in trouble, conservatives were suspicious of mcconnell over the years. they think he's somebody who's a little too willing to cut a deal at a certain point, so he wanted to do this to show those conservatives that he was willing to go to the wall for them. and if something happened and hillary won, well, then he could say he did it, i did all i
could. but he -- they never thought it was going to work out in the way. but look at what's happened. trump's elected -- the supreme court would have been totally flipped the other way. if garland would have been on the bench, you could almost bet that theirly handerring decision of a -- that theirly handerring decision of a few weeks ago would have been 5-4 the other way x. mcconnell and the other republicans say interesting points about garland are. yeah, he looks moderate, his opinions are usually pro-government, so he would have been just as much of a threat to them as some super liberal justice. the opinions kind of would have gone the same way. i don't know if that's true, but the -- and the people around trump and don mcgahn, don don mcgahn's determined to tear down the bureaucracy is. that's what don mcgahn's about. and they didn't want anyone like
garland in there, because garland's a protector of the bureaucracy. that's what they call this, inside the project, you know? it was always going the to be gorsuch followed by kavanaugh. so gorsuch, i told the story earlier. the day gorsuch's hearing is in the hart building, the first day, some of you may remember his mother was the head of the epa who got involved in a scandal, forced out of a job, her life disintegrated after that. and gorsuch was at the same school as kavanaugh. and i'm sure for a kid in high school, this was a really disorienting thing. in the book i even talk about he went to his mother and said how can you quit, you know? you're being forced out. why would you quit? you told me not to be a quitter. so the day the hearings started, in the hearing room i was in the back with the white house guys who were shepherding him through, and i said, hey, i've
got a theory about gorsuch. he's still really mad about what happened to his mother, and he wants to destroy washington, and they said that's our theory too. [laughter] true story. woody. >> [inaudible] supreme court justice has been impeached, is there a likely possibility ever that impeachment of a supreme court justice could happen after the election? >> well, i mean, there are people, democrats, who say of course they would like to impeach both gorsuch and kavanaugh because they're illegitimate, and i think kavanaugh gets more attention in that area. you know, i don't see it. the process is the process. they went through the process. you might not be happy about the way it worked or the way the republicans handled it or the outcome, but it would also require a republican senate and a 67-vote majority to impeach someone. i don't with see any of those numbers in the future.
but you do hear people talk about it. and i say in the book that both of those guys are going to have an it's risk, sort of a roger maris asterisk after their names because of the way they got in. people really, the democrats really think the way they got -- certainly the scalia/garland seat was stolen from them, and these things linger for years, right? if you say something to republicans about the way they've handled this, they go, well, what about bork, right? and then if you say to the democrats, what about garland, right? these things, they just last forever, these kind of feuds. and i actually wasn't here the day of the actual vote on the last rules change which was on just the cutting of the debate to two hours, but i watched it later. and mitch mcconnell's there with schumer, and he goes you started this, you started this, you know? and that's the way -- that's what's going on in the senate right now which is also not
doing anything else. there's no votes, there's nothing happening. the institution is almost becoming irrelevant except for nominations. >> carl, what's -- [inaudible] >> so the blue slip, i love the blue slip. people don't get it. so this was a super old tradition in the senate which, like the fill thely buster -- filibuster, was really used for bad with purposes. it was used by dixiecrats to hold up civil rights legislation. at the time james eastland, who no one's talked about for years until joe biden brings him up as his ally back in the day. of all the people you want to talk about. so james eastman becomes chairman of the judiciary committee and really ennowses this practice -- enforces this practice where he's not going to move any jobs unless the senators from the home states sign off on this blue slip of paper. and that lets the dixiecrats -- they want to control,
definitely, who's in the federal judiciary in their states now, because that's who's opposing all these new rules. there's flexibility. and joe bide within again -- joe biden, he ignores blue slips from democratic senators, not republican senators. so it stays in, and this allows the republicans that even when harry reid got rid of the filibuster on nominations to block a bunch of judges. and there's a thing where trump talks about disingenuously about this all the time, oh, obama left us this gift, 100 judges. why didn't he fill them, was he lazy? well, of course, they didn't fill them because the republicans blocked them with blue slips. so once they got in, i actually asked mitch mcconnell for a podcast, what about the blue slip? oh, that's grassley, chairman. but my personal opinion, we need to get rid of the blue slip for appeals court judges. so on appeals court judge us, there's no longer blue slips.
they rolled democrats in california, essentially on the ninth circuit, because, i mean, trump's trying to remake that. there's really no break on either party. you can get anybody through, and you see it. every day they're doing nominees and democrats are screaming. we just approved someone who will say that brown v. board of education was decided correctly. that's kind of the way it is. >> [inaudible] >> okay, one more. come on. >> in the unlikely event that a democrat wins the presidency and republicans hold the senate, and let's say clarence thomas leaves the court for some reason, are they going to -- >> yeah. so mcconnell was actually asked this very question. now, there was more attention focused on mcconnell saying he would consider a judge in 2020
despite saying previously e let the people decide. so but this is a whole separate issue, and he was asked and kind of an interesting answer. okay, there's a democratic president, republican senate, can any supreme court nominee get through? and he said, well, you know, if it was early in the first year, it'd be politically unsustainable to not have a hearing and a vote on someone. you'd have to have a hearing and a vote. but that doesn't mean they'd be confirmed. so, and that was his quote. so you'd have the, you'd have the idea that there'd be a hearing, but they could easily vote that person down. actually, mcconnell -- and he talked about how there probably wouldn't be any vacancies certainly right now on the liberal side, i just liked his phrasing here, he said without a significant life-ending event. [laughter] if oh, you mean somebody died? i don't know any inch significant life-ending --
insignificant life-ending events. [laughter] you know, this is going to go on for a long time, and it's a big problem. and there are people up there that know it, but there's very little they can do about it. >> [inaudible] >> well, he's got this opponent now, she's going to have a gazillion dollars, because mitch mcconnell is now nancy pelosi, right? nancy pelosi on the right. so their going to make him a -- they're going to make him a big target. but to be running in kentucky on the same ticket with trump, trump's going to win kentucky by, you know, 30 points or something. mitch mcconnell, you might not like him -- and i'm sure some of you don't -- but he knows how to win. that's what this guy has been doing for all the time he's here. he knows how to win because he is willing to do what it takes to win, and he doesn't care what any of us or you think about him. thanks, guys. buy the book. ms. .
[applause] >> so if i could have everybody fold up your chairs and stack them up -- >> we're like daycare. [laughter] >> yes. and we'll get the signing set up right here in just a minute. finish. >> here's a look at some authors who have appeared recently on booktv's "after words," our weekly author interview program that includes best selling nonfiction books and guest interviewers. last week journalist natalie wexler offered her thoughts on how the u.s. he's system can be -- can education system can be improved by expanding the curriculum of elementary school students in history, science and the arts. coming up, ben howell will ask whether evangelicals are -- and this weekend on "after words" media research center founder and president brent bozell argues the media is biased against president trump. >> isn't it a fascinating thing how the media are constantly
savaging the president and the language he uses? while calling him a nazi, a fascist, every kind of despicable name you could hurl at the president of the united states. this is, again, this is one of the things that, findings of the book that all modicum of decency has been cast aside. not to donald trump to his opponent, but from his opponents to him. they are attempting to do far worse than what they accuse him of doing to them. they have no right, none. you have a right, i have a right, these books have a right to pass judgment on donald trump's language. the press doesn't. >> "after words" airs saturdays at 10 p.m. and sundays at 9 p.m.
eastern and pacific on booktv on c-span2. all previous "after words" are available as podcasts and to watch online at booktv.org. >> booktv recently visited the richard nixon presidential library in yorba linda, california, where republican senator tom cotton of arkansas described his time in the old guard which provides funeral services at arlington national cemetery. >> all those missions take a backseat to funerals. ceremonies can be pushed later in the day, they can be rescheduled, missions can be declined in the capital region if that's what it takes to make sure that if a family has a funeral scheduled, that the old guard is there on time and performing to perfection. imagine, if you will, you're in the cemetery on the morning of 9/11. it was a beautiful fall day. the sky was blue, and at 9:00
funerals began, probably four, five, six funerals were being conducted at nine a.m. that morning. and at i 9:37 a plane flew not from north to south or south to north, but from west to east and slammed into the western base of the pentagon, american airlines flight 77. and that pentagon is maybe 100 yards, 200 yards from the southeastern corner of arlington national cemetery. imagine what it would have been like to performing one of those funerals or laying to rest your father or grandfather and to hear that exemotion and to see that smoke -- explosion and to see that smoke cloud rising in the air, but the soldiers continued their mission until those funerals were over x. then they started the 10:00 mission and the 11:00 mission. the rest of the old guard soldiers dropped everything though, and they changed out of their ceremonial blue uniforms and put on their combat
fatigues. >> senator tom cotton's latest book is called "sacred duty." to watch the rest of this talk watch booktv.org and search for his name in the search box at the top of the page. >> so now on to the main event. we're very lucky to have a guest with us this morning, lyz lenz, the writer currently contributing to columbia journalism review. her writing has appeared all over the place, and her essay all the angry women appeared in -- [inaudible] not that bad. she also has a second book called "belabored" which is coming out in 2020. in god land, lyz lenz asks the question what is happening to faith in america. at a time when more than 70% of americans consider themselves christians, yet many religious leaders are decrying a loss of faith, the relationships and