The hypocrisy of Democrats, and their media allies, is on prominent display in their handling of a sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden versus their treatment of Brett Kavanaugh. Another example of the hypocrisy relates to the demand, or lack thereof, for documents related to the official government work of the two men.
Until they switched at the last minute to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation, Democrats’ main message and procedural complaint against Kavanaugh was that they needed to review millions of public records from his time of service in the executive branch. It was the basis for their theatrics in the first round of nomination hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee. At issue was whether these documents were covered by executive privilege, and what kind of precedent it would create to be exchanging these documents between the branches of government. It wasn’t a new argument, but one that rears its head in confirmation battles.
For example, Cory Booker stunned the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 6, 2018, by announcing even before questioning began that he would violate Senate rules by releasing emails that had been marked “committee confidential.” His “Spartacus” moment, as he called it, followed months of battles over how many of documents related to Kavanaugh’s work for the president had to be turned over to the committee.
Committees usually seek paperwork when they’re trying to learn more about nominees whose judicial views are unclear. That wasn’t the case with Kavanaugh, who had spent 12 years as a prominent federal judge, with 307 opinions of his to peruse. If senators were curious about Kavanaugh’s judicial opinions, they could simply read them. By contrast, when Elena Kagan was nominated to the Court by Barack Obama, she had no opinions to her name and limited writings because she had never served as a judge. Her paperwork during her time in the executive branch was of relatively more importance.
Paperwork from early in Kavanaugh’s career as a government lawyer and presidential aide said less about how he’d be as a judge than the 12 years he spent as a federal judge. Beyond that, Kavanaugh had more papers in the government record than other nominees. He’d served on Ken Starr’s Whitewater investigation, in the White House counsel’s office, and as staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House. Technically staff secretaries have millions of papers come across their desk, even if they have nothing to do with the authorship of those papers. Nonetheless, Charles Grassley set about obtaining those papers because Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said they needed to review them.
All papers had to go through multiple presidential reviews on account of how they affected multiple presidencies. The Whitewater papers, having previously been combed over, were easiest to produce and showed Kavanaugh in a favorable light. He had argued against releasing personally embarrassing details about President William Jefferson Clinton’s sexual misconduct, for example.
Grassley hired an “e-discovery” firm, marking the first time such techniques would be used in a Supreme Court confirmation process. He put together a team of dozens of staffers to go through the documents, working out of a windowless, rat-infested, cinder-block suite in the basement of the Senate’s Dirksen Office Building. Democrats still claimed it wasn’t enough.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on July 31, joined by Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein and assorted leaders of left-wing activist groups. He posed with a small pile of empty boxes labeled “missing records” and said he wanted to see them filled with Kavanaugh’s papers from his time as White House staff secretary.
“I want to make clear, for just a sec, how aggressive the obstruction is,” Schumer said.
A few days later, Republicans posed with 167 boxes representing the hundreds of thousands of pages that were being made available to the committee in easy-to-search digital form.
“If you were to stack up all these pages, it would be taller than the Big Ben, taller than the Statue of Liberty, taller than the Capitol dome, and taller than the Taj Mahal,” noted Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. “I think it’s more than enough for the Democrats to make a rational decision about supporting Judge Kavanaugh.”
When the hearings finally began on September 4, Chairman Grassley barely began speaking before Sen. Kamala Harris of California interrupted him to complain there hadn’t been enough time to review a tranche of 42,000 Kavanaugh documents that had recently been released. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawai interrupted next to ask that the hearing be postponed so that she could review the documents. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called the hearing a charade and mockery. And Booker began complaining about the documents as Grassley calmly told him he was out of order. “What is the rush? What are we trying to hide?” Booker asked.
NBC News had previously reported that Schumer had orchestrated the Democratic protests over paperwork and Sen. Christopher Coons of Delaware told media outlets “It was important that we lay down a marker that this hearing is not a normal hearing.”
Booker performed his “Spartacus moment” a couple of days later, tweeting out links to documents that had been marked “committee confidential,” meaning they could be reviewed by the committee but not released publicly, per an agreement with the executive branch. There was nothing to connect Booker’s situation with the famous scene from the 1960 Kirk Douglas movie in which a group of slaves all claim to be the outlaw Spartacus to help the real Spartacus avoid being crucified. The emails themselves were a dud but Booker tried to make a big deal out of them. “I knowingly violated the rules put forward,” he bragged. He technically hadn’t even violated any rules, having been authorized by an official at the Bush library to release them hours prior.
The bottom line is that Democrats were certainly eager to get their hands on every last scrap of paper that had been within a six-foot radius of Kavanaugh, even if only as a delay and spectacle tactic against Kavanaugh. Democrats and their media allies also pored over Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook and personal notes he wrote friends as a teenager.
How is that standard being applied to Biden now that his official records are at the heart of a major controversy? To date, not one of the Senate Democrats who demanded that the Kavanaugh team spend months supplying them with paperwork have so much as mentioned the fact that Biden is hiding relevant documents at the University of Delaware. These are not documents where significant constitutional or legal precedent issues are at stake, unlike the battle over the documents in the Kavanaugh confirmation. The stakes are purely political. Nor is there an issue about who owns the documents and has the right to release them. Biden controls access to these papers, which he has granted to campaign operatives.
Biden — who opposed the Kavanaugh confirmation, said of Blasey Ford that he presumed “the essence of what she’s talking about is real,” and demanded an FBI investigation into the allegation — refuses to supply any papers from his 36 years as a United States Senator or 8 years as Vice President of the United States. That would cover any papers dealing with his handling of Tara Reade, his employee who accuses him of a 1993 sexual assault, and his handling of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings that were turned into a circus through an unsubstantiated claim of sexual harassment.
“Millions of documents provided by thee but none by me,” is the Democrats’ apparent standard.