Until two weeks ago, President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court seemed a sure thing. He ably handled more than 1,200 questions put to him by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He demonstrated even to his adversaries a masterful command of constitutional jurisprudence. The FBI had completed six background investigations of Kavanaugh throughout his career in government, and it found no blemishes.
Trump promised that he would appoint federal judges and justices who generally share his views on life, guns and administrative regulations and who have a minimalistic view of federal power. When he announced the Kavanaugh nomination, it appeared he had found his man.
The nomination requires Senate confirmation by a majority vote. The Senate currently has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. A few Republican senators do not share the president’s stated views on the judiciary, and a few Democrats do. The inside consensus was that enough Democratic senators running for re-election in states that Trump carried in 2016 would vote to confirm Kavanaugh and those Democrats would handily offset the few Republicans who might oppose him.
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During his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh dutifully followed the pattern of all current sitting justices at their confirmation hearings by declining to answer hypothetical questions which sought answers as to how he might vote on certain issues likely to come before the court. He survived the grueling cross-examination by Committee Democrats and even won begrudging praise from a few.
Then, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a…