Neil Gorsuch entered day 2 of his Senate confirmation hearing looking pretty good. He had received pretty positive reviews thus far in the process and that sentiment continued throughout today as Gorsuch bobbed and weaved around the more pressing questions. He was able to dodge most questions about his political views with stock “Ginsberg Standard” answers. He also was able to keep his shirt clean and made many of his rulings look tempered and reasoned, despite Democratic attempts to make him look more extreme. Al Franken, the Minnesota Senator, found a way to get around both. (see videos below …)
Just like with Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, the “non-lawyer” on the Judiciary committee may have had the most impact in revealing Gorsuch’s true nature.
Franken began by talking about Gorsuch’s dissent in a case involving TransAm Trucking and one of their drivers, Alphonse Maddin. The story of the case is this — The driver was an employee of the trucking company and driving along one night when his trailer’s brakes locked. Maddin called in to the company and requested a repair. They told him to wait. Maddin waited and waited for over two hours. Eventually, he fell asleep waiting. He was awoken not by the arrival of the repair crew, but by a phone call from his cousin. His cousin described him as slurring his speech and not well. The reason was that he was falling victim to hypothermia. One other detail — the weather Maddin was waiting in was 14 degrees below zero. One other detail — the heater in the truck was broken.
Maddin decided to take advantage of his consciousness and attempt to get warm. He had two choices. Either try to drive on an interstate highway with locked brakes, where his maximum speed might be 15-20 miles per hour. There would also be control issues with the locked-braked trailer. His other choice was to unhitch the trailer, take the main rig (the cab) to get warm, then return when the repair team had arrived to unlock his brakes.
He chose the latter. Maddin took his cab and got to somewhere that he could warm up. he then returned after getting warm and reattached the trailer, waited for the repair truck (which eventually showed up) and got is brakes fixed.
Maddin was fired for “abandoning the trailer.”
The court that Gorsuch served on delivered a verdict for Maddin. Gorsuch dissented and wrote the dissenting opinion in the case. A dissent that many found to be not very empathetic, and some even say “arrogant” in his defense of the company being in their rights to fire Maddin. Gorsuch didn’t point out that it was 14 degrees below zero, he called it just “cold.” He described Maddin literally freezing to death as an “unpleasant” circumstance.
Franken didn’t need to be a lawyer to see through Gorsuch here. He called his opinion “absurd” and it was. Franken added that he spent many years in a profession (comedy writing) where “absurd” was “what he did.” He noted that he was an expert in “absurd.” In fact, Franken contended that every person in that room would have done what was necessary not to freeze to death. Everyone except Gorsuch, who apparently felt that Maddin owed it to the company to protect their cargo like a soldier or indentured servant.
Check out Franken grilling Gorsuch in the first clip, below;
Then it was time for Al to really set Gorsuch up. Franken might not be a lawyer, but he is an expert in debate as he has proven time and time again over the years in both the private and public sector. Franken recalled a discussion Gorsuch and he had in Franken’s office. One where he asked Gorsuch what he thought of the treatment of Judge Merrick Garland, the person nominated before him who Senate Republicans refused to meet with or even have a hearing for during a period that lasted almost a year.
Gorsuch went back to his stock “Ginsberg Standard” answer. Al had other plans than to let him off that easy — he was prepared. The Minnesota Senator began breaking out letters that Gorsuch had sent various politicians and former White House officials (when they were current officials) looking for a job. In those letters, Gorsuch described himself as a very political person and was proud of his service to various GOP campaigns. Franken then centered on the choice Gorsuch made to go to work in Ohio for the GOP. Ohio in 2004 was one of 11 states that the GOP was pushing anti-LGBTQ legislation in to “drive up the vote” for Republicans. After the election, his former Law School roommate and RNC head, Ken Mehlman wrote in praise of Gorsuch describing him as a “true loyalist” and fighter for “the cause.”
When Franken was finished, Gorsuch tried to circle back and argue the TransAm trucking case some more, buying time to come up with a good answer to Franken exposing his very political past. Not only was it political, but seemed quite one-sided. Franken, after listening to Gorsuch’s argument, repeated that the SCOTUS nominee’s dissent and reasoning were simply “absurd.”
Gorsuch then mentioned that his earliest political work, in 1976, was for his mom — no comment if his mom had any involvement in his political work from 1977-2004. He then tried to get away from that and reverted back to his “Ginsberg Standard” answers as Franken pressed him for an opinion on the treatment of fellow judge Garland by Senate Republicans. Much like Donald Trump can’t say a bad word about Vladamir Putin or Russia, Gorsuch seemed unable to criticize his GOP allies. Franken eventually yielded and allowed the hearing to move on, but by then he had made his point about the absurdity of some of the nominee’s written opinions and his supposed shyness from politics.
Check out Part II of Franken’s grilling of Gorsuch below:
Featured image via youtube.com