Hartmann: Hawley Trots Out Legal Expert Act for Supreme Court Vacancy

click to enlarge Yes, that's a blue collar Josh Hawley is wearing in that blown-up picture of his face on a campaign bus. - TOM HELLAUER
Yes, that's a blue collar Josh Hawley is wearing in that blown-up picture of his face on a campaign bus.

It's hard to believe now, but it was only several years ago that Josh Hawley first treated Missourians to his dishonesty regarding the U.S. Supreme Court.

The following account from the Missouri Times on September 29, 2015, tells you pretty much all you need to know:

"Josh Hawley, college professor and Republican candidate for attorney general, has been touring the state for well over a year speaking at Republican events and touting his accomplishments arguing last year's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling, but what he actually did in that case seems to be unclear to many Missourians.

"Due in part to Hawley's liberal description of his efforts, some Missouri Republicans are surprised when they hear Hawley say that he argued the case, as he didn't actually do any speaking in the case at all. In fact, he wasn't admitted to the bar to argue at all before the Supreme Court in March 2014.

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"'My wife and I have heard Josh Hawley speak multiple times and [it] is my recollection and hers that he argued the Hobby Lobby case before the U.S. Supreme Court,' Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Miller County, said. 'When we both found out he was not admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court bar until after the case and, therefore could not argue before them, we were shocked.'"

The story went on to say that Paul D. Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general, was the only attorney speaking for Hobby Lobby.

"Hawley is listed as one of the lawyers on a brief in the case," the Times reported. "Joshua Hawley is listed last with the University of Missouri School of Law with his taxpayer-funded office address and phone line listed as his contact information."

Well, maybe Hawley has some souvenir swag from the SCOTUS gallery. Besides, coming out of the blocks lying about having argued before the justices is hardly the most egregious atrocity of Hawley's tragic career.

The man is an insurrectionist, after all.

But give Hawley this much credit: When it's time to masquerade as some brilliant, wizened expert on the judicial system, you'd think he was Clarence Darrow. Sure, his actual expertise seems limited to having held someone else's legal pads, but who cares about any of that?

Now that President Joe Biden is moving forth to appoint the nation's first African American woman SCOTUS justice, get ready to observe Hawley slipping into his disguise as the guy who actually knows this stuff. He wasted no time heading to Twitter to attack the character of any nominee Biden might appoint, in advance.

Here's the first tweet:

"If he chooses to nominate a left-wing activist who will bless his campaign against parents, his abuse of the FBI, his refusal to enforce our immigration laws, and his lawless vaccine mandates, expect a major battle in the Senate."

OK, well, that's just garden-variety politician talk. But how about this?

"Moment of truth for Joe Biden. Will this deeply unpopular & divisive president finally reject the radical elements of his party and nominate someone who loves America and believes in the Constitution? Or will he continue to tear apart this country w/ a woke activist?"

And this:

"This Supreme Court vacancy is Joe Biden's moment of truth. He can nominate a hard left activist, like all his judicial nominees to date, or he can nominate a pro-Constitution, pro-America justice. Republicans have to be ready to stand for the Constitution."

Now we're talking. We need a pro-Constitution, pro-America justice? That's rich. Dating back to the days of Richard Nixon, Republicans have loved to complain about "judicial activism" from liberal judges. That conveniently ignores the repeated acts of such activism by conervative judges on cases ranging from campaign-finance law to Roe v. Wade to the Hobby Lobby cases Hawley watched from the cheap seats. But it's a philosophy of sorts.

What exactly is a pro-America or a pro-Constitution justice? Is this some new-age legal term rolling around the world of associate law professors? If justices disagree on how to apply the First or Second Amendment in a particular case, is Hawley saying one of the parties must therefore oppose the country or its founding documents?

That's a fairly bold assertion from the visitor's gallery. That's not to suggest that ivory-towered academes cannot strike an imposing figure on these matters, but come on now.

Still, the best part of Hawley's tweet was his reference to "hard left activists like all his judicial nominations to date." Really now? All of them?

That's a good one. Whatever struggles he has had to date, a key and lasting Biden legacy will be his success in filling vacancies in the judiciary. The 42 nominations he has successfully made — 29 to federal district courts and thirteen to federal appellate courts — are a record in the modern era. Reagan had 40 confirmed, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton 27 each and Trump just 22.

And here's a particular problem with the associate professor's "logic": As a recent analysis from the Brookings Institute suggests, virtually every Biden "hard left activist" nominee received some Republican support. It's true that most of them had substantial Republican opposition — in contrast to a previous era in which the large majority of judges were appointed by unanimous consent.

But there were only 34 nay votes out of 50 Republicans for one of the "hard left activists," and only 24 of the judges were opposed by 40 or more GOP senators. Didn't realize there were that many hard-left activists in the Republican caucus.

For his part, Biden promises that his nominee will be "someone of extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity, and that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court."

Hawley was discreet enough not to tweet what he was thinking: "What a minute! These women cannot be Black and qualified at the same time!"

That said, don't sell short Hawley's ability to make trouble for Biden and any woman of color who lands in his sights. Hawley has a huge advantage: He is not burdened with even a trace of an obligation to speak honestly.

Hawley's brand, after all, is to posture as the bold populist champion of the poor oppressed white man, especially he of limited means. If the elite-school-educated, cosmopolitan, insufferably entitled son of a wealthy banker can pull off that fraud, don't think that Hawley cannot impersonate a serious expert on the law by employing an extra syllable or two.

Hawley's skill as a polished con man in politics far exceeds any that he has displayed as a lawyer. That's hard to certify, of course, since it's unclear that he has actually practice law in a real courtroom. In any event, count on Hawley to dominate Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for the next justice.

He won't be the one under oath.

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartman
from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).
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