From the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, a richly detailed, news-breaking look at the unprecedented political fight over Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court vacancy and the seemingly irreversible dysfunction it triggered across all three branches in the nation’s capital, ultimately delivering us Trump, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh--updated with a new preface.
The embodiment of American conservative thought and jurisprudence, Antonin Scalia cast an expansive shadow over the Supreme Court for three decades. His death at a Texas hunting resort in February 2016 created a dilemma for Republican leadership faced with the prospect of yet another Obama Supreme Court nominee, this time one who could tip the ideological balance of the court and alter the course of American history.
In Confirmation Bias, Carl Hulse tells an exclusive account of the rush of events following Scalia’s death, including Mitch McConnell’s extraordinary snap decision to deny President Obama’s nominee so much as a hearing, let alone a vote. The author recounts the unsuccessful Democratic effort to break the Republican blockade on behalf of Merrick Garland, a failure that allowed Donald Trump to exploit the vacancy to entice evangelicals and other leery Republicans to rally support and deliver him the presidency.
Newly empowered, Trump and his White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II moved quickly to install Neil Gorsuch on the court. The plan from the start was to have a second judge with a Republican pedigree—Brett Kavanaugh—join Gorsuch at the first opportunity in order to cement a majority conservative bloc. Aided by McConnell and the willingness of Republicans to bend Senate practices, the new administration set out to remake not only the Supreme Court, but the lower courts as well, further roiling the Senate and threatening public confidence in the federal judiciary.
With unrivaled access to figures on both sides of the aisle, Hulse revisits the judicial wars of the past twenty years to show how those conflicts have led to our current polarization and resulted in not one but two Trump-nominated conservative justices who could be serving for decades. Confirmation Bias is a prodigious look inside the bitter judicial politics that have torn apart the Senate and transformed the modern Supreme Court from an institution that is supposed to rise above partisanship into one that is increasingly an extension of it.History will show, argues Hulse, that Scalia’s death and the ugly battles fought in its wake represent an inflection point in American politics, changing the trajectory of three vital arms of our government—the Senate, the presidency, and the Supreme Court—in ways McConnell could not have envisioned that night in 2016.