Confirmation hearings for federal appeals judges are usually dry affairs. They’re sparsely attended by the media, and senators don’t often stay beyond the time they have to be there. But this week featured some remarkable moments, as Democrats pressed several appointees of President Donald Trump on their exceptionally radical views.
Trump nominated John K. Bush, a lawyer from Louisville, to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Like so many of us, Bush tried his hand at blogging on various TypePad and WordPress accounts in the aughts. He blogged as “G. Morris” on his wife’s blog, “Elephants in the Bluegrass.” Unlike many of us, he frequently espoused phony stories from paranoid right-wing Internet corners, including those that advanced the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. He often quoted stories from WorldNetDaily, which is run by conspiracy crank Joseph Farah and helped lead the early birther charge.
Senator Al Franken pressed Bush on this, and it made Bush so uncomfortable it’s almost painful to watch:
“You used the G. Morris alias when you wrote a series of posts about President Obama that seemed to focus on the president’s Kenyan heritage. One of those posts quotes freely from an article on World Net Daily, a website known for peddling conspiracy theories, fake news, and white nationalism,” Franken said. “How did you decide which sources to rely upon in your writings and how did you decide which sources were credible?”
Bush stumbled over his answer. “As a blogger, I was finding things that were in the news that were of note. I thought—I wasn’t intending to, through the post, to say that President Obama was not born in this country. I never—,” he stammered, before Franked repeatedly pressed him about his judgment, which is a pretty key quality for…judges.
The paper trail of “G. Morris” goes far beyond birtherism. He called slavery and abortion the “two greatest tragedies in our country,” and analogized Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision that said slaves could not be citizens.
Somehow, Bush wasn’t the only problematic blogger-cum-jurist under review by the Senate this week. Damien Schiff, Trump’s nominee for the US Court of Federal Claims, also ran a blog called “Omnia Omnibus” on Typepad. In June 2007, he called Justice Anthony Kennedy a “judicial prostitute.” He also expressed extreme anti-gay views on several occasions; in 2009, he criticized a California school district for advancing the idea “not only that bullying of homosexuals qua homosexuals is wrong, but also that the homosexual lifestyle is a good, and that homosexual families are the moral equivalent of traditional heterosexual families.” According to a Lambda Legal Foundation analysis, Schiff adheres to the idea that “natural law” trumps constitutional rights—that morality matters above all. (Gay identities and relationships, in his view, would be unnatural.)