Utah Senator Orrin Hatch joined me this morning:
HH: One of my very favorite people in Washington, D.C. is my next guest. Senator Orrin Hatch was elected in 1976. 1976 was the first campaign I ever worked on, Gerald Ford’s campaign. And Senator Hatch has served with grace and distinction and intelligence for 40-plus years always as a gentleman. We have a lot of friends in common – the Late Neil Maxwell, the late Solicitor General, Rex Lee, Governor Mitt Romney. But it is always a pleasure to talk to you, Senator Hatch. How are you this morning?
OH: Well, I’m doing good, Hugh. How are you?
HH: I am terrific. And I always like to talk to you when a Supreme Court nomination is pending, because you’ve done a few of these, haven’t you?
OH: I sure have. I think this is my 15th or 16th. And by the way, I have a great deal of respect for you and your ability to you know, to tell the news the way it really should be told.
HH: Well, I appreciate that. And this is, by the way, despite the fact that Senator Hatch was born in Pittsburgh. He may even be a Steelers fan. I don’t know. It’s possible.
OH: I am.
HH: You see, we’ve overcome a lot that should separate us. He’s a Steelers fan. Senator Hatch, I’ve got to play for you your colleague, Senator Blumenthal yesterday was talking about Brett Kavanaugh. And I know you don’t lose your temper often. You won’t lose it now. But give a listen to what Senator Blumenthal said.
Sen. Blemnthatl: Brett Kavanaugh is in effect a get out of jail free card for Donald Trump. He is a way for Donald Trump to protect himself, because Brett Kavanaugh has said, just coincidentally, he doesn’t think the president of the United States ought to be subpoenaed to a grand jury. How convenient. He doesn’t think the president is barred from refusing to enforce a law. He thinks a president can refuse to enforce the law even if the courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have said it’s valid and Constitutional. The president would in effect be a monarch. The president would be a monarch if Brett Kavanaugh becomes a Supreme Court justice.
HH: Now let’s pause on that and play it one more time for Senator Hatch so he can hear clearly what Senator Blumenthal says.
Sen. Blumenthal: The president would in effect be a monarch. The president would be a monarch if Brett Kavanaugh becomes a Supreme Court justice.
HH: Senator Hatch, what do you think of that?
OH: Well, it’s all disingenuous. They don’t know what to do, because they really can’t lay their fingers on or their minds on anything that really could stop this nomination other than smearing the good Judge. And you know, it’s hard to believe that they would go to that depth to do that. But the Democrats think that they can get the most energy out of their base by playing on their fears about President Trump, and it’s making them say silly things like that. That’s silly, and especially for Blumenthal, who is a good lawyer and has you know, been an attorney general and all that. I mean, it’s just pathetic that he would stoop to that level.
HH: Well, he went to Yale Law School, so he might actually think he’s going to be a monarch. I don’t know. You know, they don’t teach the law at Yale.
OH: I’ve seen a lot of Yale lawyers who thought that they were just better than anybody, and I’ve kicked them all through the course of invitations to sit with them.
HH: I follow the Court closely. The Chief Justice is a friend. I’ve interviewed Stephen Breyer. I’ve interviewed Clarence Thomas. When I clerked on the D.C. Circuit, Judge, then-Judge Ginsberg was very nice to me, as was Judge Scalia when my judge was sick.
HH: I know them all. You’ve confirmed them all. What should this process actually be about?
OH: It should be about fairness, and it should be about the fact that the current president has a right to nominate. And you know, I’ve heard a lot over the years in these confirmation battles. And we know a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its shoes on. And we know the Democrats will say just about anything to hurt this nominee. And that’s why we have to go into overdrive. I’ve written three op-eds, I’ve spoken on the Senate floor several times. I’ve had my team operate a rapid response operation on social media to make sure that Judge Kavanaugh is represented well and represented fairly and accurately. We have fun with some of these efforts like my op-ed in the Daily Beast about jumping the shark on Judge Kavanaugh. But Judge Kavanaugh is a judge worth fighting for, and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a really fine, young man and one of the more thoughtful people on the federal bench today.
HH: Oh, he’ll be an extraordinary. He’s John Roberts 2.0. He’s going to be a superb justice of the Supreme Court.
OH: He will.
HH: And he’s going to win. My question is the damage it does to American politics when we politicize the judiciary. I thought Justice Kagan was perfectly qualified to go on. I thought Judge Sotomayor was a liberal, but that she was qualified. I don’t understand how politics has captured the courts this way, Senator Hatch.
OH: Well, Democrats are different from Republicans. I have to say that I voted for these liberal judges, because they were qualified. Whether I liked their points of view or not was kind of incidental. The Democrats have made clear that they intend to try and take out Kavanaugh, and they’re going to try to do it without ever touching one of his opinions.
HH: That’s it. You know, when Judge Gorsuch was nominated, he’s now Justice Gorsuch, they seized on the truck driver who was left in the snow opinion. When Judge Roberts, now Chief Justice Roberts was nominated, they seized on the Arroyo Toad opinion. They usually find one opinion to seize on. They can’t find any opinion with Judge Kavanaugh.
OH: That’s right. He’s a great man and a brilliant judge, and someone who will serve incredibly well on the Supreme Court, and they’re scared to death of him because he is very bright. He can express himself well in writing, and he has done so up to now, and they just can’t hardly harbor the thought that he’s going to be on the Supreme Court. But he’s going to be there, and I’m going to see that he’s there. But I’ve got to tell you, we have to go through all this B.S., because they’re hoping they can find some scrap of knowledge or evidence that could take him out.
HH: Your finest hour, Senator Hatch, was when a personal attack was leveled on Justice Thomas.
HH: One that I have never credited, and I still do not, I can still remember the anger in your voice during those hearings. Do you expect that kind of a vicious slander to be leveled at Brett Kavanaugh?
OH: I really don’t think they can do it, but we are seeing signs of that now. Democrats using words like “evil” and “end of the Constitution,” warning that “people will die,” they’ve turned Borking into a million dollar character assassination industry. And they get away with it, because of many of their friends in the media.
HH: Well, I don’t think it’s going to work this time, because Brett Kavanaugh is, again, he’s going to be like Gorsuch in the course of these hearings, which will be very closely watched, very closely monitored. I have to ask you, Senator. You have been in the public square for so long. What are you going to do when you retire? You’re used to fighting the battle every day, and I’m kind of looking for guidance here when I eventually hang up the radio headphones. What does Orrin Hatch do when you stop being a senator?
OH: Well, I’m going to be writing. I’ll be speaking. I hope people will listen. I’ve served 42 years on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
OH: And I don’t know how to retire. I mean, let’s face it. I worked all my life from a poor little kid that didn’t have anything right on up to, through law school and so forth. And I don’t know what else to do other than just keep working.
HH: Are you going to practice law?
OH: I don’t think I’ll go into a law firm again. I don’t think I’ll do that, but I’ll always be involved in the law.
HH: You don’t need suggestions, but if you’ve done 15 or 16 confirmations, I would love to read Orrin Hatch’s book on all of the confirmations and all of the justices that you have held court on, reviewed, studies and voted on. I think that would be fascinating.
OH: Well, I think it might be, because I would certainly bring out some ideas that people just haven’t heard, and I would probably talk about personalities that like have never been talked about before, because some of these Democrats don’t give a darn about what’s right or true. There’s some Republicans like that, too, but nowhere near to the extent that these Democrats are who will smear anybody, because they know how important this particular Court appointment is. You know, we’re not going to let them get away with it, especially on Kavanaugh. He’s a really great fellow. He’s a brilliant judge.
HH: So what kind of question is appropriate? Judge Ginsberg, when she was nominated before she was Justice Ginsberg, refused to answer any question about a case that might come before the Court. It’s called the Ginsberg standard, and I believe in it.
HH: So what is an appropriate question for a nominee?
OH: Well, I think almost anything having to do with a nominee’s background, education, you know, experience and so forth. But I don’t think they can ask deep questions about what’s ultimately might come up before the nominee on the Court itself. And I think Judge, Justice Ginsberg, I was the one who helped Justice Ginsberg get away with that. I mean, I stood up for her, and I would do it again.
HH: Now it appears as though Judge Kavanaugh likes beer, or liked beer a lot. Back, you know, your friend, Alan Simpson used to say, back in the days when we thought beer was food, he apparently thought beer was food for a while. We don’t really think that matters much what you do in college, right?
OH: Well, I don’t think it does, either. You know, I’ve never had even a sip of beer, but I don’t disrespect people who like to drink as long as they keep it under control. You know, every senator who has met with Kavanaugh has walked away impressed, because he’s brilliant, he’s exactly the kind of person you would want for a judge. He’ll be fair and he’ll be straightforward. He won’t play politics. I can’t speak for my Democratic colleagues, but I know Senator Manchin walked away impressed, Senator Manchin from West Virginia, as will everyone else who has a conversation with him. My gosh, you can’t, if you’re fair, this is a choirboy.
HH: So when do you expect to have the vote on him, the hearings and the vote? What’s your calendar have on it?
OH: Well, I think, I’d like to get it done before the first Monday in October. I’d like to have him on the bench where he can play a pivotal role. He’s going to get there. The question is are they really going to pull all this dirty crap on him that they’ve done, you know, the Borking that happened before? I mean, what they did to one of the greatest jurists and legal minds in the history of our country by Robert Bork, they just destroyed him.
HH: I hope not. Last question. I talked to Chuck Grassley about this yesterday. There are 10 more Appeals Court judges in the queue.
HH: If the White House gets additional nominations to you in August, do you think you’ll be able to vote on them while you’re still a senator? In other words, if they hurry up a bit at the White House, can we do more than 10 federal Appeals Court by the end of this Congress?
OH: Well, I hope so. I mean, I intend to be here until the last day of my tenure. And frankly, I’m hopeful that we can get a number of really good judges through the system. And if the President is willing to weigh in like I know he is, I think we can really accomplish this.
HH: In retrospect, are you glad that Harry Reid broke the filibuster on judges?
OH: Between you and me, I think that’s just really kills them, because they could have used the filibuster on some of these judges, and they would have. They’re just dirty enough to do it. You know, we, all I can say is we Republicans can walk, and we can chew gum. And we’re going to try and get these people through as fast as we can. You don’t have a better majority leader than Mitch McConnell. He’s terrific.
HH: He’s the finest majority leader of my lifetime. I don’t know if you agree with that. I think he’s the best.
OH: I do. There have been some great leaders. I’ve known them all. I’ve worked with them all. I’ve been in the leadership meetings. And I have to say McConnell is, he’s unexcelled. He’s just one of the finest leaders we’ve ever had.
HH: Last question. What is it about personality that makes a great leader of the Senate? Lyndon Johnson was a great leader, very different from Mitch McConnell. You can go back further in time and find other people, and George Mitchell was a good leader for the Democrats. What is it that makes Mitch McConnell a good leader?
OH: Number one, he’s smart as hell. He believes in things that are important. He works with people consistently. He doesn’t try to dictate. But he gently moves and pushes. And I’m in all the leadership meetings, so I’ve watched him very, very carefully. He’s, look, we’ve had some great leaders here. I’ve known them all. And I don’t, I would not rate anybody above McConnell. McConnell’s as good as it comes.
HH: On that note, Orrin Hatch, great to talk to you as always. Good luck in these Kavanaugh hearings. I hope you don’t have to go all Clarence Thomas again, but if you do, I know you will.
OH: I will. You hang in there. I appreciate you and what you do.
HH: Thank you, Senator Orrin Hatch.
End of interview.