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‘Pretty Stunning Moment’; CNN Marvels at ‘Emphatic’ Harris Attacking Barrett

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Read Time:14 Minute, 37 Second
Aside from the opening statements by Senate Judiciary Committee leadership, CNN had ignored day one of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing. Instead, they spent another Monday trying to fear-monger on coronavirus. This was in contrast to the Fox News Channel and MSNBC as both carried the hearing from start to finish.

But that changed when vice presidential candidate and Senator Kamala Harris got her turn as CNN Newsroom jumped in so they could marvel at Harris’s “pretty stunning moment” that “remind[ed] Americans watching of the immediate stakes.”

Weekday afternoon host Brianna Keilar relayed viewers were able to hear the “pretty stunning moment there where you have a vice presidential nominee…three weeks before the election with comments saying that the woman you see there on your screen who is the nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, is someone who’s going to undo Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy.”

As chief political analyst Gloria Borger would do, Keilar simply parroted Harris’s claims without a scintilla of scrutiny (click “expand”):

KEILAR: [She was] [v]ery much focused on ObamaCare, which is going to be before this court very soon and just that split screen of Barrett listening to Harris as she said that she felt this nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is an attempt to take away the health care of millions of people in the middle of a pandemic. This is a historic moment that we’re watching.

BORGER: It is and she also made it very clear that she felt that the nomination was what she said trying to bypass the will of the voters and have the Supreme Court do their dirty work is the way she put it when it comes to rolling back the Affordable Care Act. So this was clearly a frontal attack, not only on what Amy Coney Barrett would do if she’s confirmed to the Supreme Court, but an attack on the Republican Senate, which clearly she wants to change control of the Senate to Democratic hands, and saying that they are going around the will of the people, that the people ought to decide after this election. Also making the case very clearly, Brianna, that it took 150 days for them to decide what to do with the stimulus bill, which is sitting in the Senate, but 22 days for them to push through a Supreme Court nomination. So very direct, very clear. She outlined the stakes as the Democrats see it very well, and aimed directly at the Republicans and at the nominee.

Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic hailed Harris as “more emphatic than we had heard earlier today, but she certainly struck the same notes, and I’m sure we’re going to hear more about the Affordable Care Act tomorrow.”

Playing the role of an in-kind Biden/Harris adviser, Biskupic dismissed the idea that the Trump administration would ensure health coverage for preexisting conditions even though they in federal court looking to have ObamaCare dismissed, adding: “I think that’s what Senator Harris and some of her colleagues who came before her wanting to stress and they’re taking their message obviously to the American people, to the electorate, rather than trying to comment on what might happen in the Senate committee.”

She added that people should also be concerned about “reproductive rights, gay and transgender rights, religious freedom” because Barrett “will be deciding the law of the land for a generation.”

Fresh off of having dismissed Democratic court-packing as a fable ginned up by the Trump campaign, political correspondent Abby Phillip concurred with Biskupic’s latter point and touted Harris’s insinuation that Democrats aren’t really going after Barrett’s faith but rather her legal record.

Right on cue, Borger interjected to offer this scalding hot take:

[T]he only people talking about raising her Catholicism or her religion seem to be the Republicans and not the Democrats at all. The Democrats understand, as Abby is saying, that this is a trump — a trick. And they’re not — you know, they’re just not going to do it. They’re going to talk about health care. That’s what they’re there to talk about.

And for good measure, both Biskupic and chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin griped that, along with Barrett, the right doesn’t actually honor or revere the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg due to their conservative viewpoints (which, not so incidentally, was a point Harris made) (click “expand”):

BISKUPIC: Her philosophy, as she’s laid it out, is — is akin to Justice Scalia’s legacy, that he wanted and what she subscribes to is the originalist, textualist approach to the Constitution and statutes…[I]t’s the opposite of where Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes from. Ruth Bader Ginsburg believes that — believed, I’m sorry, I’m still talking about her in the presenting tense — believed that you don’t go back to just what the Framers saw, you can expand the rights and the liberties in the Constitution to fit the dilemmas of today. The difference on that is the difference between upholding Roe v. Wade or striking down Roe v. Wade. The difference is between approving of same-sex marriage and not approving of same-sex marriage….Justice Ginsburg’s legacy in terms of sexual equality for women’s rights and for equal protection for women under federal law and the Constitution is that is unlikely to be rolled back. Just, you know, the way Ruth Bader Ginsburg first made her name as a woman’s rights advocate. I don’t see those kinds of protections for women being undercut, with the exception of being in the area of reproductive rights. Amy Coney Barrett has not ruled in an abortion case but she has certainly spoken about who has the role to safeguard things like reproductive rights and she has said it’s a legislative function, not a court’s function. That’s clearly indicated in her writings.

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(….)

TOOBIN: I mean, the idea, to listen to all these Republican Senators talk about, oh, I want to pay tribute to Ruth Ginsburg, I wanna say how wonderful she was. By confirming Amy Barrett, they are undermining absolutely everything Ruth Ginsburg stood for. And you know what thinks — you know who thought that? Ruth Ginsburg. I mean, Ruth Ginsburg understood the stakes of this nomination. That’s why she wanted this put off till — till the next president. But, you know, whether it’s abortion, whether it’s gay rights, whether it’s voting rights, whether it’s civil rights…[T]he idea that it is somehow an honor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to see Amy Coney Barrett nominated to replace her is just an obscene revocation of history. I mean, it’s just — I mean, they could not be more different.

CNN’s criticism-free analysis of Harris’s opening statement was made possible thanks to advertisers such as Carvana, MRHFM, and Sandals. Follow the links to the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.

To see the relevant CNN transcript from October 12, click “expand.”

CNN Newsroom
October 12, 2020
1:16 p.m. Eastern

BRIANNA KEILAR: We are watching the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett and that was a pretty stunning moment there where you have a vice presidential nominee, who is a sitting Senator, and a participant in this Judiciary Committee hearing, three weeks before the election with comments saying that the woman you see there on your screen who is the nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, is someone who’s going to undo Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy. And I want to bring in folks to talk about this, including Gloria Borger. Very much focused on ObamaCare, which is going to be before this court very soon and just that split screen of Barrett listening to Harris as she said that she felt this nomination of Amy Coney Barrett is an attempt to take away the health care of millions of people in the middle of a pandemic. This is a historic moment that we’re watching.

GLORIA BORGER: It is and she also made it very clear that she felt that the nomination was what she said trying to bypass the will of the voters and have the Supreme Court do their dirty work is the way she put it when it comes to rolling back the Affordable Care Act. So this was clearly a frontal attack, not only on what Amy Coney Barrett would do if she’s confirmed to the Supreme Court, but an attack on the Republican Senate, which clearly she wants to change control of the Senate to Democratic hands, and saying that they are going around the will of the people, that the people ought to decide after this election. Also making the case very clearly, Brianna, that it took 150 days for them to decide what to do with the stimulus bill, which is sitting in the Senate, but 22 days for them to push through a Supreme Court nomination. So very direct, very clear. She outlined the stakes as the Democrats see it very well, and aimed directly at the Republicans and at the nominee.

KEILAR: Joan Biskupic, you are our Supreme Court analyst. Tell us what stood out to you as you listened to Senator Harris’ opening remarks.

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JOAN BISKUPIC: Thanks, Brianna. Yes, she was more emphatic than we had heard earlier today, but she certainly struck the same notes, and I’m sure we’re going to hear more about the Affordable Care Act tomorrow. And that’s because right away on November 10th, shortly after Justice Barrett will likely be seated, the Supreme Court is going to hear the third major constitutional challenge to that law. As much as President Donald Trump keeps saying that he would like to preserve pre-existing health coverage for people with such conditions as cancer and diabetes, his administration is before the Supreme Court saying kill it all, get rid of pre-existing coverage. And I think that’s what Senator Harris and some of her colleagues who came before her wanting to stress and they’re taking their message obviously to the American people, to the electorate, rather than trying to comment on what might happen in the Senate committee. It — it’s such a done deal given what Chairman Graham said earlier today. Everyone knows how everyone is going to vote, but what Senator Harris is trying to do is to remind Americans watching of the immediate stakes. And one last thing I would mention is not just do we have the Affordable Care Act stakes right away on November 10th, we could have an election-related case that a Justice Barrett would sit on also and looking forward obviously to sit on all sorts of cases involving reproductive rights, gay and transgender rights, religious freedom. She will be deciding the law of the land for a generation.

KEILAR: Abby Phillip, what stood out to you?

ABBY PHILLIP: Yeah, I think what Joan said at the end there is really important. And one thing to note, that as we watched earlier today, a lot of the Democrats, everybody was on message. It was all about the Affordable Care Act. And very few people mentioned other cases as well, but it was notable to me that Senator Harris specifically mentioned and brought up reproductive rights several times in her opening statement as part of several other types of what she described as equal justice rights being at risk here. And I think that’s significant because Democrats are trying to stay on the Affordable Care Act message, because politically speaking they believe that is the strongest message for them. But if you look at what Republicans are doing, they’re trying to entrap Democrats by basically laying — laying out this kind of scenario in which any conversation about how Justice Barrett might rule on abortion cases or on, you know, LGBT rights cases are attacks on her religion. I think you saw Senator Harris basically saying, no, I believe that these cases are about her jurisprudence. They’re also about the tradition of the courts in upholding equal rights and equal justice for all Americans. I thought that was unique among the Democrats who have spoken today because they have really tried to avoid walking in that direction at any moment. But you saw Senator Harris really trying to — to actually be right on the line and trying to reframe this conversation in a way that I think she thinks is important to her as a woman and as — as the only woman on either of the two tickets going into this November election.

BORGER: Ah, Brianna, can —

KEILAR: Joan — sorry, go on, Gloria, yes.

BORGER: — I was — I was — I was just going to add to that, the only people talking about raising her Catholicism or her religion seem to be the Republicans and not the Democrats at all. The Democrats understand, as Abby is saying, that this is a trump — a trick. And they’re not — you know, they’re just not going to do it. They’re going to talk about health care. That’s what they’re there to talk about. The President has been tweeting, Republicans, let them know that we’re going to protect pre-existing conditions because he’s watching and he sees what’s going on in the committee and he doesn’t like it.

KEILAR: Yeah. How are they going to do that, though, right? It’s very unclear.

BORGER: Yep.

KEILAR: And what we see also Senator Harris saying here, Joan, is that Barrett will undo Ginsburg’s legacy. It was pretty stunning to watch her say that, as you see in the other frame. Amy Coney Barrett just there listening to Senator Harris say this. So let’s fact check that. Do we know based on Amy Coney Barrett’s record that that would be something that would happen, that she would undo Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy?

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BISKUPIC: In broad strokes, much of it. If — if it comes to that and I’ll tell you why. Her philosophy, as she’s laid it out, is — is akin to Justice Scalia’s legacy, that he wanted and what she subscribes to is the originalist, textualist approach to the Constitution and statutes. And what that does, just to remind our audience, you know, some of this legal jargon, it means that she would interpret the Constitution in the terms that its framers back in the 18th century understood it. And it’s — it — you know, it’s a legitimate point of view from where she’s coming and where many of the Republican Senators are coming from are, but it’s the opposite of where Ruth Bader Ginsburg comes from. Ruth Bader Ginsburg believes that — believed, I’m sorry, I’m still talking about her in the presenting tense — believed that you don’t go back to just what the Framers saw, you can expand the rights and the liberties in the Constitution to fit the dilemmas of today. The difference on that is the difference between upholding Roe v. Wade or striking down Roe v. Wade. The difference is between approving of same-sex marriage and not approving of same-sex marriage. I do want to caution one thing when you rightly ask for a fact check on — on that, Brianna. Justice Ginsburg’s legacy in terms of sexual equality for women’s rights and for equal protection for women under federal law and the Constitution is that is unlikely to be rolled back. Just, you know, the way Ruth Bader Ginsburg first made her name as a woman’s rights advocate. I don’t see those kinds of protections for women being undercut, with the exception of being in the area of reproductive rights. Amy Coney Barrett has not ruled in an abortion case but she has certainly spoken about who has the role to safeguard things like reproductive rights and she has said it’s a legislative function, not a court’s function. That’s clearly indicated in her writings. Now, we’ll have to see what she does when she gets on the Supreme Court. But in that respect, Brianna, yes, it would be night and day between what Justice Ginsburg stood for and what a Justice Barrett would stand for.

KEILAR: I want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin, our legal analyst into this conversation with all of us. Jeffrey, what do you think? Because, as Joan said, you look at her record and it does stand in contrast to where Ruth Bader Ginsburg was. What do you think about this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: It’s — it’s 180 degrees different. I mean, the idea, to listen to all these Republican Senators talk about, oh, I want to pay tribute to Ruth Ginsburg, I wanna say how wonderful she was. By confirming Amy Barrett, they are undermining absolutely everything Ruth Ginsburg stood for. And you know what thinks — you know who thought that? Ruth Ginsburg. I mean, Ruth Ginsburg understood the stakes of this nomination. That’s why she wanted this put off till — till the next president. But, you know, whether it’s abortion, whether it’s gay rights, whether it’s voting rights, whether it’s civil rights, I mean, she — everybody knows she and Antonin Scalia were — were great friends. But on controversial issues, they voted against each other all the time. And Amy Barrett, as she very explicitly said, is a — is — is a protege and a follower and a believer in Justice Scalia’s judicial philosophy. So that the idea that it is somehow an honor to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to see Amy Coney Barrett nominated to replace her is just an obscene revocation of history. I mean, it’s just — I mean, they could not be more different.

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