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Confirmation Bias

Inside Washington's War Over the Supreme Court, from Scalia's Death to Justice Kavanaugh
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
Length: 10 hrs and 15 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times presents a richly detailed, news-breaking, and conversation-changing look at the unprecedented political fight to fill the Supreme Court seat made vacant by Antonin Scalia’s death - using it to explain the paralyzing and all but irreversible dysfunction across all three branches in the nation’s capital.

The embodiment of American conservative thought and jurisprudence, Antonin Scalia cast an expansive shadow over the Supreme Court for three decades. His unexpected death in February 2016 created a vacancy that precipitated a pitched political fight. That battle would not only change the tilt of the court, but the course of American history. It would help decide a presidential election, fundamentally alter longstanding protocols of the United States Senate, and transform the Supreme Court - which has long held itself as a neutral arbiter above politics - into another branch of the federal government riven by partisanship. In an unprecedented move, the Republican-controlled Senate, led by majority leader, Mitch McConnell, refused to give Democratic President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a confirmation hearing. Not one Republican in the Senate would meet with him. Scalia’s seat would be held open until Donald Trump’s nominee, Neil M. Gorsuch, was confirmed in April 2017.

Carl Hulse has spent more than 30 years covering the machinations of the beltway. In Confirmation Bias, he tells the story of this history-making battle to control the Supreme Court through exclusive interviews with McConnell, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and other top officials, Trump campaign operatives, court activists, and legal scholars, as well as never-before-reported details and developments. 

Richly textured and deeply informative, Confirmation Bias provides much-needed context, revisiting the judicial wars of the past two decades to show how those conflicts have led to our current polarization. He examines the politicization of the federal bench and the implications for public confidence in the courts, and takes us behind the scenes to explore how many long-held democratic norms and entrenched, bipartisan procedures have been erased across all three branches of government. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Carl Hulse (P)2019 HarperAudio

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Bias is right

This book is extremely biased toward the Republicans. It’s not an insane rant, it is factual and well-researched, but the facts are very selectively chosen. For example, when discussing the Kavanaugh nomination, the author mentions the harassment of Kavanaugh’s family, but not the harassment of Dr. Blasey-Ford’s, including death threats. When discussing the Bork nomination, the author does not mention Bork’s record of pro-segregation decisions, his support of a poll tax, and his role in the infamous Saturday Night Massacre. Bork was not a principled jurist with conservative views, he actively opposed voting rights and said he wanted to roll back the civil rights advances of the previous decades. Bork was not nominated in the 1950s or even the ‘60s ... this is a nomination that took place in the late 1980s. The discussion of McConnell in Hulse’s book is very kind, but on point ... McConnell’s decision to block the Garland appointment brought partisan politics into the judiciary in a way that may never be repaired. We can’t count on justice from Justices who act as political appointees and follow the ideology of the President who nominated them.

Hulse also treats Trump as someone who has been accused of sexual harassment, rather than a man who has proudly admitted it and been captured on video. Trump is no victim, he’s a sexual predator with accusations against him that are currently in the double digits. His sympathy for Kavanaugh as a fellow victim of false accusations was laughable at best and made Kavanaugh seen guilty at worst.

Kavanaugh’s claim that the Clintons were out to get him in some political conspiracy was explained in this book as dating back to the 1990s ... That reference was quite a reach. Most viewers read it as Trumpian anti-Clinton rhetoric, trying to energize the base by reliving a campaign that was already over and throwing meaningless punches at Hillary (now a private citizen, not running for or holding any government office). In other words, Kavanaugh sounded like a lunatic who was trying to score points by bashing the Clintons who had nothing to do with him, the hearing, or the government.

Hulse’s research and writing were both excellent and I wish I could recommend this book, but the partisan cherry picking of facts made it very hard to read. It’s a recounting of the current crisis that plagues the American judiciary, and I think the issues we face are represented, but the book, while factual, is not at all balanced. Maybe that’s why it’s called confirmation bias ... the author has one too.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful