It would be a tough call to decide which was the most hysterical reaction to President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday night.
If one thinks of hysterical in an angry sense, the distinction could go to hostile protesters whose intense agitation forced a Fox News crew to rethink its live broadcast from the steps of the Supreme Court building and head into the studio. If one thinks hysterical as in funny, one could go with the feminist group The Women’s March, which blasted a press release with an opening paragraph that read “In response to Donald Trump’s nomination of XX to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The statement, which asserted Trump’s choice represented a “death sentence for thousands of women,” also misspelled the judge’s name as “Cavenaugh.”
All of which helps us appreciate Sen. Bill Nelson.
On Monday night, the Florida Democrat issued the blandest, most modest statement possible regarding Kavanaugh.
“I look forward to meeting with the president’s nominee in the coming weeks to discuss his views on several important issues such as protecting women’s rights, guaranteeing access to health care for those with pre-existing conditions and protecting the right to vote, just to name a few,” Nelson said. “I will make my decision after that.”
Nelson is in a political dogfight with Republican Gov. Rick Scott to retain his seat. And such a comment aligns with Nelson’s attempt to portray himself as a moderate dismissive of the pro-Trump and anti-Trump extremists in both parties. Thus, we should expect his commitment to noncommitment.
Beyond that, though, this is what a U.S. senator should say. Privately, of course, we understand senators most likely have already made up their minds. In this case, while Nelson is a reliable vote for his side, at least he is indicating that he will be open to evaluating Judge Kavanaugh in full.
Alternatively, however, the appearance of moderation could backfire on Nelson. Many Democratic voters won’t welcome perceived squishiness on a Trump nominee, preferring the Schumer option. Just this week Minority Whip Dick Durbin suggested some red-state Democratic senators, like Nelson, would be willing to sacrifice their election bids to block Trump’s nominee.
Nelson’s record on Supreme Court nominees is mixed. Nelson did vote to confirm President Barack Obama’s choices — Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — as well as President George W. Bush’s nomination of Chief Justice John Roberts. Yet Florida’s senior senator rejected the nominations of Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.
Sen. Nelson is in a tough spot, and his ultimate decision could cost him support somewhere. But we hope his promise to be thoughtful on Kavanaugh is genuine because he is demonstrating the temperament of a U.S. senator — and appropriately shying away from the simplistic, knee-jerk hysteria that, as we saw on Monday, seems to grip so many of his political persuasion on almost any issue.