In 1996, David Irving sued Professor Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books for defamation. Irving claimed that by labeling him a “Holocaust denier” in her 1993 book "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," Lipstadt and Penguin had harmed his reputation as a respectable historian.
Once Lipstadt and her legal team had presented their case, it was entirely up to one man, Judge Charles Gray, to decide not merely whether Lipstadt and Penguin had libeled Irving but also whether to help advance or discredit Irving’s anti-semitic, pro-Hitlerian agenda. Clearly, with such monumental consequences at stake, the world needed Judge Gray to make the right decision. Fortunately, he did.
Most cases do not rise to the level of Irving v. Penguin and Lipstadt in terms of international, historical and ethical significance. But most cases do carry great personal and economic significance for the parties involved and legal significance for the larger society.
Trump’s nominee to fill a 6th Circuit vacancy, John K. Bush, does not come close to meeting the Judge Gray standard. (The 6th Circuit adjudicates appeals from federal trial courts in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.)
After practicing law for 22 years, Bush finally became a partner at the Louisville, Kentucky, law firm Bingham Greenebaum & Doll LLP in 2012. Even more worrisome than Bush’s lack of judicial experience are his political views, many of which he captured over the last decade on his wife’s reactionary blog, “Elephants in the Bluegrass.”
Among other things, Bush claimed that the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade (1973) was morally comparable to slavery; called for former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be “gagged”; referred to Barack Obama before he became President as “Senator Moneybags”; cited articles from WorldNetDaily, a right-wing fake-news website that promoted birtherism; mocked Secretary Clinton and the State Department for modifying passport applications to allow for the possibility of same-sex parents; dismissed a protest by naked women of Trump’s misogyny and alleged sexual assaults by jokingly crediting him with “caus[ing] people to shed their underwear”; posted a photo of a sign that threatened gun violence if anybody once again violated the sign owner's right to free speech; and claimed that even more private money — but no public funding — should be injected into political campaigns.
Posts like these do not merely reveal Bush’s penchant for bigotry, backward ideology, and juvenile, tone-deaf ad hominem attacks against Democratic politicians; they also reveal his mediocre intellect.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., expressed the same sentiment on June 14 when he told Bush that he had read his blogs and was “not impressed.” I hope that Thursday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Bush, Kennedy will stick to his guns and vote against this most unimpressive nominee.
Holt B. Harrison professor of law, Paul M. Hebert Law Center