Six years ago, Ninth Circuit judicial nominee Goodwin Liu published an op-ed in which he made the utterly banal point that a conservative interest group used the terms “free enterprise,”‘ “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” as “code words for an ideological agenda hostile to environmental, workplace, and consumer protections.” In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, however, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) somehow managed to interpret this op-ed as proof that Liu wants to turn America into “Communist-run China”:
GRASSLEY: Does [Liu] think we’re the communist-run China? That the government runs everything? That it’s a better place when they put online every week a coal-fired plant to pollute the air, put more carbon dioxide into the air then we do in the United States, and where children are dying because food is poisoned, and consumers aren’t protected, and where every miner in the China coal mines is in jeopardy of losing their lives? That’s how out of place this guy is when he talks about “free enterprise,” “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” being something somehow bad, but if you get government more involved, like they do in China, it’s somehow a better place.
In reality, of course, modern-day China is much closer to a Scott Walker dystopia than it is to a haven of big government. As the New York Times explains, “China’s iron political controls ensure that no powerful consumer lobby exists to agitate for reform, press lawsuits that punish wayward producers or lobby the government to pay as much attention to consumer safety as it does to controlling threats to its own power.”
More importantly, Grassley’s rant against Liu — a widely-respected law professor at the University of California Berkeley — is just the latest example of the GOP’s increasingly bizarre attacks on this outstandingly qualified nominee. Yesterday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) attacked Liu’s stance on how judges should decide constitutional welfare cases, even though Liu’s views largely align with those of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Other senators claim Liu was “vicious” and “unfair” to then-Judge Samuel Alito for accurately pointing out several controversial decisions in Alito’s past — including a memo Alito wrote arguing that cops should be allowed to shoot a fleeing purse-snatcher in the back to prevent him from getting away with ten stolen dollars.
Moreover, Grassley’s decision to filibuster Liu’s nomination cannot be squared with Grassley’s 2005 statement that judicial filibusters violate the Constitution. Sen. Grassley may not be aware of this fact, but the Constitution does not automatically amend itself simply because a Democrat is elected to the White House.
Finally, as if there could be any doubt, Grassley’s suggestion that Goodwin Liu is the second-coming of Mao Tse-tung would be utterly shocking to Liu himself. As Liu explains, his own commitment to American law stems from his experience as the child of Taiwanese immigrants who “came from a society that did not, at the time, know many of the freedoms that we take for granted in America.”