The White House formally withdrew the nomination of federal prosecutor Ryan Bounds for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Tuesday after Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Friday torpedoed his nomination despite broad establishment backing.
Rubio and Scott’s break with the razor-thin GOP Senate majority was met with widespread condemnation across the full spectrum of the political and legal right, with even voices from the center and right skeptical of the senators’ ostensible motive: Bounds’s irreverent writings as a Stanford University undergrad a quarter century ago.
The complaint, that the articles in Stanford’s irreverent conservative student paper the Stanford Review were “racist” and “misogynistic,” was first raised by Oregon Democrats Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden as they withheld the “blue slip” recommendation traditionally necessary to confirm a judicial nominee from a given state.
Bounds was unanimously rated as “qualified” by the American Bar Association’s generally left-leaning Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, and Scott and Rubio both voted to bring him up to a vote. Rather than test whether the Senate would confirm Bounds over Merkley and Wyden’s objection, the two Republicans instead joined with the Oregon Democrats, making it clear they would not support Bounds’ confirmation over the “racially insensitive” writings.
Scott is the Senate’s only black Republican, and Rubio one of only two Hispanic Republicans in the upper house. The left-wing press immediately seized on the narrative of the Republican conference’s minority members being uncomfortable with the Trump administration’s “racist” nominees, throwing Merkley and Wyden’s obstruction far to the wings.
But Scott and Rubio quickly faced a broad wave of condemnation, not only on their quickness to condemn Bounds’ milquetoast college writings (such as that white students seemed to do alright without an “Aryan Students Union”) as disqualifying, but also for handing the Democrats a model for defeating the far more important nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court.
David Lat, the founder of Above the Law, an often left-leaning legal news site, went to law school and clerked with the now-withdrawn Bounds. He contributed a defense of Bounds with sub-headline “repeat after me: Ryan Bounds is not a racist,” to no avail.
The quintessential center-right publications, the Wall Street Journal and the National Review, went even further once it became clear Bounds’ nomination was sunk. “Scott and Rubio defeat a good nominee and Democrats crow,” the Journal proclaimed, going on to note, “Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) even suggested that if Mr. Bounds can be denied confirmation because of college writings, ‘it’s going to be hard to argue that [Supreme Court nominee Brett] Kavanaugh’s writings in the White House are not relevant.’”
The National Review was even more emphatic in it’s condemnation of the two Repubican senators who sunk Bounds, writing:
Scott and Rubio have been unfair to an accomplished conservative jurist and set back the cause of a federal judiciary committed to the rule of law — a cause that is especially urgent on the circuit to which Bounds had been nominated. We generally admire, and have published, both senators. But they are guilty of a serious lapse of judgment.
Perhaps the most damning assessment, however, came from the New York Times:
The outcome underscored just how narrow a margin that Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, has to work with when it comes to Judge Kavanaugh,” the Times wrote Saturday, continuing, “And Democrats pounced on the fact that Mr. Bounds was undone by long-ago writings, saying the episode legitimized their demand that all documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s past work in government should be disclosed.
In several media interviews Sunday, no one asked Rubio anything about his decision.