Bush is a deeply flawed candidate with a history of offensive writings and statements that under ordinary circumstances would quickly disqualify him for a role on the federal bench.
The Senate Just Confirmed an Anti-Gay Blogger to the Federal Judiciary
The Trump administration’s assault on LGBTQ rights scored a major victory on Thursday when the Senate confirmed John K. Bush to the powerful 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bush, perhaps Trump’s most controversial nominee to the lower courts, has a long history of making homophobic and sexist comments during his years as an anonymous blogger. Yet every Republican senator (except the absent John McCain) voted to confirm him. Bush, who is 52, will serve a lifetime appointment.
Bush’s record overflows with offensive, archaic, and bizarre comments, many directed toward women and sexual minorities. In 2005, he used the word “faggot” in a speech to a private club, quoting Hunter S. Thompson. In 2008, he referred to then–Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as “Mama Pelosi” and urged Congress to “gag the House speaker.” When the State Department introduced gender-neutral passport applications to accommodate same-sex couples, Bush complained in a 2011 blog post that the move was worthy of “outrage”—though “not Obamacare-level outrage.” He added that the change means “both parents are subservient to the nanny state—more precisely, a nanny Secretary of State.” Bush also credulously reported a story from World Net Daily, the discredited promulgator of birther conspiracies, alleging that then-Sen. Barack Obama played a role in the detention of a WND reporter in Kenya who’d been investigating the future president’s half-brother.
During his confirmation hearings, Bush repeatedly misrepresented his previous statements, tiptoeing right up to perjury. Twenty-seven LGBTQ rights groups signed a letter opposing his nomination while both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America urged moderate Republican senators to vote no. But in the end, Republicans followed the party line and elevated Bush to the 6th Circuit by a margin of 51–47. (In addition to McCain, Democrat Debbie Stabenow also did not vote.)
From the Alliance for Justice:
Despite his obvious lack of fitness for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, Bush’s significant ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appear to have greased the skids for his nomination. Most notably, Bush’s wife, Bridget, has been extremely active in fundraising efforts that netted millions of dollars to benefit Senator McConnell’s 2014 reelection bid. In addition, in 2002 Bush authored an amicus brief on McConnell’s behalf in a case involving Kentucky’s campaign finance laws. And, in paperwork he submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bush explained that in November 2016, presumably after the presidential election, he met with Senator McConnell in Louisville where Bush “expressed [his] interest in serving as a federal judge.” Bush said that he has “been in contact with Leader McConnell and representatives from his office since that time.”
It’s also notable that President Trump nominated Bush only two months after a vacancy arose on the Sixth Circuit, leapfrogging vacancies on other courts that have existed for years. When a vacancy opened on the Sixth Circuit in 2013, Senators McConnell and Rand Paul refused to reach an agreement with President Obama on a nominee. The seat sat vacant for over 1,200 days after McConnell and Paul refused to return their blue slips on the unanimously well-qualified jurist Obama eventually put forward.
The Alliance for Justice background report on Bush is here.
From the Courier Journal:
Trying to save his nomination to a federal appeals court, Louisville attorney John K. Bush has evaded questions about blog posts in which he equated abortion with slavery as America’s greatest tragedies, denounced gay marriage and embraced other conservative views.
Responding to written questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about his more than 400 posts on hot-button issues, Bush repeatedly said “my personal views are irrelevant to the position for which I have been nominated.”
He refused to answer questions about commentaries in which he criticized public financing or raised doubts about global warming, saying the questions call "upon me to weigh in on a political debate, which I cannot ethically do as a nominee for judicial office.”
Asked why he joined the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group whose Louisville chapter he co-founded, he said, “I believed that membership ... would help me learn about interesting legal topics that I might not otherwise encounter in my practice.”