On Thursday, by a margin of one vote, Senate Republicans successfully granted conservative lawyer John Bush a lifetime appointment on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s a big step up for Bush, who spent the last decade as an anonymous, far-right blogger comparing abortion to slavery and calling for prominent female politicians to be gagged.
Over the course of the last decade, Bush wrote several hundred blog posts under the pseudonym “G. Morris” for his wife’s conservative blog, Elephants in the Bluegrass. In one of his posts, the Kentucky lawyer compared abortion—a legal procedure the Supreme Court says is a constitutional right—to slavery.
“The two greatest tragedies in our country — slavery and abortion — relied on similar reasoning and activist justices at the U.S. Supreme Court, first in the Dred Scott decision, and later in Roe,” he wrote.
In another post, Bush implied he would shoot anyone who stole a lawn sign from his front yard. And in 2008, he suggested that politicians gag Nancy Pelosi, who at the time was the Speaker of the House.
The new judge, whose posts addressed a wide range of topics, also railed against a minor change in State Department policy that allowed passport applications to ask for “Mother or Parent 1” and “Father or Parent 2,” instead of “Mother” and “Father.” The change was made to accommodate the possibility that an applicant might have same-sex parents.
“It’s just like the government to decide it needs to decide something like which parent is number one or number two,” Bush wrote, in a barely coherent post from 2011. “When that happens, both parents are subservient to the nanny state.”
Bush also made a regular habit of citing websites that trade in conspiracy theories and overt racism. One of the websites to which he frequently linked, WorldNetDaily, still won’t acknowledge that former President Barack Obama was actually born in Hawaii.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, asked Bush about the fact that he promoted websites of this nature during Bush’s confirmation hearings in June.
“An article you quoted from suggests that a reporter in Kenya was detained by the government because he was investigating ‘Barack Obama’s connections in the country,’” Franken said. “What point were you trying to make in this post?”
Bush dodged the question repeatedly, something Franken also pointed out.
“There are some things I have written on the posts, or the blog, that I wish I could phrase differently, or said differently, at this point,” Bush said. “That partiuclar post, I don’t recall all the details of it, but I was certainly not intending to endorse any views of another group as far as birtherism goes.”
“How do you decide which sources to rely upon in your writings?” Franken responded. “How do you decide which sources were credible?”
“I was—as a blogger, I was finding things in the news that were of note,” a visibly flustered Bush responded. “I thought—I wasn’t intending to, through the posts, to say that President Obama was not born in this country.”
Bush never elaborated on why he continued to read and cite websites that openly promote easily debunked conspiracy theories.
Some Senate Democrats, including Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, made it clear they were apoplectic about Bush’s confirmation in the hours before and after the vote.
“If confirmed, we have every reason to believe that Mr. Bush will take every opportunity to pursue a radical anti-woman, anti-choice agenda,” Hirono said. “Statements like these raise serious questions about whether litigants appearing before [Bush] could trust in the fairness that is the hallmark of our judicial system.”
“Mr. Bush’s inability to understand why his past writings are such a big problem only deepens my concerns about his nomination,” she added.
Other senators, including Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, seemed unfazed.
“People make mistakes,” Tillis told Bush last month. “I think you’ve done a good job of explaining the context of your actions.”
As a federal judge, Bush could hear cases on everything from campaign finance (he’s called for “more money, not less” to be spent) to voter ID (he wouldn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee if he believed there was a chance three to five million people had illegally voted in the most recent presidential election).
There are still more than 100 judicial vacancies left for President Donald Trump to fill.