U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden Says Trump’s Judicial Nominee “Comparing Tolerance to the Nazis” Was the Last Straw

"On the back of an executive calendar, I wrote: 'Are you a no?' I held it up in front of him. And he nodded his head, yes."

U.s. Sen. Ron Wyden at TechFestNW (Sam Gehrke)

Last week, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) celebrated a rare Democratic victory over President Donald Trump.

The win? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) withdrew the name of Trump appeals court nominee Ryan Bounds after Republicans led by Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) objected to his college writings on race and multiculturalism. Bounds is a Portland federal prosecutor, and his nomination last year sparked a war in Oregon's congressional delegation, with both of the state's senators opposing his confirmation and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) backing him. Wyden was particularly aggressive in his fight against Bounds, even barging into the Republicans' Senate cloakroom to seek swing votes.

WW spoke with Wyden at the end of what he described as "a rollicking day."

WW: For people who don't follow the Senate closely, what's the significance of what happened today?

Ron Wyden: Well, to me, the Senate came to its senses on judges today. The White House has been using a process that is so flawed. And you add to that this nominee who flagrantly misrepresented his views on issues that are priorities for Oregonians, like tolerance, respect for diversity. Ryan Bounds talked all about his high school years. But then he conveniently left out these college writings where he essentially compared tolerance and diversity to Nazi practices. And I finally said—which I don't do very often—my late great Uncle Max was one of the last to be gassed in Auschwitz, and the idea that comparing tolerance to the Nazis is just so offensive that this is somebody who was not fit to be on an important court. A judge ought to be held to a higher standard. We don't reward people who mislead.

Did you talk with Sen. Scott before or after his decision?

Yes. And I'll let Sen. Scott's statement speak for itself. But Sen. [Jeff] Merkley and I were buttonholing colleagues, and I found a very influential Republican about a half an hour before the vote and on the back of an executive calendar, I wrote: "Are you a no?" I held it up in front of him. And he nodded his head, yes. And that's when I thought we had really reached critical mass. Someday I'll tell you and you'll see it. I just put it in my drawer. It's one for my kids.

How might this affect other judicial nominations? The initial analysis says unless somebody can unearth something in U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's desk that has him comparing a black student union to Brown Shirts, this doesn't have that much effect.

I mean, look, we're just getting started.  He had a long history with the Bush administration. [Sen.] Rand Paul [R-Ky.] has said he's undecided on Kavanaugh because of his privacy views. Sen. Paul and I talk often about these issues. I've pointed out that the Kavanaugh record on liberty questions is right out of the Big Brother playbook. We've got a long way to go on that.

Not a great day for Greg Walden.

I'm going to steer clear of personalities. I think that the lesson ought to be for those who want to be selected by our bipartisan selection committee, you can't mislead them and expect Oregonians to reward that kind of conduct.

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