“Un-American” Attacks on Free Speech and the Rule of Law
‘In the last few years, we’ve seen my counterpart the Senate Democratic Leader threaten sitting Justices by name on the Supreme Court steps. We’ve seen President Biden and Attorney General Garland refuse to enforce federal law and put a stop to illegal harassment campaigns at Justices’ private family homes. And we have seen coordinated efforts by Democrats and the media to use smear campaigns to personally punish Justices whose legal reasoning they don’t like.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding free speech and the rule of law:
“It has been one of the big, unfortunate ironies of the past several years: Many of the same individuals and institutions on the political left who spent the years 2017 through 2020 yelling about the importance of norms and institutions have themselves not hesitated to undermine our institutions when they’re unhappy with a given outcome.
“For example, the newly-elected incoming leader of the House Democrats is a past election denier who baselessly said the 2016 election was, ‘illegitimate’ and suggested that we had a, ‘fake’ president. He has also mounted reckless attacks on our independent judiciary and said that Justices he didn’t like have, ‘zero legitimacy.’
“Unfortunately, when it comes to attacking our independent judiciary, the Democrats’ new leader isn’t an outlier, he’s a representative sample. In the last few years, we’ve seen my counterpart the Senate Democratic Leader threaten sitting Justices by name on the Supreme Court steps. We’ve seen President Biden and Attorney General Garland refuse to enforce federal law and put a stop to illegal harassment campaigns at Justices’ private family homes. And we have seen coordinated efforts by Democrats and the media to use smear campaigns to personally punish Justices whose legal reasoning they don’t like.
“The latest target has been Justice Alito, whose great offense was overruling a deeply flawed precedent that prominent liberal legal scholars, including even the late Justice Ginsburg herself, long acknowledged was badly written and poorly reasoned.
“I’m confident the smear campaigns and baseless fishing expeditions will keep groping around — and I’m just as confident that Justices Alito, Thomas, and the entire Court will continue to ignore the noise and the smears and practice judicial independence.
“We also see growing evidence that the attacks on members of the legal profession who dare to upset the activist left are not limited to judges or other public officials. Private citizens are not safe, either.
“Earlier this week, a longtime female partner at a major law firm explained in an op-ed how she was forced out of the firm after she dared to enter into a ‘‘safe space’ for women’ and share her own personal views on the Dobbs ruling. As she tells it, simply being a woman who agreed with the five-justice majority of the Supreme Court was a fireable offense. Some of her colleagues claimed that merely hearing her express a dissenting view caused them to, ‘[lose] their ability to breathe.’
“This past summer, two wildly successful appellate litigators — including a former United States Solicitor General — were drummed out of another prominent firm because they won a Supreme Court victory for the Second Amendment. In their telling, they were basically told to either abandon their pro-Second-Amendment clients or hand in their badges.
“Meanwhile, intellectual freedom and the competition of ideas have also been slipping away in the legal academy. Multiple circuit judges are so disturbed by the anti-free-speech trends in elite law schools that they are starting to decline to hire clerks from otherwise prestigious schools that are hostile to non-liberal views. Just last night, two such judges participated in a Yale Law School panel titled ‘Is Free Speech Dead on Campus?’
“And of course, the left’s rapidly-growing appetite for censorship is not limited to the legal realm. Earlier this week, in a truly bizarre and disturbing moment, the White House Press Secretary said the Biden Administration is, ‘keeping an eye on’ the social media company Twitter, which was recently purchased by an owner who doesn’t happen to be a censorious liberal.
“The antidote to all this toxic nonsense is a renewed appreciation for the deeply American principle of free speech and open debate.
“No one in my lifetime has understood the importance of free speech and the competition of ideas better than the recently-departed Judge Laurence Silberman. Larry was a legal genius and a patriot whose rich and varied career culminated on the D.C. Circuit, where many came to view him as the single most important jurist in American history who never sat on the Supreme Court.
“The last major address Judge Silberman gave before his death was a powerful and important speech on free speech which he delivered at Dartmouth University in September. He explained how un-American and dangerous it is to enter an era when, ‘some political speech is attacked as if it were blasphemy drawn from the colonial period when witches were burned at the stake.’
“I’ll have more to say on this subject soon. But for now, I’d ask unanimous consent that the published text of Judge Silberman’s final speech appear in the Record, in full, at the conclusion of my remarks.”
Related Issues: House Democrats, History, Senate Democrats, Supreme Court