Rage, Bob Woodward's latest book on Donald Trump and his administration is a pretty good read. The least interesting bits are his conversations with the hopefully outgoing president. There's a lot to be gleaned, however, in Woodward's conversations with ex-defense secretary, James Mattis; ex-secretary of state, Rex Tillerson; ex-national security advisor, Dan Coats; and other denizens of the Trump White House.
The best chapter, Chapter 29, is the briefest and perhaps the best. It concerns the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, Lindsey Graham, speaking candidly of how the process for confirming judicial appointments got so screwed up. Graham faults Obama and Harry Reid for scrapping the filibuster process.
"I didn't know we had so many fucking judges," Graham said. "I think every town's got a judge. Some are a little wacky. Most of them are really good. But a few outliers. The problem is when you only need a simple majority, you don't need to go outside your own party."
...A filibuster effectively allowed one senator to block the appointment of a judge. Senate rules required 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, meaning in effect each nominee needed the support of at least 60 senators.
But in 2013, under Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, infuriated by Republicans' use of the filibuster, pushed the elimination through.
"I don't think I've ever seen John McCain more upset," Grahan recalled. "Because that's the beginning of the end."
The result was making the judiciary more ideological, Graham realized. The rule change had removed the need to strive for compromise. "If you've got to reach across the aisle and pick up 10 votes, you're going to have a different judge than if you don't."
...Now with Trump's appointments "there's some wacky ones, but there's some that didn't make it. I said no. No, we're not going there.
"But we have weeded out some really wackos. It's only going to get worse over time, though. The judiciary is going to get far more ideological. It changes the Senate. It's just a matter of time until the Senate becomes the House" - more ideological, more partisan and focused on the short term rather than able to take a long view.
The filibuster on legislation would be next to go Graham worried. "If Trump wins re-election and we take back the House and we've got a small majority in the Senate, they'll be so much pressure on all of us to change the rules."
...In the meantime, he said, "the judiciary's going to fundamentally change in our lifetime." The nominees will have to be approved by outspoken ideologues in the party "because you don't need any support from the other side."
Graham spoke to Chief Justice John Roberts frequently. "John Roberts is very much worried about this drift. He's an institutionalist at heart. He's joined several 5 to 4 decisions because he doesn't want the Court, I think, labeled as a political party."
The Lindsey Graham Woodward interviewed bears scant resemblance to the Lindsey Graham who has become Trump's snarling lapdog today. Maybe he still has two personas, private and public.