News & Politics

Cory Booker's 'Spartacus' Documents Show Kavanaugh Opposed Racial Profiling Post-9/11

Cory Booker's 'Spartacus' Documents Show Kavanaugh Opposed Racial Profiling Post-9/11
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Update below.

On Thursday morning, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) risked being expelled from the U.S. Senate by releasing confidential documents to the public. He made a big show of the act, calling it his “I am Spartacus” moment, but one of the documents actually revealed a very positive fact about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — his opposition to using racial profiling in airport security following the 9/11 attacks.

When Booker released the documents, he declared, “I’m knowingly violating the rules.” He went on to say, “This is about the closest I’ll ever come in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.”

This statement referred to the famous scene involving Spartacus, a Thracian slave who led a slave revolt against Rome in the 70s B.C. When Spartacus’ revolution ultimately failed, the Romans decided to crucify the revolting slaves. In the 1960 American film “Spartacus,” based on the novel by the imprisoned Communist Howard Fast, the revolting slaves each declared, “I am Spartacus!” in order to share the fate of their revolutionary leader.

Cory Booker dared Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to file paperwork to kick him out of the Senate, acting as though his stand for transparency was an epic moment like Spartacus’s slave revolt. He was roundly mocked for this grandstanding, especially given the rumors that Booker is planning to run for president in 2020.

Ironically, one of the email chains Cory Booker risked his career to release publicly actually paints Kavanaugh in a very positive light.

The email exchange dates to 2002, shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when Kavanaugh served as an associate to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales.

Gonzales sent an email on January 17, 2002, addressing the issue of racial profiling in airport security.

The White House lawyer presented the question of “whether we should work toward a race-neutral system at all or whether we should instead permit the use of race as a factor in certain circumstances.”

“My own view is that, as required by traditional Equal Protection standards, we must at least consider how to construct a race-neutral system,” Gonzales wrote. “I can imagine such a system that could be effective, perhaps even more effective than one based on racial classifications. For instance, you could break air passengers down into groups of those with/without U.S. passports, those with/withiout recent international travel, those with/without criminal history, et cetera, and subject persons in higher risk categories to higher levels of scrutiny.”

He noted that there would be flaws in this system. It would “require airlines and/or governmental authorities to obtain more personal information from the flying public, and there is some resistance to that within the group on grounds that that would too burdensome, invasion of privacy, and so forth.”

Alternately, the White House lawyer suggested “another school of thought” postulating “that if the use of race renders security measures more effective, than perhaps we should be using it in the interest of safety, now and in the long term, and that such action may be legal under cases such as Korematsu.” He was referring to the Supreme Court decision Korematsu v. United States (1944), which legalized Japanese internment on the basis of national security. (Interestingly, the Supreme Court struck down Korematsu this year.)

Gonzales expressed his desire to avoid racial profiling as a long-term strategy and even in the “interim” period. To this, Kavanaugh agreed entirely.

“My only point was that your long-term approach, with which I agree entirely, still leaves the interim question, which is of critical importance to the security of the airlines and American people in the next 6 months or so,” Kavanaugh wrote.

Later in the discussion, Kavanaugh clearly divided himself and Gonzales from the sort of people who favor racial profiling.

“The people who favor some use of race/natl origin obviously do not need to grapple with the ‘interim’ question. But the people (such as you and I) who generally favor effective security measures that are race-neutral in fact DO need to grapple — and grapple now — with the interim question of what to do before a truly effective and comprehensive race-neutral system is developed and implemented,” he wrote.

This brief email discussion reveals a man deeply concerned about the safety of Americans and deeply committed to avoiding any use of racial profiling in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Far from a “smoking gun,” this document suggests Kavanaugh is fair-minded and opposed to racial profiling, even in the aftermath of 9/11. Exactly why Cory Booker stuck his neck out to reveal these emails is truly a mystery. Perhaps “Spartacus” thought these emails showed Kavanaugh’s willingness to debate the issue?

Update: The documents were cleared for release the night before, so Booker’s stunt was actually even more meaningless than previously known.

Washington Post White House reporter Seung Min Kim posted a statement from Bill Burck, George W. Bush’s records representative who led the review of Kavanaugh’s records. “We cleared the documents last night shortly after Senator Booker’s staff asked us to,” Burck wrote. But wait, it gets worse.

“We were surprised to learn about Senator Booker’s histrionics this morning because he had already told him he could use the documents publicly. In fact, we have said yes to every request made by the Senate Democrats to make documents public,” Burck concluded.

That’s right — Booker knew these documents were released for public viewing before he pulled his “I am Spartacus” stunt.

Fox News’s Shannon Bream actually revealed even more dimensions of just how dumb Booker has been in all this. When the egg was on his face, Booker refused to answer Bream’s questions. “Neither SenBooker nor his staff will directly answer our Q about WHEN he knew the documents he released around 11am this morning were cleared for public release (Committee staff says 4am). Instead, claims GOP was shamed into expediting release,” Bream tweeted.

So “I am Spartacus” becomes Spartacus-gate. Except for the fact that no one cares. Everyone just wants to mock Cory Booker on Twitter now. Bye bye, 2020 ambitions…

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.