In Supreme Revenge, the award-winning PBS Frontline series delves into the bitter feuds over Supreme Court nominations during the Trump era. The theatrics that occurred during these confirmation hearings speak to the deep divides and disruptions that belie the modern day American political system.
The Trump administration has been afforded an opportunity to restructure the Supreme Court in their image for decades to come. The film mirrors these current maneuvers with those of President Ronald Reagan in 1987. That's the year he nominated Judge Robert Bork for placement on the Supreme Court. Within an hour of Reagan's announcement, the claws came out. The opposition led a public campaign the likes of which had never before been seen, including posters, media ads and a commercial spot narrated by actor Gregory Peck. The confirmation hearings became must-see television carried live by the networks.
In the estimation of the filmmakers, this is the moment that paved the way for the indignant infighting and stalemates that have characterized the political landscape over the past four decades. A new era of one-upmanship and incivility had been born. The Republican Party, including a young and determined senator named Mitch McConnell, vowed vengeance against the opposing party for their ravenous tactics against Bork.
This series of events greased the wheels for the drama that encased the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, a melodrama marked by bellicose chest-thumping and vociferous public protests.
Along the way, the film highlights the beginnings of the influential Federalist Society and the controversial nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas, which was quickly followed by the frenzy surrounding Anita Hill's charges of sexual harassment. Then there was the refusal to consider the President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland following the surprising demise of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. It's vividly observed history that brings greater clarity to our present circumstances.
The film includes valuable insights from reporters, historians and political players from both sides of the aisle.
Supreme Revenge is a typically exceptional production from the Frontline franchise; a fair-minded and clear-eyed portrait that attempts to tell the story straight and without prejudice.
Directed by: Michael Kirk