I feel like a unicorn these days, because I did not oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court at first, but I do oppose it now. Why? Entirely because of the character issues raised about him.
Countless times, I heard some fellow Republicans say they found both Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh believable during last Thursday’s hearings, and then come up with explanations that strain credulity to avoid taking her side. Maybe she was confused about who the boy was, they offered. They said the burden of proof was on her and since they were both equally credible, she hadn’t met it. Give me a damn break. This is like when you get asked at a banquet if you want chicken or fish. It’s one or the other, not both.
I do not oppose Kavanaugh now because he is more conservative than I am, particularly on social issues. Elections have consequences. A President gets to pick Supreme Court nominees who reflect ideology important to the President’s party. Whether I like it or not – and unless you’ve been under a rock for two years, you know I don’t like it – Donald Trump is President. Anyone he picks will come from a list of conservative jurists approved by the Federalist Society. All will be in the same ideological mold of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Justice Gorsuch shares a similar legal and educational background to Kavanaugh’s, but was easily (though narrowly) confirmed. There is one important difference: Gorsuch did not get accused of sexual assault.
The ideology of a nominee, and factors like race, gender, ethnicity and creed, are all solely the President’s choice. But there are other requirements for a Supreme Court appointment that should not be optional. A Supreme Court Justice should have intellectual heft, judicial temperament and lifelong fitness of character.
There is no doubt Kavanaugh meets the intellect requirement. And until two weeks ago, I also thought he had judicial temperament and fitness of character. He has gone through six FBI investigations and served on the federal bench for 12 years. People I know worked with Kavanaugh in the past and describe him as a “Mr. Rogers” type of guy. In his first hearings, he came across as calm and deliberative – a cross between a Boy Scout and an altar boy.
That all changed once Professor Ford’s allegations emerged.
Let me say clearly and unequivocally, I believe Christine Blasey Ford. Unless she is a clinical masochist, no woman in her right mind would willingly subject herself and her family to the threats and harassment that come with her actions. I believe her because years ago, she told her therapist and husband. I believe her because she has nothing to gain and a lot to lose from coming out. I believe her because so many victims of abuse stay silent for years and decades, but always carry it with them. I believe her because she is not a partisan activist. I believe her because during his hearing, Kavanaugh lied about little things he didn’t need to. I believe her because his good friend, Mark Judge, wrote a book called, “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk,” which mentions a character named “O’Kavanaugh” he frequently got wasted with. I mean, come on, “Kavanaugh” is not exactly “Smith.” I believe her because she took a polygraph, and he didn’t. I believe her because he did not ask for the FBI investigation that could have helped clear his name. I believe her because many other classmates have come out to say he drank a lot. I believe her because of Kavanaugh’s high school calendar listing the same names she said were at that house party. I believe her because I’ve had traumas in my life and I don’t remember when and where exactly I was when they happened, but I remember they happened.
A lot of people think we should not define a person’s entire life because of grave mistakes made as a teenager. I tend to agree with that. Kavanaugh is certainly not alone in doing things as a teenager that most of us as adults would rather forget.
But his nomination is for the Supreme Court. It is different than any other position in government. Once named, you can’t be fired. You are not accountable to voters or even a President. It is a lifetime appointment. And unlike appointments to lower courts, there is no retirement age and impeachment is almost unheard of. All of this makes the standard for confirmation higher. We shouldn’t be comparing the regrettable stuff we did in high school and college to the things Kavanaugh is accused of. We are not getting appointed to the Supreme Court to decide on legal issues affecting all Americans.
I now believe Kavanaugh lacks the judicial temperament and character to serve on the Supreme Court. In the last hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was screaming, crying, disrespectful and partisan. Except for the partisan part, if any woman behaved that way, people would blame it on hormones or call her hysterical. I am not one to criticize anyone for showing emotions. If you’ve ever seen me in action, you know I wear mine on my sleeve. But then again, the closest I’ll ever come to the Supreme Court is posing for a selfie on the sidewalk with the Court as a backdrop.
In his testimony in front of the committee, Kavanaugh was a partisan attack dog. He showed resentment and disdain for Democrats. He questioned Senator Klobuchar about her drinking habits. He brought Trump’s election into it. He blamed Professor Ford’s allegations on Clinton allies seeking revenge for his role in the Starr investigation. I suspect if any of us had gone through what Kavanaugh has, including threats to his family, we’d be mad as hell, too. But again, this is for the Supreme Court. Justices are supposed to be free from external political pressures. Given what we heard from Kavanaugh and the emotional scars this process will leave him with, given his animosity for Democrats and his indebtedness to Republicans, would he ever be capable of judicial independence? Every Senator, regardless of party, should ask themselves that question.
Let’s also be frank about the politics here. Even if Kavanaugh walked on water and could multiply fish, Democratic senators were going to vote against him based on ideology. There are also Republicans for whom ideology trumps everything. Whatever mistakes he may have made as a drunk teenager pale in comparison to the significance of a solid Conservative vote on the Supreme Court. They should be honest about it and say so, instead of doing verbal acrobatics saying they believe both the accuser and the accused.
There is one more factor to consider here: the message whatever happens next will send to millions of Americans who have been victims of sexual assault. Victims heard and saw themselves in Christine Blasey Ford. She blew open the floodgates. The calls into rape hotlines went up, some by as much as 338%. Victims everywhere shared the secret trauma and shame they had carried silently for years. Like the two women who confronted Jeff Flake on the elevator told him, confirming Kavanaugh means “my pain does not matter.” Many women have told me the same. Fairly or unfairly, this has transcended Ford versus Kavanaugh. It has transcended Democrat versus Republican. It is about much more.
I don’t think Kavanaugh is a monster. I don’t think he is evil. My heart breaks for his parents, his wife and his little girls. By all accounts, most of his adult life, Kavanaugh has been a decent guy. The actions he is being accused of all happened over 30 years ago. When you are vying for a seat on the Supreme Court, youthful mistakes matter. Lying about those mistakes matters more. Lying about those mistakes under oath matters even that much more.
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Often, when in midst of a fight, people can get so emotionally invested and entrenched in their positions, they lose sight of the forest for the trees. For the good of the country, for the integrity of the Court, Republicans should move on. Kavanaugh should withdraw.