Brett Kavanaugh had an opportunity last Friday, September 28, 2018: he had an opportunity to show the United States, and particularly American Women, that he was a suitable choice for a seat on the highest court in the country. Brett Kavanaugh blew it, proving only how deeply unsuited for the job he is.
Now, this might seem wildly out of step with #MeToo, but I don’t necessarily think a drunken assault that happened 35 years ago should keep a qualified, capable, fair-minded judge from taking a seat on the bench of the highest court in our land. I am a sucker for a redemption story, and people are messy and complicated. People (myself included) often do things in their teenage years that, upon later reflection, cause them shame. But teenagers grow up, and most become decent people.
Then there are the bratty teenagers who grow up and appear to be decent people, maybe they have created decent, functional lives but, put them to the test, thwart them in some important way and one finds them temperamentally unsuited to a job requiring careful, non-partisan, emotionless deliberation. Last Friday, Brett Kavanaugh showed us which sort of teenager he was, and what kind of man he most definitely is not.
Trump seems to have a mad genius for putting things before this country designed specifically to tear us apart, and Kavanaugh is a typical example. The last couple of days have been hard, and I’ve thought carefully about the Senate hearings as well as the information we already had, and there are several things I find disqualifying about Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s potential appointment to the Supreme Court:
- Likely perjuring himself twice regarding his time in the Bush W White House.
- Blaming a vast, left-wing-Clinton conspiracy for his past failings.
- Telling easily-discredited lies about his High school slang and lying under oath regarding the legal drinking age during his senior year of High School.
- Crying crocodile tears, pounding the table, losing his temper, failing to answer direct questions, attempting to bully a Senator, and generally making a mockery of proceedings.
I wondered today, reflecting on my own situation, how did survivors of sexual or other assaults feel as they watched the Kavanaugh Senate committee hearings? Was it triggering for them, too? Because I found it almost emotionally overwhelming to watch, particularly after listening to Dr. Ford’s statement about the laughter. Yes, that’s what I remember most, too. The laughter at my expense.
Instead of a temper tantrum, he might instead have admitted he sometimes partied way too hard during High School/college, and has some associated memory loss of evenings when he got particularly wasted. He might have followed by being sincerely horrified to think anything like what Dr. Ford described could happen at all, and doubly so to think he could have been involved. He could have said he had no memory of the particular event, but admit that he did drink a whole lot as a much younger person and then, like most of us who partied a bit did, he grew up. He could have explained how he has put his beer drinking in it’s proper place, and lives a good life of public service. He might have been decent enough to offer Dr. Ford an apology, perhaps saying, “I have no memory of such an event, but I have some gaps from those days, so I have to own what you’ve said, under oath, in front of the nation, and offer my sincere and abject apology. May High School and college kids everywhere observe, learn, and understand the lasting consequences of one’s actions.” But he didn’t do or say any of those things.
Instead, we were treated to the spectacle of the thwarted frat boy and his frat boy defenders (Lindsey Graham, I’m lookin’ at you). He shouted, he choked up but shed no real tears I could see, slapped his notes down as punctuation to his angry statements, sniffed, snarked, drew his mouth into a tiny, defiant circle, and basically behaved like a child denied a long-promised toy. His body language made my skin crawl, because it was the all-too-familiar body language of the school yard bully.
None of it was believable, to me, the tears, the righteous indignation, the evasions. It was the temper tantrum of the elite, white male groomed his entire life to believe a Supreme Court seat was his birthright, and furious that a little High School hi-jinx might get in the way. But you know who really got in Brett Kavanaugh’s way? Brett Kavanaugh.
A man who can admit his errors and apologize for them is an honorable man. I never expect judges on our Supreme Court to be saints – I rather think they’ll come to their decisions better if they aren’t too saintly – but I do expect them to be wise enough, respectful enough, humble enough, and truthful enough to admit their past mistakes and atone, rather than defend, deflect, deny, and gaslight a nation.
The United States is blessed with many talented jurists, male and female. Americans don’t expect them to be saints, but we do expect them to respect our laws. In a bratty, petulant, and thoroughly disrespectful spectacle, Brett Kavanaugh showed us Friday how little he respects the hallowed institutions of our democracy. Brett Kavanaugh must not be given a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land. Brett Kavanaugh likely lied under oath, revealed himself blatantly partisan, and displayed such an appalling immaturity and combativeness as to render him entirely unsuited to the job.