In the Senate confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh, politics cannot be avoided even for this supposedly non-political job of US Supreme Court Justice. The reason is that the candidate must be nominated by the President and the full Senate must vote to confirm him. All of them except the candidate have been elected by the people in a political competition. However, the political maneuvers and emotions for this confirmation are the worst in the public eye due to the present toxic partisan atmosphere, and the accusation of sex assault by Dr. Christine Ford and two other women. Since a Supreme Court Justice serves for life, consideration for the job must cover the nominee’s character, temperament and ideological orientation besides mere career achievements in the legal profession. Any extraordinary bad behaviors in the past should be brought to light.
The key political calculus is that the Republicans in the Senate has a slim majority of 51-49. They cannot afford 2 no votes among themselves in the final confirmation step. Right now, 3 Republican Senators are sitting on the fence: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake who does not plan to seek reelection this year. As a consequence, the Republicans try their best to rush through the hearing process and the Democrats try their best to stall it as the 11/6 mid-term election draws near. This is fair game, and the two parties attacking each other’s political maneuvers is fair game, too.
The Senate hearing is not a criminal trial, but an effort to consider the nominee’s professional works, ideological thinking and personal character because it is a very important lifetime employment. You may correctly say that it’s an inquiry by two political parties. In laymen’s term, it’s a job interview for the Senate Judiciary Committee to decide. Therefore, anything relating to important matters should be considered, including the accusation of sexual assault, which may be serious enough to disqualify the nominee.
A sexual assault that occurred decades ago is no reason for ignoring it. The victims seldom report sexual assaults due to being overwhelmed by shock, fear and shame, plus all the obstacles regarding proof of credibility. It’s hell to go through the trauma multiple times if being investigated. The victims have little to gain but everything to lose if they report to authorities. This is not a problem for women only. Have you heard about men who were molested by priests when they were teenagers decades ago? This does not mean that all the accusers are credible, but we should listen with sympathy and then pass judgment.
A sexual assault case like Cavanaugh’s being heard in the Senate requires no proof, which is for the FBI to substantiate later. However, the accuser bears the burden to demonstrate truthfulness and credibility. The accused is expected to deny and point to any inconsistency in the assault story. The key is less about what but more about how the stories are presented. Dr. Ford has achieved credibility in the public eye by telling her story in a genuine manner, answering questions, and admitting that her memory fails to provide some specific details into which she welcomes an FBI investigation.
On the other hand, Kavanaugh’s defense story was delivered in an aggressive manner full of anger, defiance, disrespect and evasiveness, punctuated by tears all of which gave a negative public impression as seen below:
* Tears show that he was “weak” as Donald Trump describes those people he dislikes.
* He was angry because the sex assault story had “destroyed” his family and reputation. Had the same not happened to Dr. Ford, too? How should she handle it?
* He was also angry because the Democrats played the political game of delay. Had the Republicans not played the political game of rushing through the confirmation process?
* He produced evidence that he was a good boy: study hard, graduate from an elite school, go to church, play sports, love his family, keep a diary, etc. Is this what everyone of us tries to do? This does not prevent a person from succumbing to certain evil desires. Trying to be a good boy does not prove that he is innocent, same as Dr. Ford who cannot prove that her story is real, but only credible. That is why an FBI probe is in order.
* He showed disrespect for the Democratic Senators by not answering and evading their questions. Worse, he even tried to throw the questions back at them about drinking beer. If a candidate tries to do this in a job interview, he will be disqualified right away.
* If he has nothing to hide, he should welcome an FBI investigation into Dr. Ford’s story. Instead, he played the same political game by launching an attack on the Democrats. That’s hypocrisy!
As if to add gasoline to fire, some Republican Senators especially Lindsey Graham lashed out at his Democratic opponents for creating a circus out of the confirmation hearing. This shows that they are just a bunch of old “angry white men” who think that they are entitled to their old-time privileges without any challenge. The old “angry white men” cannot accept that America is fast changing while they are dying out. One of the most important changes is that women have gained more power professionally and politically. Being unsympathetic to women issues carries grave political risks because women represent more than half of the voting population.
To repeat, the confirmation hearing is not a criminal trial requiring proof of guilt. It is obviously a political maneuver because the candidate is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senators who are politically elected. This is a job interview that is essentially a public relations work requiring good optics and presentation that convey truth, genuineness, credibility and personal integrity. Brett Kavanaugh has failed in many respects in the public eye. He could still be confirmed because the Republicans hold a slim majority in the US Senate even after an FBI investigation. To what degree has this confirmation process angered reasonable people, especially women all across America? Only time will tell. It won’t take long for the mid-term election is coming up on November 6th.