The resignation of US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy paved the way for President Trump to nominate someone who would advance his agenda. He did.
At first blush the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh appears to fit the bill. He’s young (53) and conservative and many on the right held out hope that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that banned state laws that prohibited abortion.
Since the Senate needs to confirm any Supreme Court nomination by a simple majority and the Republicans have a majority over the Democrats, it appeared that Judge Kavanaugh should walk through the nomination and take his place on the bench.
But wait: It’s never that simple. Judge Kavanaugh attended high school and college in the 1980s, long before the #metoo movement. A few women accused him of sexual impropriety and he has denied these charges.
Unfortunately we’ve been this way before. In 1991, during the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, we heard from Anita Hill who accused Mr. Thomas of sexual harassment when they worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Many of us looked on the treatment of Ms. Hill with horror. At the time she was described as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” and her courage was in vain. Mr. Thomas won confirmation and has served on the Court for the last 27 years.
Shortly after Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination we heard from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist who now lives in California. When she was 15 years old and in high school she claims she was at a party with 17 year old Brett Kavanaugh where he sexually attacked her. She testified that he drew her into an upstairs bedroom where he assaulted her. When she attempted to cry for help he covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming and she feared he would accidentally suffocate her. At the time she did not tell anyone for a well reasoned fear that her behavior would be called into question (“What where you wearing?” “Did you do anything that gave him the impression that you wanted it?” “Did you find him attractive?”).
Defenders of Mr. Kavanaugh claim that she remained silent until now as a conspiracy to prevent his nomination. This isn’t true. Dr. Ford’s testimony describes her speaking with her husband in 2012. When she and her husband renovated their home she demanded a second front door. This didn’t make any sense to her husband until she confessed to him and a marriage counselor that she wouldn’t feel safe without an alternative opportunity to flee the house and this traced back to her assault by Brett Kavanaugh. Yes, she identified him by name.
Dr. Ford hoped this incident would remain private but this summer she learned, to her horror, that Mr. Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court. She could have easily hid and pretended nothing happened, but she chose courage over comfort, patriotism over safety.
She had information about Mr. Kavanaugh that we didn’t and she felt she needed to share her story because it matters who sits on the highest court in the land. Like Anita Hill she had nothing to gain and everything to lose and yet she chose to describe her encounter with Mr. Kavanaugh.
And so she stepped forward. Along with many Americans, I found her credible.
Justice Kavanaugh responded as nearly everyone expected. He denied the assault and also denied he he has ever drank to the point where he doesn’t remember his behavior.
Others have testified that his consumption of alcohol during this time made his testimony false.
If Judge Kavanaugh had testified that his alcohol consumption in high school and college caused him to make poor decisions and sometimes not remember what happened that he now regrets, I could have supported him. If he had said that he doesn’t remember the incident but that he sometimes drank to the point of blacking out and he deeply regrets any pain he may have caused, I could have supported him. Had he said that he doesn’t remember assaulting someone but can’t claim it didn’t happen, I could have supported him.
But he didn’t. Instead chose the path of claiming to be a victim. He accused the Clintons of conspiring block his nomination.
Nominees for government office sometimes need to defend themselves and we all can remember times when we’ve all needed to fight for our reputation. But Judge Kavanaugh chose a low, low road. He didn’t just claim the charges were false, he claimed that those who believed Dr. Ford wished him evil. Clearly he was pandering to President Trump.
This should scare all of us. He may well serve on the Supreme Court for 30 or 40 years and he has shown us that his ambition outstretches his desire to serve the American people.