Don Rogers: Low road to high court
#MeToo crested with Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh’s “she said, he said” hearing, and the Supreme Court confirmation process dipped to its lowest yet.
Now the judge’s confirmation hinges on the thinnest of thin criteria:
Whether an incomplete and unsubstantiated 36-year-old memory of a drunken teenager unsuccessfully forcing himself upon a girl during a party will upend an otherwise professionally impeccable career as a jurist.
Whether he fibbed about heavy drinking as a high schooler and college student.
Whether his outraged defense of himself reveals a temperament unworthy of a Supreme Court justice.
But I might have been more struck by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week giving a speech in empty chambers about those terrible Democrats being “political,” along with the Republican litany for Kavanaugh.
This struck me as absurd, as if all the low theater last week weren’t enough. But I had expected that. Whom was this solitary performance supposed to convince? There was no one there, and the speech wasn’t exactly “Game of Thrones” for a television audience at midday, either.
Then I realized with a start I had missed the whole point. McConnell wasn’t trying to convince anyone. He was delivering talking points to the tribe that already agrees with everything he’d say. He was giving the army ammo.
The president later took off the safety and blasted away at Ford to cheers from his campaign-style gathering in Mississippi.
Never mind the judge’s comportment. What about ours?
What we think of Ford and Kavanaugh says far less about them than us. And so the tribe that believes Ford already opposed Kavanaugh. And the tribe that wants him confirmed dismisses, even demeans Ford.
It’s not that liberals are more disturbed than conservatives by sexual misconduct. The Clinton impeachment tells us otherwise. Circumstances may differ, but the mindset sure is familiar, with the outraged then making excuses now, and vice versa.
Our worldview shapes our political leaning, which colors our view of these accusations and of Kavanaugh himself. We’re all poisoned, basically. As humans, no one is neutral.
Still, up to four senators as I write have not signaled clearly how they will vote on Kavanaugh, who is likely to be confirmed Saturday. The FBI apparently turned up nothing new and frankly didn’t try very hard. I do think the Republicans erred again in hog-tying the inquiry.
Ah, a clue to my beliefs, a revelation about myself. We can’t know about them, not really, not with what we have, this goo of innuendo dug up from decades ago.
What else do I believe?
Well, I believe Ford was assaulted. I don’t believe 100 percent Brett Kavanaugh was the one who did it. I’m told this might be because I’m old, white and male. Because I’m not a woman who likely as not has had something like this happen to her and cannot forget.
I don’t believe Kavanaugh. That was an interesting discovery while running and getting lost on a trail network off Alder Creek Road in Truckee after the hearing.
Maybe my blood runs cooler than his, so I know it’s unfair to find doubt in his indignation, along with a strong sense he was trying to change the subject and deflect questions. The irony of this being a nominee for the one job in America requiring the most deliberative dispassion was not lost on me.
His shock — shock! — at politicians behaving like … politicians. Left-wing conspiracy? This was rich coming from someone who played key roles in the Republican versions of the same game. He played his part too well then to be believable now.
The Republican majority of the committee couldn’t have played their parts any worse, unfortunately. Bland inquisition of Ford by a prosecutor, followed by her inane report on the obvious: not enough there to bring a case in a court of law. Well, duh. There’s also generally an investigation, ahem, before deciding something like that.
The Republicans and president may regret a lot of their tactics, foremost not going to a deep bench of equally qualified candidates without this baggage. Neil Gorsuch, remember, passed through the same committee and those terrible Democrats just fine.
#MeToo didn’t have to crest. The Republicans could have navigated this quite deftly, if ruthlessly. No high drama. No Christine Blasey Ford becoming a beacon for all women. The Republicans could demonstrate respect for the sanctity of the court instead of a wanton power move for the wrong nominee.
And we wouldn’t face the prospect of a justice who under pressure revealed he’s not what we like to imagine in our top jurists.
Yeah, maybe these folks really do have to be saints. Thing is, we have them, liberal and conservative thinkers alike. Plenty enough to fill our highest court.
It’s the conservative’s turn, hard won in 2016. I don’t have an opinion on that one way or the other. But why not another Gorsuch, male or female? Why a guy who finally showed the nation he was such a partisan punk?
Wait, does this make me a liberal?
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.