Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh decided that to have any chance to reach the court, he would have to shed the pretense he was a fair-minded, calm, judicious thinker. He came out in the afternoon filled with venom, screaming at the committee. His life was being ruined, he claimed. This was a Clinton-like smear. His anger was both frightening and unexpected — if you thought he was that intellectual whom conservatives have swooned over. He yelled, and he cried. If you thought he was sincere, one could also appreciate how partisan and emotional he had become.
The shouting didn’t end with his opening statement. He barked at the ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Then the Republicans got into the screaming act, pushing their outside lawyer Rachel Mitchell aside in favor of histrionics from Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.). If President Trump loved the nasty, male grievance game, the rest of us had reason to wonder if anyone of this temperament — Cornyn, Graham or Kavanaugh — should be in a position of power. If they were women, they would be called “hysterical.”
Kavanaugh, as of this writing, made a couple major errors.
First, he refused to call for an FBI investigation (even when Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois invited him to ask it of White House counsel Donald McGahn). When Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) questioned about his friend Mark Judge, Kavanaugh slipped and said “you’d have to ask [Judge]”, who of course the Republicans refuse to summon as a witness. The refusal to get the facts is both a telling admission of concern about what they would find and a violation the judicial goal of truth-seeking. It’s a political calculation, exactly what you don’t want to see from a judge.
The worst moment was his confrontation with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) who questioned him about blackout drinking. She explained that she understood alcohol abuse because her father was an alcoholic. Have you ever blacked out? she asked. He sneered in response, “Have you?” It was a moment of singular cruelty and disrespect. One saw a flash in the exchange with Klobuchar the same sense of entitlement, cruelty and lack of simple decency that Christine Blasey Ford allegedly experienced way back when, the memory seared in her brain of two obnoxious teens laughing at her ordeal.
After the break, no doubt advised by a White House minder, he apologized. But the damage was done. The spontaneous reaction was the real one.
Kavanaugh says he was not the attacker. But even if you believe that — despite Ford’s riveting testimony — one can reasonably conclude he is not the right person to sit on the court. His anger toward liberals is palpable, his lack of humility bracing. He has the partisan mindset that opponents are unworthy of respect and kindness.
One has had the sense, since his testimony skated past the truth on his involvement with Charles Pickering and on his awareness that documents he received were purloined, that his heart is that of a conservative partisan, one who tried so very hard to make himself into Supreme Court material. The mentality of a political operative — willing to go on Fox News, ready to inflame passions, disrespectful toward opponents — is still there. A nonpartisan would ask for, if not demand, an FBI investigation and Judge’s appearance. Kavanaugh wants to avoid both at all costs.
I believe Dr. Ford. But even if one does not, one can easily and firmly reach the conclusion Kavanaugh is far too partisan and angry to be on the Supreme Court.