Three Takeaways from the Kavanaugh Hearing

There are, of course, many, many lessons to be gleaned from Thursday’s hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  For one thing, we learned that the GOP members need a “female assistant” to communicate with the victim of a sexual assault, but were perfectly at ease with apologizing to her [alleged] assailant.  We also found out that there is a scientific basis for gaps in a victim’s memory, and that we tend to remember the things that are seared into our hippocampus by the biochemical reactions known as “fight or flight”—such as the callous, cruel laughter of two drunken, arrogant teenage members of the gentry.  However, the details that are not associated with the actual act of repelling one’s would-be rapist, such as the exact date on which it occurred, or how you managed to make your shaky way home that night, might not be so indelibly tattooed upon your soul.  So, yeah, it takes a bit of self-discipline to confine myself to only three takeaways, but I think that they demonstrate so thoroughly Kavanaugh’s utter unsuitability for the position he so obviously thinks he deserves, that all other observations are merely the greasy frosting on a rancid cake of instability and misogyny.  But that’s just my opinion.

  1. Bret Kavanaugh Cannot Abide Uppity Women

Kavanaugh’s utter contempt for the woman who raised these allegations about him—and the other women and men who demanded that they be examined—was obvious from the moment he began his opening statement.  In a statement he proudly proclaimed “I wrote myself” –as if Dr. Ford had not similarly written her opening address—he asserts that her allegations were at the heart of “a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.” Now, the obvious inability of the Democratic Party to organize anything as complicated as a pizza party at Comet Ping Pong makes it apparent that Kavanaugh is engaging in partisan hyperbole.   However, it is also clear that Kavanaugh regards Dr. Ford in a less than favorable light.  At best, she is a dupe.  A pawn.  A shill.  A misguided creature whose addled brains have been manipulated by a leftist cabal out to destroy an innocent man.  But what if, despite what he told Senator Harris, he did watch Dr. Ford, as earlier reported, and saw a brave, articulate, and fiercely intelligent woman whose forthright testimony very well might scuttle his nomination.  Would that have accounted for the screechy tones and unmasked fury he displayed from the start of his testimony?

That is, of course, conjecture.  Happily, we have more concrete and observable examples of Kavanaugh getting very pissed off at a couple of powerful women.  The first is his incredibly rude response to Diane Feinstein.  While she is trying to find out if he would agree to an FBI investigation, he interrupts her, avoids answering her questions, and mansplains how such an investigation would work.  His body language is even more telling:  he leans back and looks at the ceiling during her questions, and then leans in to her when “answering” them.  For all the world, he looks like a stroppy teenager caught out after curfew, having to listen to mom yammering at him.  How Senator Feinstein had the fortitude not to slap the smirk off his face, I’ll never know, but will always admire.

But the truly egregious behavior was reserved for Senator Klobuchar.  When she asked him whether he ever drank to the point of forgetfulness, he flipped the question back on her—not once, but twice.  By playing this game of “I know you are, but what am I?”, Kavanaugh has clearly forgotten his place.  Instead of treating this entire enterprise as the glorified job interview that it is, he retreated to the type of frat boy antics that I’m sure he was very familiar with back in the hallowed halls of Yale’s DKE house. If, as he earlier professed, he were eager for the truth to get out, he would have answered the questions posed to him forthrightly.  If, as he also professed, he were a qualified candidate for a position that requires probity and equanimity, he would have been polite.  Instead, he lashed out at the woman who is posing an obstacle to his goal. As Senator Klobuchar later pointed out, had she acted that way in his court, Kavanaugh would have thrown her out.  Given this display of outright hostility, how can we possibly believe his protestations that he will respect the rights of over half the US population?

  1. Hell Hath No Fury Like a Privileged White Male Scorned

I have already noted Kavanaugh’s emotional and hostile behavior.  Ping-ponging between howls of indignation and tears of frustration, peppered with the occasional snarl and snide joke, his performance was highly reminiscent of Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? I was a little surprised, frankly, when he didn’t serve Senator Feinstein a plate of dead parakeet for her lunch.  He was a portrait of thwarted privilege.  Every shrug, every smirk, every rolled eye ball screamed, “This Supreme Court seat is mine! How dare you keep it from me?”  Frankly, while Trump might find this performance admirable, I think it makes Dr. Ford’s testimony more plausible.  His behavior revealed him to be the type of man who, despite an outwardly friendly exterior, thinks he needs to knock the smart girl down a peg or two.  I don’t know what the young Christine Blasey said to Bart O’Kavanaugh, but I think there must have been something about her—her intelligence, perhaps, or maybe that same streak of independence that gave her the courage to testify—that threatened him.

Sadly, this display was not confined to Kavanaugh.  There was enough simian chest thumping going on to keep Jane Goodall busy for three life times.  Once Lindsey Graham had his tantrum, the rest of the pack practically fell over each other in their race to heap their scorn on the Democrats.  The nerve of the Democrats, demanding an investigation by the FBI!  How dare they expect the committee to take these allegations seriously?  How outrageous to keep putting up roadblocks to Kavanaugh’s rightful ascension to the Supreme Court—as if the name “Merrick Garland” were utterly alien to them.

Orrin Hatch, in particular, was terribly affronted by the notion that Kavanaugh be held accountable for something that allegedly took place thirty-six years ago.  He pointed out, in an increasingly high-pitched squeak that soon would be heard only by the bats in his belfry, that Kavanaugh had been a “teenager” and an “immature high schooler” at the time.  It struck me that his outrage was not that the accusations were so old, but that they were not so serious.  Boys will be boys, after all, Hatch was implying. Hey! Who hasn’t tried to rip a girl’s clothes off while grinding your genitals into her groin?  I’m surprised that the old codger didn’t say that she should have just relaxed and enjoyed it.

While a certain amount of this anger might have been staged for the benefit of Faux News, I honestly believe that on the whole it was sincere.  Indeed, it might have been the only sincere part of the Republican response to Dr. Ford’s allegations.  And Kavanaugh was right there with them:  his anger fueled by a sense of a privilege denied and a right thwarted.  Now, it is hardly shocking to say that wealthy white men have been well-represented on the Supreme Court since its inception.  What is shocking is the virulence that any encroachment on that privilege engenders. Like any spoiled brat whose toys are taken away, the Senate Republicans are kicking their legs and holding their breath until their faces turn blue, hoping we’ll give in.  Well, fuck that.  I say that we should give them a time out and elect adults in their stead.

  1. The GOP Has NO Interest in Finding the Truth

So this whole hearing, dragging Dr. Ford in, was intended to give her an opportunity to “tell her story.”  What the Committee would do with that story was pretty vague.  I mean, they didn’t outright say that they would ignore it, but on the other hand, they allowed as how it wouldn’t keep them from “plowing through” with Kavanaugh’s confirmation.  The one thing that was clear, however, was that it would not provoke a heroic quest for the truth on the part of the Committee.

This fact might come as a surprise to anyone taking Kavanaugh’s opening statement at face value.  After all, he asserts that he wanted to have a hearing right away to clear this nonsense right up.  But, as was painfully clear, neither Kavanaugh nor the GOP committee members had any intention of turning this hearing into anything like a fact-finding tribunal.  Every step of the way, Gramps Grassley squelched all of Dr. Ford’s requests for an FBI investigation.  Essential witnesses were not called, and subsequent allegations were shunted off to the side.  Indeed, active measures seemed to be taken to avoid any additional evidence from coming in.  And for a man so concerned with clearing his name, Kavanaugh seemed curiously lax about pursuing the avenues that might exonerate him. For example, Mark Judge, the named witness to the assault (and blotto drinking companion of the youthful Kavanaugh) was not only not subpoenaed to testify, but he was conveniently holed up in a DelMarVa beach house, nowhere near the hearing room. Strange behavior, indeed, from a man whose testimony could entirely absolve his old chum. Similarly, Kavanaugh opined that an FBI investigation would be a worthless waste of time because the investigators would render no conclusions—all the time harping on the fact that he had had multiple FBI background checks in the past, as if those investigations, unlike the one requested by Dr. Ford, were somehow magically probative. Nor did he offer himself up to a polygraph.  Hmmm.

Indeed, it is very telling that Lindsey Graham decided to snap his tether when he did.  At one point, Rachel Mitchell, the GOP’s official Female Assistant, had asked Kavanaugh some interesting questions about the calendar entries for July 1, 1982.  There seems to have been a party that evening, attended by the very people that Dr. Ford said were at the house that fateful evening.  For some reason (maybe she remembered who was paying her fee), she backed away from this tantalizing line of questioning, but apparently not soon enough for Graham.  Instead of ceding his time to her, South Carolina’s finest questioned Kavanaugh himself, and worked himself into a state of high dudgeon about the Democrats’ behavior.  Ms. Mitchell was then sent to Republican purdah, never to be heard of again. Ditto for the calendar. Curiouser and curiouser.

Of course, hiding the truth is nothing new to this confirmation process.  There are lots of examples of a distressing lack of candor on the part of Kavanaugh’s Senatorial champions: The hundreds of thousands of documents withheld.  The decision to allow another buddy of Kavanaugh to vet which documents may and may not be released, instead of the National Archives.  The deliberately non-responsive non-answers to the most basic of questions.  All of these add up to a man who seems to have something to hide.  That alone should be disqualifying.  A Supreme Court Justice must be willing to have his or her history open to inspection.  Elena Kagan, when she was confirmed, willingly handed over piles upon piles of documents.  Kavanaugh’s reluctance to do likewise must be taken as evidence that he has an underlying conflict—be it financial, ideological, or even criminal—that precludes him from faithfully carrying out his duties. After all, despite Kavanaugh’s assumptions to the contrary, no one has a right to sit on the Supreme Court.  You have to earn that particular privilege.

©2018 D.R. Miller


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