Column: Kavanaugh, the next chapter

September 19, 2018

Every two weeks when I sit down to write this column, I gird myself to argue passionately for fairness and bipartisanship – for the simple reason that I don’t think our democratic republic can survive otherwise. And then like clockwork I’m forced to confront a new, worse than ever, political low blow.

It happened again. My mid-August column called for bipartisan support of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination. Today that’s water over the dam – a tidal wave actually – with more ferocity and damaging power than hurricane Florence.

As everyone now knows, a bombshell allegation of an unreported sexual assault 36 years ago by the then teenaged Brett Kavanaugh has just sidetracked the imminent senate vote.

It’s a runaway train with new facts emerging hourly. We don’t know where this is heading, but for now let me go out on a limb with my own sense of how we got here.

First let’s reprise the pre-bombshell chronology:

1. From day one of the Trump presidency, full-on Democratic resistance to everything.

2. Pre-packaged Democratic faux fury about the president’s SCOTUS choice, with protesters organized and in place even before they knew who it would be.

3. Months of vetting, meetings with senators and senate review of the 300-plus Kavanaugh rulings and hundreds of thousands of pages of records (more than provided for any high court nominee in history, but dismissed by Democrats as inadequate.)

4. Repeated demand for postponement for whatever reasons come to mind: president under investigation, Cohen’s plea bargain, etc.

5. Four days of Senate Judiciary committee hearings, a pre-planned circus of disruption and chaos.

It is painfully clear that the Democrats’ objective from the outset has been to derail Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, whoever it is, by any means possible. In that context, it is hard for folks on either side to evaluate objectively the stunning revelation of a possible sexual assault, albeit one that just appeared out of the blue.

So far, all Democrats and even some Republicans – in the age of #meToo, understandably skittish about appearing less that fully supportive of an alleged sexual assault victim – today are somberly milling about saying “gee it’s really too bad we just found out about this, but we can’t rush to judgment.” And they’re right.

Timing is everything. The New York Times calls the bombshell’s timing “unfortunate.” Senator Dianne Feinstein, who released the anonymous allegation just last Friday, acknowledged that she had this information since July. Several analysts noted that her reasons for its last-minute release “remain hazy.”

Hazy my foot. The reason is that its release had to be last minute in order to have any chance of stalling the senate vote until after the midterm elections. All that went before, the sober examination of Kavanaugh’s qualifications and judicial philosophy, was just political theater. Timing indeed is everything.

We’re told that the accuser initially insisted on anonymity and only this past weekend chose to go public. But that too seems questionable: she evidently had engaged legal support, taken a lie-detector test and assembled well-packaged media information well in advance of her Sunday change of heart. Just one day later, she expressed willingness to testify before Congress.

Democrats have a history of this kind of thing, particularly in SCOTUS appointments. They rolled out Anita Hill only after the conclusion of Clarence Thomas’s grueling hearings – hearings that were then reconvened for what Thomas characterized as a “high tech lynching.” Hill remains a darling of the left, despite zero corroboration of her testimony that permanently tarred Justice Thomas’ reputation.

And let’s not forget the utter destruction of Judge Robert Bork, still a low point in senate history, led by Ted Kennedy.

Many Democrats justify their Kavanaugh treatment as repayment in kind for the 2016 GOP refusal to go forward with a Merritt Garland hearing. That’s plausible, except for the fact that Justice Scalia’s unexpected death occurred late in Obama’s second term. By that time, GOP held the senate majority and already given bipartisan support to Obama nominees Kagan and Sotomayor. It was neither unreasonable nor unprecedented (the “Biden Rule”) to wait until the next president was in place before proceeding on Garland.

The Garland appointment did not run aground when Mitch McConnell tabled it – that happened when Donald Trump won the 2016 election.

Whatever the outcome of this sad affair, Sen. Feinstein’s delay in releasing critical pertinent information is unconscionable. It doesn’t serve the interests of the nation, the court or any sexual assault victims; it serves only partisan political motives.

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