By Anthony L Hall
In “Re Supreme Court: Kavanaugh-Ford Playing Thomas-Hill Roles. But a Different Ending Looms,” September 17, 2018, I delineated some of the principled and political reasons why I asserted that Kavanaugh’s confirmation was toast.
And, the intemperate way he spewed bald-faced lies during his testimony only reinforced my assertion.
Frankly, there was no fair way he could survive the credible MeToo allegation of sexual assault he faced. That’s why it took putatively fair-minded senators twisting logic, reason, and good old-fashioned common sense into pretzels to justify voting for him.
For example, Ford testified that she is 100 percent certain that Kavanaugh is the man who sexually assaulted her. Yet these senators insisted that, even though they found her credible and believe something happened to her, they just don’t believe Kavanaugh is the culprit. This, of course, is as disingenuous as it is condescending.
Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh is heading to confirmation to the Supreme Court this weekend after two key undecided senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia — announced Friday that they would support his elevation to the high court, ending the most divisive confirmation fight in decades.
With the Senate and the nation bitterly divided, Judge Kavanaugh’s future came to rest with four undecided senators: three Republicans — Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Ms. Collins — and one Democrat, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. But one by one, they let their positions be known.
(The New York Times, October 5, 2018)
Murkowski defied her party to vote her conscience; Manchin defied his to vote his career. But Kavanaugh only needed two of the four. He got three. In any case, I was wrong about the outcome: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (The more things change …).
To be fair, though, Flake, Collins, and Manchin are merely acting according to the new norm in Washington, DC: say anything, do anything, or vote for anything to ensure your reelection — the welfare of the country be damned.
Apropos of which, I admonished an old friend earlier today that he and his fellow Democrats are to blame for this outcome. Most notably because they seem to think that making a nuisance of themselves with flash-mob protests is more important than voting at the polls. Perhaps now it will finally dawn on them that elections have consequences. Because voting against Republicans is the only way to stop them from governing pursuant to the “Big Lie” that Trumpism is as American as Apple Pie and Chevrolet.
That said, Trump fooled Democrats once by surviving notorious allegations of sexual assault to make it into the White House. He has now fooled them twice by coaching his nominee to survive similar allegations to make it onto the Supreme Court.
But this is far more serious than a case of fool Democrats once, shame on Trump, fool them twice, shame on Democrats. It’s about Trump and Kavanaugh standing for the proposition that the more credible any allegation against you, the more defiant your denial should be. Deny, deny, deny until you get your way, or come what may!
This invariably involves DARVO — an acronym psychologist Jennifer Freyd coined in a 1997 research paper titled, “Violations of power, adaptive blindness, and betrayal trauma theory”. It stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse [roles of] Victim and Offender. That’s pretty much what Kavanaugh and his Republican enforcers did, no?
America’s only hope is for the women (including “college educated” Republicans) who found Professor Ford’s testimony so credible and compelling to lead a march to the polls in November, hell-bent on making Trump and his enabling Republicans pay. Instead of getting the message that their voices don’t count, I hope women seize this opportunity to send the message that, henceforth, men will suffer grave truth and consequences for ignoring them.
In the meantime, though, Republicans can derive considerable consolation from the growing list of benefits their Faustian bargain with Trump has already delivered (e.g., Gorsuch, tax cuts, deregulation, and now Kavanaugh). And, like Trump, they clearly couldn’t care less about the Pyrrhic consequences, which include the Republican Party being damned (for enabling sexual predators the way the Catholic Church enabled pedophile priests), civic norms being eroded, and democratic institutions being undermined.
Granted, nothing undermined confidence in, and respect for, the Supreme Court quite like the way it handed the presidency to George W. Bush with its ruling in Bush v. Gore 2000. And I’ve had just cause to lament in far too many commentaries since then about the justices ruling like little more than political pawns of the presidents who nominated them.
But it’s easy to see how Republicans winning this battle for the soul of the Court marks the metaphorical nail in the coffin of its presumed impartiality and independence.
Incidentally, it is noteworthy that Kavanaugh will be the second sitting justice with a black cloud of sexual misconduct hovering over his head, thereby compromising his black robe. But, like Justice Thomas, I suspect Justice Kavanaugh will weather that cloud and the permanent asterisk it will put next to his name with indignant pride.
Apropos of Bush, it is also noteworthy that he lobbied aggressively behind the scenes for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Many people found this a betrayal of the apparent friendship he has developed with the Obamas, especially given the apparent dislike he harbors for the Trumps (well, Donald at any rate).
This, of course, is patently absurd. After all, Kavanaugh was one of Bush’s most trusted presidential advisers who shares his political values. I mean, can you imagine Barack Obama refusing to lobby for David Axelrod in similar circumstances because of the apparent friendship he has developed with the Bushes?
But I suspect Bush’s affinity runs even deeper. Because, like Kavanaugh, he spent much of his youth going on drunken, rabble-rousing benders, which probably included a few sexual assaults — even if HeToo can’t remember. So when he sees Kavanaugh, a fellow Yale frat boy, struggling through the crucible of his MeToo reckoning, Bush probably cannot help thinking “there but for the grace of God go I.” More to the point, he must think that, if he can be reformed and redeemed enough to make it into the White House, Kavanaugh surely can to make it onto the Supreme Court.
In any event, conservatives are clearly salivating at the prospect of having their way in the courts for a generation. No doubt it’s only a matter of time before they finagle cases for their Supreme Court to roll back abortion rights, gay rights, voting rights, and environmental, financial and other regulations. This, while finagling others to expand religious “liberties,” corporate interests, and presidential power, privileges and immunities.
But God forbid one or two of the Court’s five conservatives should suffer an untimely death during a Democratic presidency. Because that’s all it would take to defeat the political jihad conservatives embarked on today. Just sayin’ …
God help America.
* This commentary was originally published at The iPINIONS Journal on Friday, October 5.