It’s confession time:
I cannot say with confidence what transpired in that upstairs bedroom in a suburban home in Montgomery County, Md., on that summer evening, apparently in 1982, during a gathering of unsupervised, beer-drinking teenagers.
Unless you have just awakened like a latter-day Rip Van Winkle, you know the party in question involved a 15-year-old girl named Christine Blasey and may or may not have involved a drunken 17-year-old boy named Brett Kavanaugh.
What did or did not occur that evening was discussed, cussed, critiqued and criticized at great length recently before, during and after a marathon hearing in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
I cannot attest that Blasey, now a college professor in California, was the victim of an attempted rape by Kavanaugh, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
I cannot attest that Kavanaugh, now an acclaimed federal judge, is innocent and the victim of what one defender called an unwarranted cheap smear.
I cannot reach either conclusion without more fact-gathering about the events that summer 36 years ago. That is especially important given the lasting significance of the Senate’s decision on whether Kavanaugh will or will not take the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
With the questions continuing to boil over from the hearing, I am certain about this much:
Regardless of whether you think Christine Blasey or Brett Kavanaugh was the more truthful witness, I believe Kavanaugh’s actions during the hearing showed him unfit to be one of the nine justices on the Supreme Court.
Through the years, the Supreme Court has gotten increasingly partisan in many people’s eyes, regardless of whether you think it is too liberal or too conservative. That conclusion comes as justices are assiduously polite and differential and generally guarded in what they say publicly.
That has been the case for confirmation hearings, too. Think about Neil Gorsuch’s hearing last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But Kavanaugh pushed all of that aside last week with the kind of display of temper and hostility toward his questioners that any judge in the United States would be quick to rule out of order if it occurred during a trial.
You cannot have a Supreme Court justice with the sort of animosity that was on display last week when a justice’s job is, as Kavanaugh says, to be a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy in court cases.
Consider these comments last week by Kavanaugh, who clearly was not neutral nor impartial:
Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, prefaced her questions about Kavanaugh’s drinking as a high school and college student by telling about her father’s struggle with alcoholism. “Was there ever a time when you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened, or part of what happened, the night before?” she asked.
Kavanaugh replied, “I don’t know. Have you?”
Then Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, questioned Kavanaugh about comments on his yearbook page, including a reference to the “Beach Week Ralph Club.” Kavanaugh said he had a “weak stomach” and sometimes would vomit.
Kavanaugh added, “I like beer. I don’t know if you do. Do you like beer, senator? What do you like to drink?”
In his opening statement, Kavanaugh set the tone for his afternoon before the judiciary committee. He told senators:
“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President (Donald) 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. This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades.”
If you are a liberal or a Democrat, if you are Hillary or Bill Clinton, or if you are challenging a Trump administration policy or action in court, do you think you will get a fair and impartial hearing from a Justice Kavanaugh?
Kavanaugh could have defended himself against Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations and dealt effectively with the questions posed by Senate Democrats without being belligerent.
He could have handled Senator Klobuchar’s question quite deftly in this manner: “Senator, I’m sure you are quite proud of your father for the way he has dealt with his alcoholism. I have long enjoyed having a few beers with friends, but I have never experienced blackouts.”
Or maybe he has and couldn’t just brush off the question while under oath.
If Kavanaugh cannot follow the Supreme Court’s traditions of justices being impartial in their dealings, how can we have confidence he will be neutral when deciding cases involving groups he tarred last week — liberals, the Democrats, the “left-wing opposition,” the Clintons, or people or organizations who oppose President Trump’s actions or policies?
The same was asked about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when she called Trump a “faker” two years ago. Republicans and Democrats both criticized her, and she quickly acknowledged her mistake and apologized.
Kavanaugh’s venomous comments illustrate that he would not be the neutral umpire we need on the Supreme Court. I think Trump ought to take another crack at this.