BIDLACK | Questions abound, answers elude as Kavanaugh is confirmed
Author: Hal Bidlack - October 9, 2018 - Updated: October 8, 2018
I usually begin these missives with at least a pathetic attempt at a bit of humor, but not today. No, this column needs to be serious throughout because there is nothing funny about what our nation has just gone through regarding the Supreme Court. While I most certainly have my own perspective (I believe Dr. Ford) I think both those in support of and those opposed to now-Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination can agree that the system did not work very well for either the Court or the nation.
We, as Americans, must work through how we respond to allegations of sexual misconduct. I’m not saying I have any of the answers. Indeed, I only have questions, but I think our nation must address these questions and try to come to some level of consensus on what is fair and just. I truly hope that last sentence is not divisive, though in this age of hyper-partisanship, I worry.
The Me-Too movement has raised voices that should have been heard decades ago. And many have embraced the importance of that movement and have taken to heart the silent suffering of countless women and men who have suffered from a wide range of violations and affronts, ranging from the simply rude to the horrific.
But we have also seen the weaponization of opposing the Me-Too movement, as in where a sitting president who first offered words of support to Dr. Ford, found cause to mock her at a political rally, and who asserted that “I think that it’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.” We know from a number of studies that false claims against men are rare, making up only about 2% of all such claims.
The Kavanaugh hearings brought two specific questions to mind: First, given that his alleged poor behavior was perhaps decades ago, shouldn’t we let it go as “youthful indiscretions,” as the late GOP Congressman Henry Hyde claimed his own affair – at age 41 – was when he was helping to engineer the impeachment of President Clinton? Well, that begs an important question: how do we decide which acts of sexual misconduct should result in life-long condemnation and which can be forgiven? Certainly, there must be a range? I hope we can agree that some acts, such as rape or murder, should carry a permanent prohibition against public service as a judge, while others (perhaps a teenage drunken tipping over of mail boxes) would not? If so, where and how do we draw the needed lines? I don’t know, but we need a frank conversation as a nation on this issue.
But Justice Kavanaugh also brought up a secondary concern, in terms of honesty and temperament. Even if you think that Dr. Ford, for some hidden and sinister reason, made up the whole thing (which she didn’t, by the way), Justice Kavanaugh’s performance before the Judiciary Committee should give everyone pause. First, did he demonstrate the calm and reasoned poise we’d hope to see on the high court? I think not. And again, even if you think Dr. Ford lied, you are left with the fact that Justice Kavanaugh lied too, under oath. I’m not talking about the “big stuff” but rather, the little. For example, he repeatedly talked about beer and how the drinking age was 18 in Maryland at the time, making is drinking legal. But that’s not true. The drinking age was 21. Regardless, Justice Kavanaugh was only 17 at the time in 1982 when the alleged assault took place. He lied about embarrassing things in his yearbook, and other little things.
Now, little lies are often not a big deal. But they are not often told by a person striving for a seat on the Supreme Court. There is a principle in law, which I’m quite sure the Justice is familiar with, that a person who tells little lies may well be suspected of character shortcomings regarding overall honesty. And so, I’m troubled by his little lies too. And his comment about what goes around, comes around should chill thoughtful observers to the bone. We now have a Justice with an enemies list. What’s the answer? I don’t know.
And so, we are left with lots of questions and no answers, at least from this humble scribe. But one new and (to me at least) deeply troubling fact is that the third branch of our government, the Judiciary, with the Supreme Court at the top, has now become fully partisan and political.
And that’s a shame.