The Day After Kavanaugh

The Republican Party is essentially made up of two groups- Evangelicals and traditionalists. The organizing principle that guides them is pretty simple too- the government has forced social change on society that they don’t want. To the Republican Party, they’ve done that through two vehicles- taxation and spending policy, and the courts. This has guided Republican Party policy and politics from Richard Nixon to today, and it is the way to understand the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and even the Trump Presidency.

To the core conservative in America, there is no bad tax cut, nor is there a good spending program that doesn’t benefit *them.* Courts shouldn’t extend new rights to *other* people, or force societal change. Progress should be limited, and it shouldn’t infringe on their lives. You can live here, but on their terms. The traditional societal order should be maintained.

Many of us on the left seem shocked that conservatives have accepted Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh. We seemed caught off guard when Mitch McConnell blew up every norm in the Senate to stop Merrick Garland. I even hear the phrase thrown around, “the Republicans will do this to America just for their tax cuts and judges?” Of course they will. That is the point. Stop government activism. Stop the courts from ordering change. Stop the Congress from giving away *their* tax dollars. If that means getting into bed with imperfect people, conservatives can accept that.

That is the backdrop with which one should view American politics moving forward. Brett Kavanaugh will either be confirmed or not, but we will move forward somehow, and *that* is what will motivate Republicans to move heaven and earth to pass tax cuts and confirm judges. If there is some deep, terrible flaw in a candidate for office, but they will do the things this base wants, they’re going to vote for them. It is fair to assume the treatment that Garland received, and the support that Kavanaugh is getting, are the new norm.

Sometime this week, the Kavanaugh situation will be resolved. Don’t think the politics behind it will be too.

The Real Fight Over Kavanaugh

Donald Trump has past baggage with women that is objectionable. Of course, I think if you dig through most straight men’s pasts, you could find something to not like. Donald Trump isn’t like most other guys though- he’s unrepentant to the core. We heard it on the Access Hollywood tapes. We hear it in the language he uses about women, in the present tense. We see it in his NDA’s and payouts to mistresses. Donald Trump was, is, and will be a misogynist old man. He’s 70, he’s not going to change. The man talks (present tense) about wanting to sleep with his daughter. He is who he is, he’s not evolving, he’s just bad.

Of course, what makes this worse is that he was elected President over the first female nominee of a major party in U.S. history, with less votes than her. What compounds that is that he’s putting pro-life judges on the bench at a break-neck pace. It’s pretty hard for some women to take that an avowed misogynist, who won over a qualified woman on a technicality, is putting judges on the bench to restrict their rights. It makes some folks blood boil.

Enter Brett Kavanaugh, maybe the worst nominee to the high court that I’ve seen in my life. With all due respect to Doug Ginsburg, Robert Bork, and Harriet Miers, all of them needed 60 votes, and all of them either showed some intellect, or likability in their confirmation. Kavanaugh is a wet blanket in an air conditioned room, he’s not even a sympathetic figure.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation has been a display of America’s worst politics. Chairman Chuck Grassley made a mockery of the process from the start, marking tens of thousands of pages of documents “committee confidential,” denying Americans the right to see emails where he said the government had “no compelling interest” in combatting racism, or that Roe v. Wade really isn’t settled law. Couple this with Kavanaugh doing the normal, new age nominee routine of stonewalling the answers on questions about executive power, the environment, labor, guns, Roe v. Wade, and more. He appears to be hiding something from us.

Of course, Kavanaugh is. Like most conservative nominees, he hides his answer on Roe behind calling it “settled law”- while nominees like RBG, Sotomayor, and Kagan clearly stated their support. Kavanaugh’s history of honesty (or lack thereof) makes this answer look good though. During his nomination hearing to the DC Circuit Court, Kavanaugh seems to have perjured himself in saying he did not work on the nomination of Justice Pryor to the DC Circuit while working in the White House, when he in fact did. Is it any wonder Grassley tried to argue that Kavanaugh’s time as White House Staff Secretary wasn’t all that important to this nomination? Is it any wonder that no one believes Kavanaugh saying he didn’t recall discussing the Mueller probe with Trump’s lawyers?

All of this leads to why questions persist over Kavanaugh’s personal finances. From his appointment to the bench, through 2016, Kavanaugh listed $60-200,000 in personal debt on his disclosure forms. Kavanaugh said he ran up this debt on Nationals tickets and home improvements. That’s a lot for baseball tickets. The White House said he floated the money for some friends, but Kavanaugh said he gave “no loans.” In 2017, Kavanaugh suddenly had no debt on his forms. For a man with an expensive country club membership, two kids in an elite private school, and lots of expensive baseball tickets, living on a (albeit good, but not great) government salary, you wonder how? It doesn’t add up. Nor does his explanation of his debt. Could he be a gambling addict? Could he have a wealthy “sugar daddy” helping his finances and pulling his strings? How do we know either way- the man isn’t transparent and honest.

Now that we have established the lies and evasiveness of Brett Kavanaugh, let’s address the elephant in the room here- the accusation that he attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford while he was a 17 year old high school student. We could debate the importance of this matter to the nomination, or that it happened years ago, or that he’s a changed man, or that this is an attempt to destroy his life, if in fact Kavanaugh admitted that some form of the events alleged ever happened. Kavanaugh says categorically that nothing like the accusations ever happened at all, leaving little wiggle room for any forgiveness or discussion of the germane nature of the allegation. Ford isn’t asking for forgiveness, context, or review of his life- he says it didn’t happen. Now if it is in any way, shape, or form shown to be true, it’s all true. If Kavanaugh did a tenth of what she alleges, he’s a liar. He will not only have harmed this woman, he will have denied her the dignity and benefit of the doubt with his lies. The hypocrisy shown by some of his defenders, that he deserves the benefit of the doubt that they would deny to Ford and others will be even more stinging.

I actually believe Kavanaugh deserves a fair and thorough investigation. I believe that with every accusation. If he’s innocent, we should know that. If he’s guilty, we should know exactly what he’s guilty of, and to what degree. Context, intent, and outcomes do matter, whether in a criminal case, or the nomination of a judge. The problem Kavanaugh has is that no one believes that’s happening here. No one believes *his defenders* want an investigation. They want to attack the accuser, shame her story, and approve him. Once again, Grassley’s Committee is hiding the full truth from the public.

So here we have a nominee that is shrouded in secrecy and doubt, put forward for a lifetime appointment by Donald Trump. He could change the rights of women forever, and there are real questions about who he is, now and then. He’s being put forward by someone who makes it clear how he feels about women. This nomination fight isn’t just about Kavanaugh, but really whether we’re going to treat women as equal citizens- in the future.

The Kavanaugh Hearings are a Joke

My biggest takeaway from the Brett Kavanaugh hearings so far? We shouldn’t have Senate confirmation hearings anymore. Much like Government Oversight hearings in the House they are all theatre, and we’re all more dumb for having listened to them. There’s not one undecided person in the room, and Chairman Grassley is a shameless hack for trying to claim his staff went through 42,000 documents in six hours the night before the hearings (7,000 an hour? That’s a lie.). The hearings attract protestors like honey attracts bees, and the net effect is zero- Lindsey Graham doesn’t care how loud you yell about Kavanaugh overturning Roe v. Wade, he’s voting for him anyway.

The only thing in the way of Kavanaugh being confirmed at this point is when Kyl gets to the Senate to replace McCain. Susan Collins pre-cleared this nominee ahead of time, really only leaving Lisa Murkowski as a questionable vote on the GOP side. Assuming the Republicans have 50 votes to confirm Kavanaugh, you might see Democrats in red states- meaning McCaskill, Donnelly, Manchin, and Heitkamp- vote for him too, to help their re-election campaigns. That’s the equivalent of scoring a touchdown with a minute left in a 42-0 football game though, no one cares. Kavanaugh’s entire “target” audience is keeping Murkowski, Flake, Corker, Collins, and Sasse- and he can do that purely by not doing something moronic.

This confirmation was basically sealed when Chuck Grassley accepted mass assertions of executive privilege by the Trump Administration and representatives of the Bush 43 Administration. If Kavanaugh’s opinions on torture, executive power, environmental law, and labor law (to name a few) as the White House Staff Secretary aren’t part of the hearing, what is there to even discuss? As expected, Kavanaugh declined to take a position on whether or not a President could be indicted or subpoenaed, particularly germane topics in the era of Donald Trump as President. Grassley tried to claim Kavanaugh’s opinions as Staff Secretary really don’t matter, and the public shouldn’t see them. If that’s the case, why bother having hearings. The partisans on both sides will take their partisan positions, and everyone else has no reason to care. This whole process is a fraud, and Kavanaugh was guaranteed 51 votes to start.

This isn’t to absolve Kavanaugh of fault and push it to the Senate. He has taken positions on the definition of employment that are outside of the mainstream. He was involved in legalizing torture in the Bush White House. He lied under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was up for a lifetime appointment to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. He has said Presidents shouldn’t face indictments or criminal probes while in office. It’s a near certainty that he promised to protect Trump from prosecution, support corporations in their fights to avoid regulation, overturn Roe v. Wade, and to expand Presidential power- all just to get this nomination. This man wouldn’t even shake the hand of Fred Guttenberg at his hearing, a man who lost his daughter in the Parkland, FL mass shooting, and who supports gun control. Kavanaugh is a bad guy, one who will probably gut the Voting Rights Act and expand the Citizens United case.

The main point is that yet another Congressional process doesn’t work. The Senate Judiciary Committee is a clown show that is run by a liar. If over 100,000 documents are going to be kept out of the public eye on this nominee, what’s the point of calling it a public debate. Like every other nominee in recent memory, Kavanaugh has an impressive resume for the job, but this should actually be about what he’s going to do, and if his nomination is even legitimate, not his qualifications. If we’re not considering his impact on our country, why not just proceed with a partisan, political vote.