Many people on both sides of the aisle are amazed by the virulent passions being stirred by the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. They shouldn’t be. In fact, given the stakes, it is surprisingly civil.
This battle is not about sexual harassment, binge drinking, judicial qualifications or the #MeToo movement. It is about raw power. It is about who makes policy: elected representatives or power-hungry judges and bureaucrats.
The establishments of both political parties had reached a harmonious consensus: the Democrats would satisfy their contributors by using the judiciary and bureaucracy to promote abortion, gay rights, secularism, pornography and anti-global warming initiatives while the Republicans would satisfy their contributors by allowing corporate America, health insurance companies and the Wall Street Welfare State to pillage the middle class. Everyone would live happily ever after in their Manhattan condos, Georgetown townhouses and California palaces. Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or John Kasich – it didn’t matter which one – would preside over this farce.
Then disaster struck: Donald Trump won. Breaking Republican tradition, President Trump actually delivered on what he promised during his campaign – appointing judges to the Supreme Court who interpret the law rather than make it up. The Democrats were outraged. The Republicans were getting their corporate tax breaks, deregulation of energy production, partial Obamacare repeal and a booming stock market. The Democrats were getting squat.
Thus, when judicial conservative Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to replace the moderate swing vote, Justice Kennedy, the excrement hit the fan. Kavanaugh had to be destroyed at all costs. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Kavanaugh had sterling qualifications and had the savvy to give vague answers on controversial issues. So the Democrats accused him of attempting to rape a woman, exposing himself to another woman, and organizing and participating in gang rapes.
They found the perfect victim in Dr. Christine Ford, a middle-aged psychologist well-versed in the pseudoscience that passes for some theories in modern psychiatry. She accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her when she was 15 years old but – at the time of this writing – cannot find a single person or piece of evidence to collaborate her story. Astonishingly, she does not remember where this happened, when it happened or how she was transported to and from where the alleged incident occurred. Furthermore, she used her medical background to explain the neurobiology of how the emotional trauma of such an event allowed her to obscure memories that could acquit Kavanaugh, but retain the memories that condemn him.
She hit a raw nerve. Many women have memories of drunken belligerent men pawing at them and are no longer willing to tolerate this behavior. They have focused their rage on Kavanaugh – guilty or not.
From a political point, none of this matters. If Dr. Ford were to say tomorrow that she made the whole thing up, not one Democratic vote would change. Furthermore, the Democrats would have done this to any conservative. Cultural conservatives preferred Amy Coney Barrett, a 46-year-old judge who has expressed skepticism of Roe versus Wade. But since she lacks Ivy League credentials, the Democrats would have accused this attractive woman of sleeping with powerful men to advance her career while liberal Hollywood starlets and female journalists expressed disgust at such behavior. Whether it was true or not would be irrelevant. Judge Kavanaugh hit the nail on the head when he said, “This is not about advise and consent; it is about search and destroy.”
Perhaps the FBI investigation will find evidence that Dr. Ford is telling the truth – or other damning evidence against Judge Kavanaugh – resulting in his withdrawal. But if it does not, his confirmation will hinge on the votes of two moderate Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. It will take tremendous political courage for these women to support Judge Kavanaugh. If they do not, they will become instant media darlings with the prospect of huge book deals and dozens of honorary degrees.
Kavanaugh will be destroyed. He will probably lose his present judgeship. His family will be ostracized and his daughters will be reminded constantly that their daddy is a rapist. No one will let him coach their daughter’s basketball team. Dr. Ford will become a cultural icon and the chortling victorious Hollywood will film movies depicting a drunken teenaged Kavanaugh attacking the naïve teenaged Dr. Ford.
But no one knows how President Trump will react if Kavanaugh is voted down. He is cunning and ruthless. With the Mueller investigation hovering over him, he will not get favorable rulings from a Supreme Court that is divided four to four if he were to be subpoenaed or indicted. Not having Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court imperils his presidency.
He may decide to put all his political capital to increasing the number of Republican senators. Both Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Joe Donnelly (Indiana) are now behind in the polls since they declared opposition to Judge Kavanaugh. If the Republicans pick up enough Senate seats, President Trump could renominate Kavanaugh after the election, when the votes are assured.
If that happens, Murkowski and Collins can either switch parties, or be assigned to committees that oversee latrine clean-ups on the Capitol Mall. Stay tuned.
Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.