The use of identity politics by establishment Democrats to obscure a violent and hegemonic foreign policy has led many clear-minded people to conflate the very real problem of sexual assault, with a liberal Democratic agenda, says Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
We may not learn anything new about the Brett Kavanaugh affair when the FBI finishes its week- long investigation. It may still ultimately come down to who you believe. But based on his performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh left few doubts about his fitness for the U.S. Supreme Court.
His tirade, crying, petty lies, interruptions of senators and demands they answer his questions—often about beer—and not theirs, showed Kavanaugh lacks the emotions and honesty to sit on a bench.
His blatant partisan attacks shattered the myth of impartial justices who just stick to the law.
Lawyers who stand before the Supreme Court are warned not to anger a justice, lest it override the merits of a case. Imagine being a Democrat and standing before Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
His performance was difficult to satirize. Saturday Night Live‘s routine is as troubling as what actually happened.
Brett the Belligerent
Kavanaugh stormed into the hearing with a strategy: go ballistic, deny everything and hope indignant outrage will carry the day. His supporters saw this as refreshing.
It’s said Donald Trump coached him. Trump has certainly created an atmosphere to enable such behavior, even in the Senate. Some Kavanaugh supporters like the frank talk as a repudiation of “aristocratic” speech by those in power.
With Republican votes in his vest pocket, Kavanaugh was free to shout down Democrats on the panel. It won’t go down as a great moment in U.S. Senate history:
(SEN. SHELDON) WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): So the vomiting that you reference in the Ralph Club reference, related to the consumption of alcohol?
KAVANAUGH: Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.
WHITEHOUSE: And did the world “ralph” you used in your yearbook…
KAVANAUGH I already — I already answered…
WHITEHOUSE: … refer to alcohol?
KAVANAUGH … the question. If you’re…
WHITEHOUSE:: Did it relate to alcohol? You haven’t answered that.
KAVANAUGH I like beer. I like beer. I don’t know if you do…
KAVANAUGH … do you like beer, Senator, or not?
WHITEHOUSE: Um, next…
KAVANAUGH What do you like to drink?
WHITEHOUSE: Next one is…
KAVANAUGH Senator, what do you like to drink?
The word “beer” came up 53 times in the testimony. Kavanaugh badgered other senators about their drinking habits.
After his meltdown in the witness chair, a single senator raised what should have been obvious to all. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) asked Kavanaugh: “Is temperament also an important trait for us to consider?”
He uttered a muffled “Yes.” But he then launched into his filibustering. “So the answer is yes,” Hirono cut him off. “I am running out of time. You know, we only have five minutes, so let me get to something else,” which was: did Kavanaugh get belligerent when drunk?
No, he said. But he indeed showed how belligerent he could be when sober.
Brett the Partisan
In earlier testimony in September, Kavanaugh appeared the model of judicial restraint and non-partisanship. On Thursday he dropped all the pretenses.
“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” he said, “fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President 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,” Kavanaugh said. “The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades.” He then issued what can only be seen as a threat: “And as we all know, in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.”
The judge’s outburst unleashed an attack from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member of the opposition party.
“I hope the American people can see through this sham,” Graham screamed. “This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward because of this crap… If you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”
Feinstein said she tried to keep the name of Kavanaugh’s accuser secret. Her staff had not leaked her name, she said, leaving the accuser’s friends as the only ones who could have done it. After reporters had begun stalking the alleged victim, she went on the record.
The Democratic Party did not invent Christine Blasey Ford. Keeping her name confidential, the Democrats tried unsuccessfully to get the FBI to investigate.
Kavanaugh’s partisan background was revealed well before last Thursday’s hearing. For instance, David Brock, a former conservative and now Clinton operative, wrote on Sept. 7: ”Brett and I were part of a close circle of cold, cynical and ambitious hard-right operatives being groomed by GOP elders for much bigger roles in politics, government and media. And it’s those controversial associations that should give members of the Senate and the American public serious pause.”
As this close circle was watching Bill Clinton’s 1998 State of the Union address, Brock noticed than “when the TV camera panned to Hillary Clinton, I saw Brett — at the time a key lieutenant of Ken Starr, the independent counsel investigating various Clinton scandals — mouth the word ‘bitch.’”
“In a rough division of labor,” within this group, Brock writes, “Kavanaugh played the role of lawyer — one of the sharp young minds recruited by the Federalist Society to infiltrate the federal judiciary with true believers.” That plan will succeed if he is confirmed.
Kavanaugh played another part in the Starr investigation. “Kavanaugh took on the role of designated leaker to the press of sensitive information from Starr’s operation,” said Brock, who opposes his nomination. “That critical flow of inside information allowed Starr, in effect, to set a perjury trap for Clinton, laying the foundation for a crazed national political crisis and an unjust impeachment over a consensual affair.”
Stirring up right-wing conspiracy theories was another of Kavanaugh’s tasks, Brock said. “A detailed analysis of Kavanaugh’s own notes from the Starr Investigation reveals he was cherry-picking random bits of information from the Starr investigation — as well as the multiple previous investigations — attempting vainly to legitimize wild right-wing conspiracies.”
In one of the biggest partisan, political footballs of the 1990s, Kavanaugh also represented, on a pro bono basis, six-year-old Elian Gonzalez after the Clinton administration’s Immigration and Naturalization Service decided to return him to Cuba.
It gets worse. Because of his work in the George W. Bush administration, Amnesty International called for a hold on Kavanaugh’s confirmation “unless and until any information relevant to Kavanaugh’s possible involvement in human rights violations—including in relation to the U.S. government’s use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, such as during the CIA detention program—is declassified and made public.”
Francis Boyle, an international law professor at the University of Illinois, said:
“Contrary to the mantra that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have it in for Kavanaugh, they’ve largely let him off the hook on a number of critical issues, instead favoring theatrics.”
“While there’s substantial attention being paid to the serious charges of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, there’s been very little note that he is a putative war criminal. Specifically, recently released documents show that while Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush administration, one of the people he attempted to put on the judiciary was John Yoo, who authored many of the justifications for torture that came out of the Bush administration.”
Brett the Liar
After the hearing Hirono told CNN Kavanaugh hadn’t spoken the truth about witnesses at the party where his accuser testified he’d tried to rape her.
Kavanaugh denied the attack ever happened. He said the potential witnesses denied it happened too. In fact they said they didn’t recall it happening. Hirono said a judge should know the difference between denial and not knowing.
There were other fibs.
WHITEHOUSE: … Judge, have you — I don’t know if it’s “boufed” or “boofed” — how do you pronounce that?
KAVANAUGH: That refers to flatulence. We were 16.
WHITEHOUSE:: Devil’s triangle?
KAVANAUGH: Drinking game.
WHITEHOUSE: How’s it played?
KAVANAUGH Three glasses in a triangle.
KAVANAUGH You ever played quarters?
WHITEHOUSE: No (ph).
KAVANAUGH: OK. It’s a quarters game.
He claimed he had no connections to Yale, but apparently his grandfather went to Yale.
Smearing the Alleged Victim
The use of identity politics by establishment Democrats to obscure a violent and hegemonic foreign policy has led many otherwise clear-minded people to conflate the very real problem of sexual assault with a liberal Democratic agenda
That has led to facile belief in Kavanaugh’s rant that this is all a Democratic plot against him.
It is up to him to prove that. In the meantime, believing this to be only a political game makes it easy to dismiss what we know about how sexual assault victims remember, and react to their attacks. There is a big body of evidence about memory, and the reluctance to report such crimes.
“Dr. Ford has at times been criticized for what she doesn’t remember from 36 years ago,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said at the hearing. “But we have numerous experts, including a study by the U.S. Army Military Police School of Behavioral Sciences Education, that lapses of memory are wholly consistent with severe trauma and stressful assault.”
Ford is being smeared on social media for supposedly making things up and for waiting too long to speak up. Being smeared is a principal fear that keeps victims silent.
Some of those questioning Ford’s memory have evidently never been sexually attacked.
I am not questioning it, because someone tried to sexually attack me. I was an altar boy at a parish church in the Bronx. After mass a certain priest would talk to me about religion. Then one time he gave me the wine to drink that was used in the ceremony. That led to him massaging my shoulders. Then one day he suddenly swooped down to kiss me on the lips and attempted to un-zip my trousers. I did not understand what it meant but I knew it was wrong. I immediately ran away, all the way back to my house across the street and quit being an altar boy. As we know today, many children have not been so lucky to escape the clutches of pedophile priests.
If you ask me how old I was I can’t remember. I may have been eight or nine or ten. I don’t remember what season it was. I can’t remember just about any other details. But I remember exactly what was done to me and the name of the person who did it. And that was more than 50 years ago.
So when Ford cannot recall the date or the exact place where she says she was attacked, it does not mean she wasn’t. People who ask why she waited 36 years, don’t understand the reluctance to report these crimes: many people won’t believe you and when they do, often blame the victim.
I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t think they’d believe that a priest was capable of such a thing. This was in the mid-1960s before the pedophile priests scandal had broken.
I remember this priest once joking that he wanted to be pope. In this fantasy if he had really been a candidate for pope years later I would have come forward, yes, out of a sense of civic duty. That’s what Ford said motivated her, despite the pain she knew she’d put herself through.
When the first stories of the priests scandals started to appear during the 1980s I told my family for the first time what had happened to me. One family member ridiculed me, laughing about me and the priest being a couple.
I do not feel traumatized by my experience and rarely think about it. But I was reminded of it as this story continues to dominate. And it gave me insights into Ford’s memory.
In contrast to Kavanaugh’s outbursts, she was composed, though shaken, as she spoke of what happened.
Had she or any woman at the hearing behaved liked Kavanaugh in that situation, she would of course have been immediately dismissed as lacking all credibility. The double standard was on full display. Kavanaugh carried on and he’s on the verge of a lifetime appointment. Had any of the five female senators in the room (all Democrats) behaved like Lindsey Graham, they would have put their political futures in jeopardy.
There Goes the Judge
Democrats on the panel wasted much of their time trying to get Kavanaugh to call for an FBI investigation. He refused to. If he was as innocent as he professed, why should he worry?
Of all the witnesses the FBI is talking to, probably none is more important than Mark Judge, the Kavanaugh friend that Ford said was in the room during the alleged assault. The FBI began questioning Judge on Monday, according to his lawyer.
It was inexcusable, though perfectly understandable, that the Republican majority on the committee did not subpoena Judge. Instead he offered a statement, written by his lawyer, which he signed “under penalty of felony.”
Testifying to Congress under oath is under penalty of perjury. Lying to an FBI agent is a crime.
Judge’s statement said: “I have no memory of the alleged incident … I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.”
Making a statement prepared by your lawyer is in no way the same as being examined by a senator or an FBI agent in which the subject’s memory can be probed and his answers questioned.
Yet Kavanaugh, a lawyer and federal judge who presumably knows these things, tried to palm off Judge’s letter as the same thing.
LEAHY: If she’s saying Mark Judge was in the room then, then he should be in the room here today. Would you want him called as a witness?
KAVANAUGH: Senator, this allegation came into the committee…
LEAHY: No, I’m just asking the question. Would you want him to be here as a witness?
KAVANAUGH: He’s — he’s already provided sworn testimony to the committee. This allegation’s been hidden by the committee…
LEAHY: Now, well…
KAVANAUGH: … by — by members of the…
LEAHY: … it hasn’t been — it has not been investigated by the FBI. The committee has refused to allow it to be.
KAVANAUGH: It was dropped on …
KAVANAUGH: … it was sprung.
LEAHY: It was not investigated by the FBI, and he has not been called where he might be under oath.
KAVANAUGH You see (ph) he’s provided sworn testimony and the…
LEAHY: He has — he has not…
KAVANAUGH … Senator — Senator, let me — let me finish. He — the — the allegation came in weeks ago and nothing was done with it by the ranking member.
And then it’s sprung on me…
Though the Republicans resisted it, bringing in the FBI, even for just a week, shows the country the Senate is doing its due diligence. If in the end the GOP confirms him, that will benefit the party. It’s amazing the Republicans resisted the FBI involvement for so long, as if Kavanaugh has something to hide.
There are possibilities that Kavanaugh is not lying, but instead doesn’t remember the incident.
First, he was not a victim so he might well have forgotten it, especially if there were similar escapades at the numerous high school parties he attended.
Second, Ford was outside his circle of friends. He may not have known her name.
Third, he may have been so drunk that he didn’t remember what he did, which would mean he lied under oath that he was never so drunk that he couldn’t remember what he did.
His supporters are going on about “innocent until proven guilty.” But of course as many commentators have noted, this is not a court of law but a glorified job interview under oath. The reverse may well be true: he has to prove he has the character and qualifications for the job.
Kavanaugh came off like a very privileged white guy who went ballistic because he thinks someone without power is trying to stop him from a job he thinks he is owed and was groomed for.
It always comes down to power, doesn’t it?
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @unjoe .
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