You don’t have to be college-educated to figure out how the Republican Party feels about women. They’ve made it crystal clear throughout Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. President Donald Trump punctuated his party’s stance with an uncharacteristically reserved albeit unsurprisingly ignorant comment that should have every American woman voting for anyone but a Republican male this November and beyond.
“It’s a very scary time for young men in America,” Trump said after seeing and hearing the testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. Ford alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when he was 17; Kavanaugh denies the allegations. It’s a situation this country’s seen before, which shows how little has changed in 27 years.
Despite 90 to 98 percent of sexual assault allegations found to be accurately reported according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the President thinks it’s men who should be scared while “women are doing great” making 80 cents to a man’s dollar and so scared of men it took a movement of high-profile women accusing high-profile men of sex crimes for less than half of victims to report sexual abuse. An estimated 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to police, and one in six women have been a victim of rape or attempted rape.
So it might be a scary time for up to 16,093,000 American men (10 percent of 160.93 million American men), but it has been and continues to be a scary time for almost twice as many American women (27,915,666 to be more precise). Trump’s opinion on this subject is not unlike his and his party’s opinion of voter fraud. Neither has a foundation based on facts. Instances of voter fraud are even rarer than instances of false sexual assault reports. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, commonly known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, was quick to educate the President via Twitter.
Trump called the testimony of Ford “very compelling,” adding that “she looks like a very fine woman to me, very fine woman.” I don’t know if Trump was commenting on Ford’s appearance or her integrity, but, as usual, it took him a few seconds of rambling before the words with which he should have led managed to sneak by the foot in his mouth. “Credible witness” was all Trump had to say of Ford; words he didn’t use to describe his Supreme Court nominee.
Frankly, none of Kavanaugh’s testimony should be considered truthful until he does what Ford did: take and pass a polygraph test, the use of which he actually supported in writing just two years ago. In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Andrew Manuel Crespo revealed that Kavanaugh recommended polygraphs be used to “screen applicants” for “critical” government positions. There are few governmental positions more critical than Supreme Court Judge, but Kavanaugh isn’t practicing what he preached. Apparently, Kavanaugh thinks his position as an “honorable” judge entitles his non-polygraphed testimony equal consideration to Ford’s polygraph-passing testimony.
Have we learned nothing in the 27 years since Anita Hill accused then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in the workplace? Like Ford, Hill passed a professionally administered polygraph test, and like Kavanaugh, Thomas didn’t take one. But Thomas’s performance in 1991 was Oscar-worthy, while Kavanaugh’s was Razzie-worthy. I might not be a Hollywood director, but I have a Bachelor’s degree in filmmaking and know a good performance when I see one. Ford’s testimony seemed realistic. The moments, or beats, she was emotional were moments you’d expect to make someone emotional; they were motivated by the dialogue being delivered. She gave honest testimony, and had she not taken a polygraph, I’d still believe her over Kavanaugh.
Not only was Kavanaugh’s performance unconvincing but unmotivated, except for the brief moment he channels Thomas in talking about the allegations being a political hit by “left-wing opposition groups.” Of the 5,294 words in Kavanaugh’s prepared statement, he convincingly delivered 51 of them. It was as close as Kavanaugh would come to channeling Thomas.
You can tell Kavanaugh tried to use Thomas’s testimony as a template, but he strayed from that proven playbook as if he was Tobin scrambling behind his offensive line in high school. Tobin, the “great quarterback” at Kavanaugh’s high school (which has its own nine-hole golf course), used to workout with Kavanaugh. Tobin’s dad ran the workouts, the thought of which made Kavanaugh cry. That sort of reaction made me wonder if Kavanaugh had been molested by Tobin’s dad, or if Tobin or his dad died tragically. That would have motivated tears, not working out with high school friends.
Kavanaugh also choked up over calendars that doubled as his dad’s diaries, which he started keeping in 1978. He wept over these calendars as if his father was dead or as if they were responsible for his fondest childhood memories (Kavanaugh was 13 when his father started keeping the calendars). John Oliver quipped that Everett Edward Kavanaugh Jr. is not only alive, but was seated behind his son hiding his disgrace better than his son was hiding the truth.
Trump seemed to be more shocked by Kavanaugh’s testimony than Ford’s, and for good reason. Not only did we have a good idea of what Ford was going to say, but we thought we had a good idea of what Kavanaugh was going to say and how he would say it. He could have and should have emulated the example provided by Thomas 27 years earlier — posturing unmitigated strength and voicing emphatic anger in response to the accusations, the accuser, and Congress for allowing this “circus,” “national disgrace,” and “high-tech lynching for uppity-blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kow-tow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.”
Kavanaugh couldn’t play the race card like Thomas, so he played the politics card instead. It’s a much weaker hand, but any hand played properly can win the pot. Kavanaugh just doesn’t have Thomas’s poker face, and worse yet, he’s probably a sexual molester of at least one woman if not more.
Whether he’s guilty or not, Kavanaugh’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee provided ample reasons why he’s not fit for the Supreme Court. He repeatedly said he likes beer, as if he was trying to placate to the committee’s beer-drinkers. He was extremely rude to Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar when asked if he’d ever drank to the point he couldn’t remember events. Despite spending 28 years in courtrooms, Kavanaugh responded to Sen. Klobuchar’s question with a question of his own: “Have you?” He must have been tired of lying, but that probably wouldn’t have been his response had a man asked the question. I think this moment is most indicative of Kavanaugh’s treatment of women. He bullied Klobuchar, going on the offensive when he’s supposed to be defending himself and his reputation.
It’s worth noting that it took three years for George W. Bush’s nomination of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to be confirmed. During that time, Kavanaugh was downgraded from a rating of “well qualified” by the American Bar Association, its highest designation, to simply “qualified,” after conducting more interviews in 2006. He’s not even good at his job, and there are 20 or so more candidates Republicans can confirm who will overturn Roe v. Wade just like Kavanaugh would. Why Republicans are willing to die on this hill with this lying snake is the most mind boggling move they could make with the midterm elections upcoming. The last thing they need is to give women more reasons not to vote for them, and their unwavering support of Kavanaugh is doing just that.
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Whatever the final result over the confirmation battle of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, one thing is becoming more urgent. The court itself has a crisis of legitimacy. And one way to restore its genuineness is to require term limits for all future judges.
The Supreme Court of old was more majestic with few periods of confrontation. Just a decade ago, 2/3rds of Americans had great confidence in the Court. No more. There’s trouble brewing in those marble temple walls. Confidence in the workings of the court and the Justices themselves have dropped to a mere 50% approval rating.
And it should not be any surprise as to why the Supremes are held is such low esteem. They have become a partisan body, every bit as political as the other two branches of government. We saw such partisanship front and center in the Bush-Gore election decision and in the court’s blessing of Obamacare. Five to four split decisions are becoming the norm with Republican appointees voting one way and their Democratic counterparts voting just the opposite. No more moderates or progressives on the court. Just jurists who are either hard right or hard left.
The writers of the constitution never envisioned such partisanship. The nation’s founding fathers imagined a court made up of legal sages, devoid of the political pressures experienced by congress and the president. Justices of the past seemed to relish in their image of being independent and simply interpreting the law as written.
Current Chief Justice John Roberts made a vain attempt to enunciate such a balanced philosophy at his confirmation hearings back in 2005 when he told the Senate judiciary Committee:
“Judges and justices are servants of the law, not the other way around. Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire. Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath.”
So justices are not influenced by their own personal opinions? Good luck with that. Partisanship has never been so extreme. Judge Kavanaugh was never going to receive any democratic support from the day he was nominated. And republicans in the senate refused to even consider or hold a hearing on President Obama’s last pick, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland. New justices taking office are well aware of their partisan supporters. And such awareness certainly affects their view of becoming activists by extending or even creating the law, rather than merely interpreting it as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.
So why term limits? For a starter, no other democracy in the world gives life tenure to a sitting judge. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any other profession that makes appointments for life. Sure, the constitutional scholars back in the 1770s created lifetime appointments. But remember that the average life span back then for a U. S. citizen was 35 years.
Chief Justice Roberts endorsed term limits back in 1983 when he stated: “Setting a term of, say, 15 years would ensure that federal judges would not lose all touch with reality through decades of ivory tower existence.” And that’s an important point. The court has, too often, been occupied by aging justices who habitually seem disengaged from the world surrounding them. You would think that the court should have dynamism and consistency that a rotation of new judges would bring. It’s hard to breathe new life into a court that bases its make up on actuarial tables and the luck of the draw as to who lives the longest.
Under the current system, a president can only serve in office for eight years yet can appoint a Justice or judge who can stay on the bench for 40 year or more. One term of say 16 years makes sense. Poll after poll show that voters want term limits for judges. With all the controversy in Washington over who ends up on the court, now seems like a good time to consider such a change.