Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Senate Republicans Put the Integrity of the Supreme Court at Risk

If Kavanaugh is innocent, why isn't he demanding an investigation to clear his name?
The circus that has become of the Senate hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme continues to raise additional doubts as to the character and the veracity of Donald Trump's nominee.  Having worked as an attorney for 41 years and earned admission to the state bars of Virginia, Alabama and Texas, I take judicial appointments VERY seriously since the quality and character of presiding judges can greatly impact the dispensing of justice.  Indeed, a biased or unfit judge can deprive a litigant of a fair trial or appeal. Moreover, unfit or questionable judges put the legitimacy of the judicial system in question.  The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and the court of last resort for those seeking justice.  The allegations against Kavanaugh, if true, are serious and, in my view, disqualifying for a lifetime appointment. 

So why the Republican rush to confirm Kavanaugh in light of such serious allegations? I see two possible explanations.  The first is that the Senate - at least the Republican portion of it - remains a "good old boys club" that believes women are like children and should be seen and not heard.  They exist to serve as arm candy for their male companions.  The second is equally cynical: important cases are coming up the litigation pipeline and without Kavanaugh a four-four split on the Supreme Court will leave the anti-conservative position Circuit Court of Appeals ruling controlling.  That is the only urgency from the GOP perspective.  Never mind that the Supreme Court was left with only eight justices for 10 months after Justice Scalia died and Mitch McConnell stonewalled against holding hearings on Barack Obama's nominee.  A main editorial in the New York Times looks at the harm being done by Senate Republican intransigence and denigration of women.  Here are highlights:
Enough.  With a third woman [actually, a fourth at this time] stepping forward with accusations that the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault as a young man, this destructive stampede of a confirmation, driven so far by partisan calculation, needs to yield at last to common sense: Let qualified investigators — the F.B.I. — do their job. Let them interview the many witnesses whose names are already in the public record, among them Judge Kavanaugh’s close high-school friend Mark Judge, then weigh the credibility of the various claims and write a report for the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee.
To jam Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation through now, without seeking to dispel the darkening cloud over his head, would be to leave the public in doubt about his honesty and character — and to set an even lower standard for taking claims of sexual abuse seriously than the Senate did 27 years ago in considering the accusations against Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill.
Yes, partisan games have no doubt been played on both sides. But the only reason for so much urgency about this confirmation is politics; the same cannot be said about calls for holding a fair and thorough investigation.
To recap: On Wednesday morning, the bomb-throwing lawyer Michael Avenatti made public an affidavit from Julie Swetnick, a woman who grew up in the Washington suburbs and claims to have traveled the same 1980s social circuit as Judge Kavanaugh. Ms. Swetnick says that he drank excessively at many parties she attended; that he was verbally abusive and physically aggressive toward young women, fondling and grabbing them; and that he was part of a group of young men who would spike the punch at parties with alcohol or illicit drugs with an eye toward incapacitating the female attendees, including Ms. Swetnick herself, and then abusing them. These are grotesque charges — and, like the previous ones, they leave oceans of room for speculation and doubt. This is precisely why the Senate needs to stop trying to ram through this nomination by some arbitrary deadline and arrange for a thorough and nonpartisan inquiry.
Unlike Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez, Ms. Swetnick is not claiming to have been assaulted directly by Judge Kavanaugh. But her accusations directly speak to his repeated insistence that he never behaved in a demeaning or disrespectful manner toward women. In his recent interview on Fox News, the nominee, seated primly beside his wife, presented his teenage self as a virtual choir boy, chastely focused on academics and sports and weekly church attendance. The nominee even said that he remained a virgin throughout high school and “for many years thereafter.”
That was a risky defense, and Judge Kavanaugh seems to be reconsidering it. In an opening statement prepared for him to deliver at his appearance before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, the nominee now allows that he was “not perfect” in high school. He admits that he may have drank too much on occasion (though rarely on school nights) and that he may have said and done things that now make him “cringe.”
In saner times, the Senate would have paused in its mad rush to confirm Judge Kavanaugh when the first credible allegations of sexual assault surfaced. As things stand, Chuck Grassley, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has shrugged off these latest accusations and asserted that the show will go on without further inconvenience or delay.
This is dereliction of the Senate’s duty — and it is now up to senators who know better, who prize the dignity and duty of their chamber, to demonstrate that they are indeed something more than partisan tools.
This is not, as Republicans have claimed, a matter of demanding the destruction of a man’s career based on vague or unsubstantiated claims. It is a matter of treating such allegations with the proper gravity. There is no other way to protect the integrity of the nominating process — and of the nation’s highest court.
The one question I keep coming back to is this:  If Kavanaugh is innocent, why is he not demanding a delay in the Senate process so that an investigation can be done that would clear his name.  I'm sorry, but his failure to make this demand suggests that he knows what the investigation would reveal, namely, that he IS guilty as alleged.  If I were him, I would want to clear my name. His failure to demand this speaks volumes to me. 

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