The ideal Justice

Even with everything that’s going on, my guess is that Kavanaugh will still be confirmed, and will replace Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court. I don’t want this, and I’m sad that it seems to be almost inevitable, but my dislike of the nomination has less to do with political ideology than those who know me might think. I expect that a republican president will nominate a conservative judge. I expect that the nominee will have views and positions on issues that go against what I want for the country. I am OK with that, and accept the fact that elections have consequences. Donald Trump won the election, and that means conservatives will be chosen to fill any seats open during his term. I just wish they were thoughtful conservatives. And that’s clearly not what we got with Kavanaugh.

There are two things that stick out for me when thinking about Kavanaugh and his apparent lack of thoughtfulness that I see as the critical piece of a SCOTUS Justice. His interaction with Kamala Harris during his confirmation hearings bothered me.

I don’t like the way she asked the question, and I think she could have been much more direct with him. At first pass, I actually appreciated his approach to the question, and saw it as the exact kind of thoughtfulness that I dream of in a Justice. But here’s where it goes wrong for me. The question asked at 19 seconds into that clip is pretty straightforward, and he acted as if he had never heard of the law firm. When I first watched it, I saw a man who realized that there are thousands of lawyers who he talks to all the time, and is being very careful because he might have discussed the case, even in passing, with somebody who was at that firm without him knowing that the person was at that firm. But, as he seemed to pretend that he hadn’t even heard of the firm, it seems disingenuous. It’s very hard for me to believe that a federal judge in DC wouldn’t have heard of a firm large enough to have a lawyer representing the President of the United States. Then, it was revealed that Kavanaugh has a long time friend who is a partner at that firm. Suddenly it really seems like he was dodging the question. That troubles me.

And then there’s the response to the accusations of attempted rape by Dr. Ford. First, let me say that I believe Dr. Ford’s story. It’s not hard for me to imagine a high school kid from a wealthy part of town, getting drunk and acting in an entitled way toward a girl at a party. I’m sure most of us know somebody who experienced something like this, on either side of the incident. I also think it makes sense that she waited until now to make this public, because it’s easy for me to imagine somebody hurting me, and trying to forget all about it for years, but having it be too much to keep inside anymore after seeing that person’s face on TV over and over and over. I also find it compelling that she named the other person who was there, and that he is not rushing to defend Kavanaugh, and has written about blackout drinking experiences.

Do I think all of that alone is entirely disqualifying? I’m honestly not sure. My answer is very likely a yes, but what I find the most disqualifying is his response. Let’s, just for the sake of this essay, assume that everything Ford is saying actually happened. I know we don’t know for sure, but that doesn’t matter for now. Let’s assume it’s all true, and that Kavanaugh and his friend were very drunk and tried to rape Ford, failing only because they were too drunk. First, I find it completely believable that Kavanaugh would have no memory of this happening. I also find it totally believable that he would have trouble believing that it happened because it’s so antithetical to who he sees in himself. I’ll give him that. But the ideal, thoughtful person…the kind I would want on the Court, would have responded more like this (I’m imagining the written statement here; this is not real):

I am deeply troubled by the incident described by Dr. Ford. An action such as that is completely against my moral code, and it sickens me to know that it happens in this world, and deeply sickens me to consider the possibility that I was involved. I have no memory of acting that way, but I know that there were several times in my adolescence when I did dumb things; things of which I am not proud. I also know that there were times that I drank too much, even to the point of not remembering what I did. If I did anything like this, I am overwhelmingly sorry. It goes against everything I believe.

I don’t know if that would be enough for me, but it would certainly be much more in line with the kind of person I’d like to see on the Court.

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