It seems the only story in this week’s news concerns the ongoing discussion about the Judiciary Committee hearings with Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. In today’s hyper-partisan environment where trust in institutions has become so fragile, I do not believe the Supreme Court can withstand a nominee with so many lingering questions about his fitness for the job. Potential witnesses continue to come forward, even after the completion of the latest FBI investigation. What if one of these allegations (or a subsequent accusation) can be proven? How will such news impact the credibility of the Supreme Court?
Conversation has shifted from whether or not Judge Kavanaugh was the perpetrator of the horrific act he was accused of by Dr. Blasey Ford, to the dual topics that formed the title of my last post—truth and temperament. Was Judge Kavanaugh truthful with Senators on the Judiciary Committee? Did he demonstrate the kind of demeanor necessary for a position on the country’s highest court?
On one hand, this is a travesty. Yet again, we have relegated a woman’s courageous decision to publicly accuse a powerful man of malfeasance to a kind of sidebar question in the ongoing debate about Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to sit on the Supreme Court. Women must be incensed! To see their words and experiences relegated to secondary status in a critical societal debate must be beyond infuriating. Men in positions of power and privilege must call out this repeated pattern of social discourse for what it is: demeaning, dehumanizing, destructive, sexist; and these same men must bring this pattern to a screeching halt. Too much pain, too many lives destroyed, too much terror in our nation’s workplaces. Stop it!
On the other hand, as I stated in previous posts, judicial temperament is vital. With the wrenching divides in our country today, Supreme Court justices must set aside partisanship, be slow to anger and willing to hear all sides of an argument. This is essential for the well-being of the Court itself. But it is equally critical for all Americans. The standard of truth emanating out of Washington has plummeted so far that we must be certain that at least one branch of government lies beyond reproach. We must be able to trust that decisions made by our courts are fair and impartial. We may not agree with all the decisions rendered by the Supreme Court or by the opinions of each and every justice; but, in this age of hyper-partisanship, we must be sure that representatives of the highest levels of the judiciary cannot be swayed by emotion, past allegiance or hyperbolic assumptions about vast conspiracies. This was not evident during Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony.
The idea of privilege has been a consistent sub-text in these conversations. I heard one commentator this week declare that what has happened throughout these hearings is a result of the founding fathers’ original design to keep the privileged few in power. This makes sense, but we have so mythologized the founders that I had failed to connect these particular dots. The Kavanaugh hearings have exposed again the striking and pervasive nature of a privileged circle within the halls of power.
Both of Donald Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court went to the same high school, Georgetown Prep (complete with its own nine-hole golf course). Despite the fact that there are more than 200 accredited law schools in this country, if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court, all nine justices will have gone to either Harvard or Yale (FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein are also members of this club). The pool for those aspiring for positions of power and influence is so small! And it seems to be shrinking.
This is precisely the kind of Washington swamp that candidate Donald Trump campaigned to drain. But as things have cut ever closer to home to privileged white men, it becomes increasingly apparent that it is time to redefine the term “swamp” to explicitly include those who hail from the ranks of prestigious prep schools and Ivy League institutions with long histories of hegemony in the halls of power.