October 19, 2018
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Kavanaugh is unfit for Supreme Court

Michael Reynolds | AP
Michael Reynolds | AP
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gives his opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Last month, Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s choice to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, appeared headed for a quick confirmation with little questioning from Republican senators.

Then, a letter from Christine Blasey Ford, accusing the judge of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school surfaced (she’d first anonymously raised concerns weeks earlier, before Kavanaugh’s nomination). Two other women have also claimed sex abuse by Kavanaugh and classmates at Yale have described a man who drank heavily and sometimes became belligerent, angry and violent. While Republican leaders downplayed these accusations, Sen. Susan Collins was among a tiny group of Republican senators who called for an additional hearing to learn more about them.

Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and Kavanaugh’s odd and distressing performance prompted Collins and two of her Republican Senate colleagues to call for further investigation. Despite assurances from Trump, there are signs that the already cursory FBI review will be far from thorough as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledges a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh this week.

Further review is not necessary to conclude that Kavanaugh is unfit for the Supreme Court. His performance before the Judiciary Committee last week confirmed that. Generally, we, like Collins, believe presidents have broad leeway in their appointments and initially we felt that Kavanaugh met this broad standard. No more.

Kavanaugh lied, under oath, about small things. He said he could legally drink during his senior year at Georgetown Prep, a Catholic all-boys school in Maryland. This is demonstrably false. He said he previously had no connection to Yale University, where he attended college and law school. Yet, his grandfather went there. His explanation for entries in his high school yearbook, which appear to be about drinking and denigrating women, stretched the bounds of credulity. If he’ll lie, under oath, about these things, he’ll lie about much bigger things. This is demonstrated by his earlier denials regarding his knowledge of documents taken from a Democratic Senate server in the 2000s during the judicial confirmation process in the George W. Bush administration. Or his denial of knowledge of sexually explicit emails frequently sent to a long list of recipients by Judge Alex Kozinski, who he called a mentor but who was forced to resign after allegation of sexual harrassment.

A telling visual representation of Kavanaugh’s evasiveness comes in the form of a chart created by Vox. It color codes the times, during Thursday’s hearing, that Ford and Kavanaugh did not answer questions. Light blue represents questions that were answered and deep pink shows when they were not. Ford’s chart is all blue. This doesn’t mean that all of her answers were always true, but she answered every question she was asked by senators and the Republicans’ hired female questioner.

Kavanaugh’s chart, on the other hand, is awash in pink. Evading questions or interrogating senators (about their drinking habits, in a couple instances) suggests a difficulty with honest answers.

Kavanaugh’s testimony last week also dispelled his notion that he’d be an impartial justice calling balls and strikes. He is extremely partisan. In his defense, he recited his conservative bona fides. He called the allegations against him “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” and he angrily warned Democrats that what “goes around comes around.”

He reminded senators that he has no concern for people outside his rarified social circle. This is reinforced by several of his rulings while on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has sided with corporations (and even the government) over average Americans and he has stifled the rights of Americans with disabilities.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation process has been horribly mishandled. Republican leaders withheld thousands of documents and rushed the confirmation process, including scheduling a Judiciary Committee vote less than 24 hours after Thursday’s hearing concluded. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein may have mishandled Ford’s letter about Kavanaugh and some other Democrats on the committee were more interested in grandstanding than having their questions answered. Those flaws, however, can’t obscure the fact that Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court.

The American Bar Association, the “gold standard” of judicial review has walked back its support of Kavanaugh. A Catholic publication, The Jesuit Review, has withdrawn its endorsement.

Collins, who has spent hours listening to constituents and reviewing documents, is one of the few senators to put so much time and thoughtful deliberation into this momentous decision and one of an even smaller number of Republicans to push for further scrutiny of Kavanaugh and the claims against him. Like Collins, we believe strongly in the Senate’s advice and consent role, which gives presidents great latitude in their judicial nominations.

Kavanaugh fails this test. A no vote on his nomination is appropriate and necessary.

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