Judge Brett Kavanaugh was never going to get a fair break during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The fault lies not with obstructionist Democrats, however, but with Republican leadership and members of the committee.
By not turning over all documents in their possession, Republican members of the committee did the judge and the American people a disservice. And dumping hundreds of thousands of selected pages of documents, emails, and other correspondence on Democrats the night before hearings were scheduled to begin wasn’t a solution.
Releasing all relevant material would have provided a fuller picture of Kavanaugh’s legal philosophy and writings for both the majority and minority. Not doing so only further riled Democrats still fuming over Republican obstruction of Judge Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination in the waning days of the Obama administration. It succeeded in provoking confrontation and partisan conflict. Whether or not Judge Kavanaugh escapes the wrath of Democratic committee members, the real losers are the American people.
Questions have arisen based on actions Kavanaugh took during time spent in the George W. Bush White House, including discussions about detainee torture during the early years of the war on terror, as well as a breach of secret Democratic files on judicial nominations. His writings have advocated broad presidential powers that have implications on ongoing investigations into Russian election meddling and questionable actions on the part of the president. Kavanaugh equivocated when asked whether he would uphold long-standing legal precedents, including those related to Roe v. Wade, LGBTQ rights, and affirmative action.
There are indications that Kavanaugh may have perjured himself, not only during his recent confirmation hearings, but during testimony before the Senate committee when he was originally nominated for the federal appellate court in 2006. These charges have been corroborated in emails and other work product that several committee members brought to light against the wishes of the majority.
And now comes the latest bombshell: allegations that Kavanaugh assaulted a young woman during a party while in high school. These are inflammatory charges that must be explored.
What really needs further exploration is the entire process by which the Senate evaluates nominees for lifetime positions on the high court.
Throughout the hearings, many of Kavanaugh’s responses to questions posed by committee members were evasive and rife with subterfuge. His discomfort was, at times, palpable. He did an inadequate job in presenting or defending his legal perspectives on issues that will certainly come before the Supreme Court.
To think that members of the judiciary cannot or do not hold personal beliefs, opinions, or philosophies is naive. We all have opinions, ideologies, codes of ethics and moral conduct. Americans have long lived under the rule of law and a system of government that affords us the opportunity to hold them. That said, we have the right to know if appointees at every level of the federal bench can divorce themselves from personal feelings in relation to the law of the land. That they must, to the best of their ability, make rulings that consider established precedent. Kavanaugh’s record must be allowed to speak for itself without obstruction or obfuscation.
Republican members of the Judiciary Committee fueled a smoldering fire by hindering the Democrats ability to fully-explore and accurately gauge where Kavanaugh stands on established law and how he might approach his deliberations as a member of the high court. This would have provided an opportunity for senators from both parties to make an educated choice in determining whether Kavanaugh should earn the committee’s blessing for confirmation and a subsequent vote by the entire Senate. Instead, their actions do nothing more than pave the way for Democrats to engage in future games of tit-for-tat in times they hold the majority.
The modern judiciary - the last bastion of independent thought and final arbiter of our nation’s laws - has become grossly politicized. This is a bipartisan issue, and members of both parties must be held accountable for this deterioration.
The entire Senate Judiciary Committee treated Kavanaugh unfairly, but we the people are the ultimate victims of its injustice.
Blair Bess is a Los Angeles-based television writer, producer, and columnist. He edits the online blog Soaggragated.com, and can be reached at BBess.firstname.lastname@example.org.