EDITORIAL: Probe aside, Kavanaugh has disqualified himself
While it has not come absent the questions and confusion that surround much of what takes place in Washington these days, the supplementary FBI investigation into allegations of sexual impropriety against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was all but mandatory following hearings last week surrounding the accusations.
Ironically, those very hearings also made the FBI inquiry superfluous. Because based solely on his testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Kavanaugh established that he has neither the temperament nor the judiciousness to sit on the nation’s highest court.
A Supreme Court justice must be a disinterested, nonpartisan arbiter of the nation’s laws. He or she must be the umpire, as nominees have often couched themselves: calling balls and strikes based not on which team is throwing the pitches but whether the ball crosses the plate.
In defending himself against allegations by California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford on Sept. 27 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh presented himself as anything but.
Defiance. Anger. Disrespect. Such emotions could perhaps be forgiven as the result of the public and damning allegations of sexual aggression Kavanaugh found himself unexpectedly facing.
But add to them the partisan conspiracy-spinning — Kavanaugh blamed last-minute charges by Ford and two other women on a “calculated and orchestrated political hit” by Democrats angry that President Donald Trump won the 2016 election — and it is clear his ability to fairly weigh cases of political consequence is not only questionable, it is all but nonexistent.
In addition, his evasiveness and dishonesty in responding to senators’ questions about his drinking and other youthful indiscretions further erode his character and subsequent fitness for the bench. So did his defensiveness and pettiness.
In one noteworthy exchange, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota asked Kavanaugh whether he ever drank to the point of blacking out — a not-inconsequential question considering he is accused by Ford of assaulting her while drunk at a party.
“You’re asking about blackout. I don’t know, have you?” he responded.
“Could you answer the question, judge?” a visibly surprised Klobuchar responded. “So, you have, that’s not happened? Is that your answer?”
“Yeah, and I’m curious if you have,” he added.
Curious is one of many words for such a response, which Klobuchar later said left her shocked. (Even Kavanaugh recognized he had crossed a line and apologized to the senator shortly thereafter.)
Meanwhile, the FBI this week has been looking into the allegations by Ford and, evidently, the two other women who say Kavanaugh engaged in sexually inappropriate or aggressive behavior while in high school and college. The scope of the FBI’s probe has been in question, initially at least, with inconsistent signals coming from the White House and the Twitter account of the president. (What’s new?)
And the week’s time the FBI has been given seems intended more to allow the Republican-led Senate to hastily move on to a Kavanaugh-confirming vote than to pursue matters to the fullest extent. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is all but salivating to call the roll, a step he said he intends to take this week.
That’s unfortunate. The allegations against Kavanaugh are serious, and the disconnect between Ford, who told the committee last week that she is “100 percent certain” that Kavanaugh was her attacker, and the nominee, who categorically denies the charges, is vast.
Kavanaugh’s actions then, as well as his honesty about them today, remain defining characteristics of his fitness for the court.
But after last week’s Senate hearing, such considerations are moot.
Regardless of what, if anything, the last-minute FBI investigation turns up, Kavanaugh, in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, proved himself too partisan, too ill-tempered and too injudicious to sit on the nation’s highest court. Senators not blinded by right-wing ideology must surely see that, and vote accordingly to reject his nomination.