(Opinion) Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh, associate justice of the Supreme Court, speaks during a ceremonial swearing-in event in the East Room at the White House, Washington, D.C., Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.


It seemed as though the whole world watched the testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford, who has a doctorate in psychology, and Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. To some extent, that’s true. Expectations were high going into the first hearing. Democrats were eager to hear what she had to say, while Republicans were eager to get the whole ordeal over with.

Ford’s testimony seemed to cut through the partisan rancor filling the room. She spoke quietly but clearly as she recounted the events of that day and her life afterward. She imbued her statements with her own vast knowledge of psychology, occasionally to a heartbreaking degree, like when she spoke about her struggles with anxiety and PTSD. Though her voice shook and her eyes filled with tears, she continued. The Democrats each took time to praise her courage, with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) even acknowledging her for performing her civic duty, while the Republicans hid behind outside counsel Rachel Mitchell, allowing her to do all of the talking for most of them.

Regardless of whether you believe her testimony or not, it was nearly impossible not to empathize with this courageous woman who submitted herself to this degrading process, keeping calm despite the numerous threats against her life.

I say “nearly” because the Kavanaugh hearing made it very clear that a number of the Republican senators had made up their minds about Ford. Without an outside counsel to ask the questions for them, they took the time to rage against the Democrats, the confirmation process, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the media, everything but the actions of their Republican colleagues. Chairman Chuck Grassley’s shrill protestations interrupted the proceedings multiple times, as he took issue with even the slightest of offenses.

This rage most clearly manifested itself in the yells of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Sen. Graham’s turn to speak came after a particularly damning round of questioning by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), in which Kavanaugh refused to say if he thought that an FBI investigation into the allegations should take place, even if it could clear his name. Maybe that was why he decided to take the time to decry this process using the same tone as Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.” In a day full of unprecedented moments, this certainly ranked as one of the most stunning among them, with congressional reporters taking to Twitter to express their shock.

Yet it is not clear why Sen. Graham is so frustrated. He says that the Democrats have set fire to the process, but that’s not an accurate representation of what is happening. Supreme Court confirmation hearings usually take longer than Chairman Grassley had allotted for Kavanaugh. The Democrats requested more time to review Kavanaugh’s record, which was perfectly reasonable, given the fact that most documentation of his work at the White House had not been released. Even if most of the Democrats had made up their minds beforehand, others — like Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp — had not. He kept claiming that the Democrats had leaked the confidential letter that Ford sent that contained details of her allegations, but multiple press outlets have stated that they reported on the allegations before they ever read the letter. The letter was only leaked when it was shared with the FBI and made widely available.

For the Democrats, this hearing has been an exercise in restraint. Merrick Garland weighed heavily on their minds as they were dragged through regular order, while pointing out the hypocrisy of that sentiment by the Republicans. Many of them expressed their anger at how Ford has been treated and were constantly interrupted by Kavanaugh when he was testifying. Their Republican colleagues observed this behavior, yet did nothing to mitigate it, despite it clearly being in violation of Senate standards.

It was especially striking how differently Ford and Kavanaugh responded to the questioning. Ford spoke politely, giving clear and concise answers and calmly allowing the senators to interrupt her. Kavanaugh reacted hysterically to being questioned about his past, even lying about some small facts. It was an unintentional lesson in the double standards between men and women, that Ford felt the need to be so restrained while discussing an event that traumatized her so much she still suffers from anxiety, while Kavanaugh yelled and cried.

He displayed none of the calm and thoughtful curiosity expected of someone on the highest court in the land. He claimed that his confirmation was being blocked by a vast left-wing conspiracy, never wondering where this propaganda machine had been for the confirmation hearings of Neil Gorsuch. He acted as though he was entitled to this spot on the Supreme Court, as though it were his manifest destiny to be given the position. It is impossible to believe, after this contemptible display, that he could be an impartial judge of any case involving a democratic interest. All the while, he was given constant praise for his handling of this situation from the Republicans.

The disrespect that Ford has encountered is frankly stunning, and the craven justifications of the Republican senators have made the process even more infuriating. One has to wonder if this farcical miscarriage of justice will convince other victims of sexual assault that their voices will not be heard by the highest levels of government. Why would they bother to come forward if they know that they will be subjected to humiliation and death threats, all for nothing?

But still, Kavanaugh has been given the job of Supreme Court justice. For all of the times he said that these allegations of sexual assault have ruined his life, he still got the job he applied for. He hasn’t been chased out of his house. And the president has supported him throughout the whole process.

This disheartening display has done little to endear anyone to Brett Kavanaugh. The Republican senators have this constant refrain, “The American people can be the judge.” And they’re right. The American people are watching and judging.

And this November, we’ll be voting.

Opinions columnist

Sally is a senior political science student. When she's not reading about politics, she's writing about politics.

Recommended Stories