Yesterday, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said one thing to the Senate Judiciary Committee that is undeniably true: his reputation is gone. The loss is irrevocable. No amount of arm-twisting or political wrangling can bring it back. His Honor’s honor has dried up, evaporated in a matter of days. The supersonic speed at which it disappeared might well have been nausea-inducing to one such as Kavanaugh, who explained to a national audience yesterday that he has a sensitive stomach.
Yet yesterday Kavanaugh came out swinging, as though more bad behavior could rectify what he sees at the unfairness of establishing whether he is truly belongs on the nation’s high bench. That society is turning up its nose at Brett Kavanaugh–a society that can’t be manipulated or argued with–is precisely what is fueling his rage and that of some Republicans on the judiciary committee. For even if an FBI investigation were to disprove Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford’s allegations, it cannot explain away the maudlin and creepy sides of Kavanaugh’s character that came out yesterday as he tried to dismiss his accuser and assert his claims as a victim.
Some Republicans on the committee fumed and chewed the scenery, too. They too charged that something unfair had happened. The appearance of Dr. Ford was so politically toxic to them that they well nigh disappeared while she was in the room. The pool cameras did not show the faces of the Republican members (except for chairman Grassley, who could not hide, and Orrin Hatch, fitfully, who sat immediately to Grassley’s right). Republicans were not just invisible but silent, hiring a surrogate to interact with the injured woman before them. This tactic enabled them to avoid acknowledging her or “touching” her story in any way. To speak to her directly, to ask her any question, would have been to credit her as one who was making a claim. Effectively, the senators refrained from hearing her to the extent that they could, evidently hoping that the rest of us would follow their lead.
Nonetheless, they could not make Dr Ford or the great impression she made, go away. Who would have expected Dr Ford to be so unaffected, or to have such a girlish voice? Who could have neutralized the authenticity encoded in her unruly curls? And who could disbelieve her when she declared she was no one’s pawn?
Yet the nominee and his ardent backers needed someone other than Brett Kavanaugh to blame for an effort suddenly gone so wrong. Lindsay Graham burst into an undignified howl against the Democrats, echoing Kavanaugh’s self-pitying claim that he was the victim of a well-organized “political hit.” The Republicans’ chief bogeyman was the ranking Democrat, Diane Feinstein, whom they blamed alternately for keeping Dr Ford’s story under wraps and for letting it out.
The Republicans’ anger is understandable because Brett Kavanaugh is damaged goods. It’s a fact that nothing can undo. Given that they are bent on elevating him to a high and illustrious position, his disgrace is of a sort that implicates them too. Now they are stuck with perfuming the pig, pushing such a one off on the public, and hoping that none of its muck ends up sticking to them.
Ironically, President Trump is the big gainer in this. Even if Kavanaugh’s nomination fails, Trump will have seen his sometimes fractious counterparts in the Senate throwing their own moral scruples overboard to rally round a two-bit character whose evasions and equivocations will be remembered until the day he dies. An unseemly spectacle, this capitulation. In the wake of it, what impediment to Trump can such senators pose?