The circus that surrounded Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court made the Clarence Thomas affair look like a Disney movie.
But did it really matter? And if it did, does this somehow stain his confirmation to the highest court in the land?
It’s hard to feign ignorance to the charges that were brought by a number of women, principally by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, that the judge was present and/or involved in sexual escapades in a most inappropriate manner while drunk and underage. And these charges were brought at the worst time in America. For at no other time have we been so polarized at every level in society as we are today. Not only polarized, but extremely, fanatically attached to our set standards and opinions that there is possibly no compromise anywhere available between any of the antagonistic groups that exist between us all. Today, you are either fanatically left or uncompromisingly right; either fanatically Democratic or extremely Republican; either fanatically liberal or uncompromisingly conservative; either fanatically religious or extremely secular.
Have you noticed how difficult it is to have a discussion with anyone for fear of hurting some entrenched position held by the recipients? Both of the combatants, Kavanaugh and Ford, have been on the receiving end of death threats. What happened to civil norms and civic debate? American society has become so bankrupt and bereft of civil discussion that we have to leave it to the late night comedy shows to de-intensify the apoplectic nature of American debate.
Blame it on whomever you wish — and there are plenty of candidates out there — from the president through Congress and a selection of groups representing their own sectional interests. But it comes down to this: Will the next candidate for high public office want to undergo this Kavanaugh moment, or will he or she decide it just is not worth the emotional pain, national humiliation and character assassination that can be directed at you from anyone? And can there be no forgiveness for an undisciplined moment of behavior that might have been neutralized by 30 years of national service? Or does one always have to answer to that indiscretion?
In the end, and with Kavanaugh’s nomination passing through the Senate with the most razor-thin majority helped by lone Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the most partisan divide against a Supreme Court nominee has taken place.
Gone are the days when a nominee was voted in with overriding Senate victories, as Ruth Bader Ginsberg was with 97-0, or to a lesser degree, Sonia Sotomayor with 68-31. The strong, entrenched political clashes along partisan lines pay no respect to the integrity, excellence or brilliance of the nominees, but as revenge tactics and the need to establish the Supreme Court as either a left-wing institution or the conservative opposite.
Paul Collins Jr., a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts and co-author of “Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings and Constitutional Change,” proclaimed: “This was possibly the most controversial Supreme Court nomination in American history. The allegations of sexual assault are obviously exceptionally serious, but so are the allegations of perjury. And there seems to be fairly substantial evidence that at a minimum he misled the judiciary committee.”
Questions remain about the allegations and the manner in which Kavanaugh responded. For sure, he remains tainted and his Supreme Court judicial opinions will be questioned as long as the reverberations about his judicial acceptance continue to swirl around him. And don’t think it’s over yet. For if the Democrats take the House in the November elections, then, according to the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, they would open an investigation into Kavanaugh.
It’s not over yet, and maybe the worst is still to come. But what is quite certain is that America is a divided nation. Echoes of a new and wrenching political civil war may result in a horrendous breakdown of the America we know as the light and beacon to the rest of the world.
Rabbi Chaim Landau is rabbi emeritus at Ner Tamid Congregation.