In Judge’s Defense, Republicans Shouldn’t Descend to Dems’ Level

By | 2018-09-21T09:28:41+00:00 September 21st, 2018|
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With some glee, Democrats are celebrating what they presume is the demise of President Trump’s nominee to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. The allegations against Kavanaugh by Professor Christine Blasey Ford are indeed serious, but in the end they will fail to derail his confirmation.

Kavanaugh will soon be on the court, and in the meantime Republicans should avoid overreacting to the political gamesmanship in which Democrats are engaged. Most of all, they should avoid smearing Ford, whose motives are ultimately as unknowable as are the events which transpired on that fateful day 36 years ago.

In opposing the Kavanaugh nomination, leftists and Democrats have shown a willingness to use inflated rhetoric, false and misleading claims, ruthless character assassination, and the disingenuous tactics of delay and obfuscation. In short, liberals seem to believe that the complexion of the Supreme Court is so important that they should stop at nothing to prevent Kavanaugh from taking a seat on the bench.

The ways in which Democratic senators talked down to Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, twisting both his record and his past remarks, was a new low point for decorum and respect in the United States Congress. For a long while, commentators have remarked that our commitment to democratic norms and civil discourse is eroding. The fight over Kavanaugh has been an obvious case in proof of that point. Democrats spoke early in the process of their desire to “Bork” Kavanaugh (referring to their successful campaign to defeat Reagan’s pick for the high court, Robert Bork, in 1987). In truth, Kavanaugh has been handled much more roughly than Bork ever was.

Weaponizing a vague and unverifiable claim of sexual assault from Kavanaugh’s teenage years is a fitting capstone to what has been a truly grueling and repugnant confirmation process. The question now becomes, will Republicans respond in kind? Fearing for their grip on the Supreme Court if Kavanaugh is defeated and Democrats take control of the Senate, will they overreact and lash out at Ford? Will they attempt to discredit Ford by questioning her motives, her veracity, or even her sanity? My view is that this would be a serious error, as well unfair to Ford herself.

Talking heads in the media, and millions of Americans sitting in their living rooms, naturally will want to get to the bottom of what, if anything, happened between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford 36 years ago. The truth, unfortunately, is that we can scrutinize their claims as much as we like, but we will never know the answer. A polygraph test cannot resolve the issue, because such tests are unreliable, and in addition recollections can be wrong, even if sincere.

In the end, therefore, senators—and the American people—will face a simple question: should Brett Kavanaugh’s sterling record and reputation be ignored, just because he might have behaved improperly towards Ford, or is he, in the best traditions of American justice, innocent until proven guilty, and therefore deserving of confirmation?

Much as some in the #MeToo movement might wish it were otherwise, this is still a country of laws, and one in which evidence matters. One cannot destroy a man simply by accusing him of wrongdoing. The election of President Trump in 2016 proved that, beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Republicans and conservatives, therefore, should have confidence that, going forward, Brett Kavanaugh, unless he suddenly admits guilt in the Ford matter, will be our next Supreme Court Justice. Frankly, the motives, veracity, and sanity of Professor Ford are irrelevant. Even if she were the most credible witness in the history of Senate hearings, her performance, no matter how compelling, should not be—cannot be—sufficient to end the career of Brett Kavanaugh. It is only facts that can accomplish that, not suppositions or posturing, and in this case the facts—the evidence—supporting the allegations are very thin indeed. Thus, we must in all fairness conclude that Kavanaugh is innocent.

On the other hand, Republicans face real danger. If they were to treat Professor Ford with, the same savagery and contempt that has been inflicted on Brett Kavanaugh, there is a possibility that public sympathy for the Judge would evaporate, and the whole affair could turn into an ugly mess.

No, Republicans must be the adults in the room. They must treat Judge Kavanaugh, and his accuser, with the sort of fairness, circumspection, and respect that has eluded their Democratic colleagues throughout the process. Republican Senators thus far have shown every indication that they intend to do exactly that: they will act responsibly and judiciously, and they will show sensitivity to Professor Ford and allow her to keep her dignity. Americans will thus be left in no doubt about which party is acting in good faith.

The entire bare-knuckles campaign to defeat the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh can be likened to a leftist tantrum, characterized by vitriol as well as futility. The numbers in the Senate, after all, are with Republicans, and thus the truth has always been that, as long as Republicans keep their cool and close ranks to support a solid conservative nominee, nothing and no one can prevent them from confirming a good man like Brett Kavanaugh.

Democrats can fume all they like, but we won in 2016, and we will win again in the next few weeks, as we make Brett Kavanaugh a justice of the Supreme Court, and, in the process, tilt the court even further to the (responsible) right.

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

About the Author:

Nicholas L. Waddy
Nicholas L. Waddy, an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred, blogs at www.waddyisright.com.