This post was updated on September 16 at 5:56 p.m. ET
I worked for a president who was arrested for driving under the influence at age 30. One of the most admired and successful governors of our times was arrested as a college student for industrial-scale drug possession. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke is inspiring liberal voters across the country despite fleeing the scene, at age 26, of a drunk-driving accident that could have left many people dead.
Democracy can be a forgiving system, especially when politicians honestly acknowledge their misconduct. But with a Senate-confirmed position, the job of deciding whether misconduct is forgivable falls not to the voters, but to the voters’ representatives—and in this instance to a particularly unrepresentative set of representatives at that.
The Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee is all men. However keen their intuitive sympathy, however intimately connected they may be to the women in their lives, isn’t one side of the alleged situation involving Supreme Court-nominee Brett Kavanaugh likely to be more legible to them than the other?
Politico quoted the answer of a lawyer "close to the White House” about whether the nomination would now be withdrawn:
No way, not even a hint of it. If anything, it’s the opposite. If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.
If it happened at all, it happened 36 years ago. He was only 17—and probably too drunk to know what he was doing. He grabbed a girl; OK, he should not have done that, but his buddy pulled him away. Everybody went home safe and sound. Really, you’re going to wreck a good man’s career after all this time because of a nothing-story like that?
I imagine more than a few male senators think that way. I’m a relative hard-liner on these kinds of questions, and I find myself leaning that way too. But then … we would, wouldn’t we?
And for this Senate, there’s a deeper institutional problem beyond the natural bias caused by life situations.
These surprise allegations against Kavanaugh are now to be assessed by people pre-committed to dismissing such allegations as irrelevant to public office. Kavanaugh is a Supreme Court nominee because Donald Trump is president. And what is alleged against Kavanaugh that President Trump has not already confessed?
You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.
The Kavanaugh nomination will now be assessed by people all of whom voted for the presidential candidate who confessed to grabbing women. On present indications, the allegations against Kavanaugh will not be assessed in any meaningful sense at all. But “assessed” is the wrong word. They are not going to be assessed in any meaningful sense of that word. The Senate Judiciary Committee has already released a statement dismissing the allegations as unworthy of further attention, and in fact, as an abuse of the hearing process.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” So said Mitch McConnell about the Merrick Garland nomination nine months before the 2016 elections. It’s now less than eight weeks to elections that may remake the Senate. What’s the case that this group of men should be the one to speak for the American people about this nomination?
It will be not be easy to ascertain what happened all those years ago. It will not be much easier to judge the relevance of those events, whatever they were, to a confirmation vote 36 years later. But we can judge the judges—and they are the wrong men in the wrong job at the wrong time. This vote should be delayed until more facts are in, and until a broader public has made its voice heard.
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