This weekend, Stanford Professor Christine Blasey Ford revealed that at 15, she was sexually assaulted by a then-17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh, who held her down and covered her mouth when she tried to scream. If there was ever a moment to end this farce of a hearing and yank his nomination, this would be it.
However, the Republicans are shameless in their need to control the highest court in the land, having first preventing President Obama from holding hearings on Merrick Garland, and now trying to force a corrupted nominee through the system.
There are several reasons why the Republicans want Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, the biggest being that he would be the deciding vote on many conservative issues, including the long-desired overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, they have shown no transparency in this matter, withholding thousands of documents concerning his conduct and refusing to engage in vote postponements (until the emergence of the rape allegations).
Even after the Ford allegations, the GOP have decided that the American people should know one thing about Kavanaugh which qualifies him for the job: he’s nice.
The Nice Guy Debate
From the moment Trump announced his nomination at the White House, Kavanaugh has been presented to the media as a loving family man. He brought his two daughters to witness this moment and even went so far as to bring the whole basketball team to his hearing. The Washington Post even ran an article by his friend Julie O’Brien, who wrote that she may not know Kavanaugh as a judge, but she could say he was “a great carpool Dad.”
Even law professors argued that his niceness should play a role in his consideration for the Supreme Court position. In a Medium article, University of Chicago’s Daniel Hemel, who experience Kavanaugh’s famous ‘niceness’ argued that niceness may not be the only thing that matters when choosing a Justice, but it’s still important since it carries with it a number of character traits that could influence their rulings, like empathy, the use of power, and the ability to be a role model. However, centering the debate around Kavanaugh’s ‘niceness’ ignored a whole host of other issues – how would he vote on abortion? What was he doing when he worked for George W. Bush? What does he think about guns?
Hemel did add that “all the niceness in the world shouldn’t save his confirmation” if anything untoward came out about him — a caveat that is now being put to the test.
A Tale of Two Cities
If Hemel’s test is applied to Kavanaugh, it’s clear that the Judge has failed to live up to its parameters. He appears to be a man with little real empathy – witness the photo of him refusing to shake the hand of Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter died in the Parkland shooting. He uses his power to harm people – as he did Alicia Baker, who had to choose between paying off student loans or getting an IUD after Kavanaugh said companies could refuse to insure contraceptives to female employees. And his status as a role model is now in ruins thanks to the allegations made by Prof. Ford.
The astonishing part of all this has been the contrast between Kavanaugh’s allies and his opponents. Nowhere was this more apparent than during the final day of the hearings, where citizens were allowed to testify either on his behalf or against him. Over and over again, his friends spoke to his good character, calling him a nice, decent man. These testimonies were immediately followed by people like Mrs. Baker, as well as young adults like Parkland survivor Aalayah Eastmond, who worried Kavanaugh might strike down regulations regarding assault weapons; and asthmatic teenager Hunter LaChance who said his rulings on clean air could make his life more difficult. Watching these dueling points of view follow each other back-to-back, it was truly a tale of two cities – Kavanaugh the nice guy vs. Kavanaugh the heartless sociopath.
Kavanaugh’s #MeToo Moment
The Republican effort to make Kavanaugh into Tom Hanks reached its apex of shamelessness last Friday after the assault allegations were revealed, when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley released a letter denouncing the charges and signed by 65 women who knew Kavanaugh in high school. And why did they argue that this woman was lying? Because Brett Kavanaugh is “nice”:
“He…[had] a wide circle of friends…Many of us have remained close friends with him and his family over the years. Through the more than 35 years we have known him, Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity. In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect. That was true when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day.”
Throughout his hearings, Kavanaugh has proven himself a coward, a perjurer, a racist, and attempted rapist, but his allies have argued that because he’s “nice,” these things are either not true, or shouldn’t be considered. Hemel may have argued that niceness was a part of the debate, but it should not be the center of it, as the Republicans have done. Through this dishonest debate, they have forgotten that “niceness” is irrelevant without basic goodness — by far the more important character test when it comes to fitness for the Supreme Court.
Take as examples, Justice Felix Frankfurter and Chief Justice Earl Warren. Neither of them was considered a “nice” man – in fact, they didn’t treat each other that well – but they are widely regarded as two of the most effective justices in court’s history. They made up for their lack of personal “niceness” with a basic sense of decency that inspired them to make rulings that changed people’s lives for the better, like Brown v. Board of Education. Republicans have never established Kavanaugh’s goodness. Instead they have used bland, Hallmark card sentiment to sneak his nomination through.
Perhaps the skeletons in his closet kept them from doing that. What we know now is that this mistake has come back to bite them in the behind as they face a potential tsunami in the midterms. They might have avoided all of this had they just heeded to the words of Stephen Sondheim, who wrote in his musical Into the Woods, “Though scary is exciting/Nice is different than good.”