“Do not weep; do not wax indignant. Understand.” ~ Baruch Spinoza
“One must be a god to be able to tell successes from failures without making a mistake.” ~ Anton Chekhov
Brett Kavanaugh made it to the Supreme Court. Liberals, progressives, Democrats – they lost – big time. Conservatives, the culturally and socially regressive – the back to the fifties crowd – the Republicans – they won – big time. Donald Trump won big time. But who won what? Some successes turn out to be failures, and sometimes those who have lost end up winning, winning something else and perhaps something better. Who can tell?
Time will tell, or the midterm elections will. That’s where someone will pay the price for something – the Democrats for trying to destroy a good man, or the Republicans for dismissing women as confused little liars or militant feminist harridans out to destroy men, and interested parties are choosing sides:
Russian TV pundit and media official Dmitry Kiselyov, chosen for his role by Russian President Vladimir Putin, earlier this week dismissed the sexual assault accusation against Kavanaugh by research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford as “like a joke.”
Kiselyov said Kavanaugh’s confirmation was held up by “malignant feminism,” which he blasted as a “tool for extortion.”
The “plague of malignant feminism is moving from America to Europe and toward Russia as well,” he charged on “Vesti Nedeli” (News of the Week) on Rossiya, a state-owned channel that reaches 90 percent of Russian households. It involves “infected ladies who project their sexual fantasies onto men who have a successful life and career, accusing them of attempted rape,” he said.
Kiselyov has called women “monkeys” and “witches” on Russian TV and has said he believes feminists should be imprisoned or committed to mental institutions…
Donald Trump hasn’t yet suggested that, although he has mocked Christine Blasey Ford at rallies, prompting the crowd to shout out, again and again – “Lock her up!”
They chant that in English, not Russian, so it’s not quite the same thing, but the impulse is there, and the Washington Post’s Robert Costa explains who thinks who will pay for what just happened:
Senate Republicans were defiant Sunday, one day after Brett M. Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th Supreme Court justice, brushing aside concerns about how they handled the brutal confirmation process and the potential costs in next month’s midterm elections.
But Republicans also faced sharp questions about the fallout in a fast-changing country that has seen the #MeToo movement gain prominence and Democratic voters electrified in opposition to President Trump and to Kavanaugh.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that the GOP’s base voters could reward the party with strong turnout for standing by Kavanaugh in the face of sexual assault allegations that prompted protests and outrage from both sides of the political aisle.
“We stood up to the mob,” McConnell said on Fox News Sunday. “We established that the presumption of innocence is still important. I’m proud of my colleagues.”
If all the MeToo folks are a mob, he’s right, and that is the thinking on that side:
His charged language was shared by other Republicans, who referred to Saturday’s near-party-line vote of 50 to 48 as a galvanizing and polarizing moment.
“I’ve never been more pissed in my life,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, said on Fox News Sunday. “I’ve never campaigned against a colleague in my life. That’s about to change.”
He’s out for revenge. He’ll destroy any senator who voted “no” on the Kavanaugh confirmation. He’ll fight mob rule in America. But that means fighting most women:
Senate Democrats, disappointed by Kavanaugh’s ascension, argued that many voters nationally – women, in particular – remain infuriated by the GOP’s treatment of Christine Blasey Ford, who detailed in emotional testimony her allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who gained national notice during the confirmation fight for urging men to “shut up and step up” in the wake of Ford’s allegations, said Democratic voters would be highly motivated to turn out and punish Republicans for the limited FBI investigation of Kavanaugh following his hearing.
“He’s going to be on the Supreme Court with a huge taint and a big asterisk after his name,” Hirono said on ABC News’s This Week. “Everyone knows when you just interview a small number of people and not the dozens of others who wanted to be interviewed by the FBI, it’s a sham.”
And there’s this:
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) – who would chair the House Judiciary Committee should Democrats win the House majority next month – has said he plans to launch an investigation of Kavanaugh if Democrats win power.
“Jerry Nadler will do what Jerry Nadler will do,” Hirono said, adding that she would not rule out an effort in the coming months to impeach the high court’s newest justice.
Someone will pay, or not:
Other Democrats, however, took a different approach to the impeachment question, mere weeks ahead of the elections in which they are eager to rally their core voters and connect with moderates and independents.
Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) was cautious when asked about the prospect of Democrats moving to impeach Kavanaugh should they win the House majority.
“I think that’s premature,” Coons said on NBC News’s Meet the Press. “I think talking about it at this point isn’t necessarily healing us and moving us forward.”
Coons, instead, turned his attention to Trump for mocking Ford last week and said the Kavanaugh controversy was an indictment of the president’s character as much as it was a battle within the Senate, coming as more women are speaking up about harrowing experiences.
There will be more women speaking out, but there was this too:
Brett Kavanaugh is the “slut whore drunk” of the story in his Supreme Court nomination, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said moments after the Senate voted to confirm Kavanaugh.
Asked whether sexual assault survivors would be more reluctant to come forward because Kavanaugh was confirmed despite allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, Graham said he did not believe so because Ford was “treated well” by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I think the roles were reversed: The slut whore drunk was Kavanaugh,” he said.
By inference, then, Christine Blasey Ford was a slut and a whore and a drunk, and she should feel lucky that she was “treated well” by the Senate Judiciary Committee, because she really didn’t deserve that.
Lindsey Graham is an odd man, and Frank Bruni tears into him:
The battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was an especially ugly episode of a reality-show presidency that degrades almost everyone swept up in it, and many characters stagger away from it looking worse than ever.
That’s Senator Lindsey Graham you see at the head of the pack. That’s Graham you hear talking and talking and talking some more, in committee rooms and on stages and before the television cameras that he rushes to the way a toddler chases soap bubbles. His words are whichever ones guarantee a major role and a powerful patron, which means that these days he sounds like a more articulate echo of his golfing buddy: Donald Trump.
That wouldn’t, by itself, be a cause to dwell on him. Washington is lousy with lackeys, and not even the maddest of kings thins their ranks.
But Graham is special. He really is. I can’t think of another Republican whose journey from anti-Trump outrage to pro-Trump obsequiousness was quite so illogical or half as sad, and his conduct during the war over Kavanaugh completed it. For the president he fought overtime, he fought nasty and he fought without nuance.
Bruni covers that in some detail, and this detail is telling:
“This is not a job interview,” Graham told Kavanaugh, soothing him. “This is hell.”
Interesting word choice – I remember when Graham used “hell” in a different context. This was back in December 2015. He was campaigning vainly for the Republican presidential nomination, saw Trump clearly and didn’t suck up to him.
“You know how you make America great again?” Graham said then. “Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.”
“If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed,” he tweeted, apparently referring to the Republican Party’s prospects in 2016. “And we will deserve it.” He called Trump the “world’s biggest jackass.” He said that choosing between Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, who survived much deeper into the party’s 2016 presidential primary than Graham did, was like deciding whether to be shot or poisoned. Trump returned these kindnesses by publicly divulging Graham’s mobile phone number and forcing him to get a new one.
And then things changed:
At the risk of alienating some of the conservatives in South Carolina who routinely voted for him, he had pressed for sensible immigration reform, the kind that didn’t involve ethnic slurs, the forced separation of children from their parents and border walls. He was one of the Senate’s most ardent hawks, and Trump was dissing foreign military interventions, damning NATO, pimping for Putin and peddling isolationism.
There were also personal reasons for Graham’s revulsion. Graham’s closest ally and constant companion in the Senate, a man he claimed to revere beyond measure, was John McCain. And Trump, at the beginning of his campaign, bizarrely and grotesquely mocked McCain’s long, brutal years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. Trump’s belittling of McCain never ceased, and Graham took proper offense — for a while.
Then Trump became president, started inviting Graham to play golf and Graham parted ways with his nerve and his spine. What beautiful fairways you have, Mr. President.
In short, there is no reason to take Lindsey Graham seriously, but this is a serious matter, as the New Yorker’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells explains here:
We are in an unusual political situation right now. Republicans have managed to secure control of all three branches of government with only the barest and most contingent of majorities. In theory, this makes a partisan consensus possible, but there is also the danger of public mistrust.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, the lone Republican to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation, alluded to this on Friday afternoon. “We need to have institutions that are viewed as fair,” Murkowski said. “If people who are victims feel there is no fairness in our system of government, and particularly within our courts, we’ve gone down a path that is not good and right for this country.”
Someone will feel they’re being screwed, but then there was that other woman:
Susan Collins’s long speech on the Senate floor on Friday was significant not just because she announced that she would cast the decisive vote to confirm Kavanaugh but because, unlike most of her colleagues, she took forty minutes to explain why. On the crucial matter of Ford’s allegations, Collins said that the spirit of due process and the presumption of innocence should apply, so she fashioned her own evidentiary standard – for her to vote no, she would have to conclude that Kavanaugh’s guilt was “more likely than not.” Collins said that she could not find enough support for Ford’s claims to satisfy that standard: there were important gaps in what Ford could recall, and no witnesses could corroborate her account.
But there were gaps in Collins’s explanation, too. Had she wanted to, Collins could have used her leverage, as one of the few undecided senators, to insist on a more thorough FBI investigation. As it was, the investigation was so brief and limited that it had the effect of sealing off the debate within the Senate chamber.
Some public momentum had built behind Ford – a poll released by NPR/Marist on Wednesday found that forty-five per cent of Americans believed her, and just thirty-three per cent believed Kavanaugh. (More than twice as many Americans believed Clarence Thomas than believed Anita Hill, by contrast.) But Kavanaugh’s opponents could only protest at the Capitol, argue in the media, and confront senators in elevators and airports.
What mattered was what was happening within the Republican caucus, and Ford’s supporters had no way in.
And of course it’s politically dangerous to shut people out of the process:
The midterm elections are only a month away, and the Democrats have a strong chance of winning control of the House of Representatives. Some liberals will canvass for candidates; many more will donate money. During the coming year, some will plan their own campaigns for public office. Moments after Collins’s speech ended, a Web site raising funds to challenge her in 2020 received so much traffic that it crashed, while collecting more than two million dollars in donations. Sara Gideon, the Democratic speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, suggested on Twitter that she might run; so, too, did Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national-security adviser.
The consequences won’t touch only Maine. This past Saturday, I attended a town hall with Elizabeth Warren in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where a schoolteacher asked Warren if she would be running for President. The surprise was not in Warren’s reply, in which she edged toward announcing her candidacy, saying that she would take a “long, hard look” at the race immediately after the midterms, but in her description of why she might run, which was all about Kavanaugh.
“I watched eleven men too chicken to question a woman themselves,” she said. “I watched powerful men helping another powerful man and I thought, time’s up.”
Warren continued, “It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix a broken government, and that includes a woman at the top.”
Wallace-Wells sees those who have lost actually winning this time:
Liberals are anticipating the midterm and 2020 elections in part because they believe they can transform the politics of the country, and in part because waiting for the next election is all they believe they can do.
Donald Trump doesn’t agree:
When asked Saturday about his message to women across the country who feel divested or not believed, Trump replied, “I don’t think they are.”
Trump said that those who spoke most favorably of Kavanaugh to him were women, and that women were the most outraged at allegations against the judge.
“The people that spoke to me … really in the strongest of terms in his favor were women,” he said. “Women were outraged at what happened to Brett Kavanaugh, outraged. I think that’s a total misnomer, because the women I feel were in many ways stronger than the men in his favor.”
Trump also referenced how happy those women were for the sake of their husbands and male family members.
“You have a lot of women that are extremely happy, a tremendous number of women,” he said. “They’re thinking of their sons, they’re thinking of their husbands, their brothers, their uncles, and others, and women are, I think, extremely happy.”
Trump said Thursday that “it is a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of.”
He had been falsely accused. So had Roy Moore and Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly and all the rest. He agrees with Dmitry Kiselyov. All of America agrees with Dmitry Kiselyov. Infected ladies have projected their sexual fantasies onto men who have a successful life and career, accusing them of attempted rape, ruining their lives. This has to stop. Women have to be stopped. Women cannot be trusted. Look what women did to Bill Crosby and Harvey Weinstein!
No, he didn’t go there, not all the way to Cosby and Weinstein. He was being careful:
When asked for his message to young women, Trump then replied “women are doing great” before walking off to board Marine One.
No one knew what he meant by that, if anything, but Ryan Thoreson, a lecturer at Yale Law School, outlines the situation this way:
In Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee recently, he lamented that his family and his reputation had been “totally and permanently destroyed” by allegations of sexual assault.
Yet Judge Kavanaugh became Justice Kavanaugh on Saturday. The people who will, for many decades, face the consequences for his tortured nomination are women.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford received death threats and had to leave her family home, after testifying about her sexual assault. She moved her sons in with friends so they could continue to attend school.
Days after naming the “uproarious laughter” of her assailants as her strongest memory of the assault, President Donald J. Trump mocked her testimony at a rally in Mississippi – to uproarious laughter and applause.
When Deborah Ramirez came forward to share how she was “embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated” by Justice Kavanaugh in college, and offering witnesses she said could corroborate the incident, she was dismissed as a “phony” by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and “messed up” by President Trump.
Julie Swetnick, who also alleged sexual misconduct by Justice Kavanaugh at high school parties, was even more forcefully dismissed as a promiscuous liar by defenders of Justice Kavanaugh. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee went so far as to release a salacious and uncorroborated letter from Dennis Ketterer, a man who claimed that Ms. Swetnick once told him she enjoyed group sex and that she had psychological problems.
Renate Schroeder Dolphin, the subject of sexual insinuations by Justice Kavanaugh and his friends in their high school yearbook, found her teenage sex life a subject of national speculation.
What is the message to young women? Thoreson sees this:
It was always likely that Justice Kavanaugh’s accusers would be crucified on a national stage. That has not changed since Anita Hill was vilified and Clarence Thomas ascended to the Supreme Court. And their mistreatment will undoubtedly deter other survivors from coming forward.
Thoreson prefers this:
We need to hold men accountable. A bigger man than Justice Kavanaugh would have apologized to Renate Schroeder Dolphin for turning her into a high school joke. A more responsible Senate Judiciary Committee would have taken their claims seriously and demanded a thorough, fair investigation.
And all of us could direct the same energy and opprobrium that we level at moderate women at the men who prejudged the outcome of this process and proceeded accordingly.
Justice Kavanaugh won’t have to answer for the damage his confirmation process inflicted. We still should.
Perhaps so, but Will Bunch sees this:
The moment that defined the American condition in October 2018 wasn’t so much the suspense-free 50-48 Senate vote to install Brett Kavanaugh as the nation’s 114th justice of the Supreme Court, but what came moments later. Angry everyday citizens surged up the granite steps of the high court and began pounding on the heavy wood doors, desperate to make sure that both Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts could feel their drumbeats of rage.
As autumn darkness descended on Capitol Hill, the demonstrators chanted “Hey-hey, ho-ho… Kavanaugh has got to go!” and “We believe survivors!” – of sexual assaults such as the one that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified under oath that America’s newest Supreme Court justice had carried out when both were teenagers. Police officers looked to push the spontaneous protest back – a thin blue line between the people and Kavanaugh’s latest and greatest closed-door fraternity initiation, pledging his allegiance to Delta Kappa Patriarchy’s unbroken reign over the United States.
Undoubtedly, the tumultuous events that took place in Washington on Saturday and which riveted a watching nation were a kind of Rorschach test for a nation that hasn’t been this divided and this mad since the Vietnam and civil rights battles of the 1960s – with passions even causing some to invoke the fraught months of 1860-61 when America slid into its bloody Civil War.
It does seem that bad, but that’s a matter of perspective:
For President Trump – still obsessed with size after all these years – the protests were to be dismissed as an event “that wouldn’t even fill the first couple of rows of our Kansas rally,” with nary a thought given to the grievances of his citizens so furious over their lack of a voice in a government that seems so indifferent to a culture of assault. Trump also echoed the GOP senators who – having watched the hallways and elevators of the Capitol flooded by waves of protesters, desperate to change even one vote – redefined the issue not as the matter of Kavanaugh’s dubious integrity but rather the behavior of what the president called “an angry left-wing mob,” comparable to “arsonists.”
Of course, one person’s mob is, to others, what democracy looks like – a debate stretching all the way back to 1775. Believe me, this so-called “angry mob” would much rather spend its fall weekends at their kids’ soccer games or picking apples than chanting themselves hoarse or, in dozens of cases, getting arrested.
But this was inevitable after two years of watching Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his henchmen crash through the guardrails of democracy to stall and kill the SCOTUS nomination of the profoundly decent Merrick Garland and then ram through the indecent and indignant Kavanaugh. Not to mention a confirmation process designed to throw darkness rather than shed light, right up to a sham FBI investigation as ordered by the White House.
No wonder citizens are airing their complaints to a government that’s indifferent at best and autocratic at worst. If this was a mob, then it was a mob in the exact same spirit as – dare I say it – the Boston Tea Party, without the tragic waste of caffeine.
Bunch seems to be serious about that:
The backstory to Saturday’s vote that matters is this: Brett Kavanaugh was named to the Supreme Court by a president who got three million fewer votes than his opponent, in an election where nearly half the eligible voters didn’t even cast ballots. He was confirmed by a legislative body so antithetical to the supposedly cherished American ideal of “one person, one vote” that it made no difference that senators representing the majority of the U.S. population – nearly 56 percent – opposed him. Those disconnects led to the ramming through of the most unpopular Supreme Court pick of modern times – who will now spend the rest of his life making the rules about women’s bodies, workers’ basic rights and your ability to vote, even though no more than 30 to 40 percent of citizens ever wanted him there.
If that doesn’t scream out for an American Bastille Day, what does?
Bunch would prefer structural reforms:
Abolish the Electoral College – If America wants to have an “imperial president,” let’s at least elect that commander-in-chief by a simple majority reflecting the will of the people, as happens in much of the civilized world. Crazy, I know.
Reform Congress to make it more democratic (with a small “d”) – The courts have consistently upheld the notion of “one person, one vote” – for just about everything except the U.S. Senate, which single-handedly decides the shape of the American judiciary, confirms the president’s appointments, and ratifies treaties. A resident of Wyoming now has 60 times the influence in the Senate as a voter in California. That unfairness, more than anything else, is how we got Kavanaugh.
Ban gerrymandering – Require a uniform system of drawing up districts for Congress that depends on input from citizens and not power-hungry legislative majorities.
And so on and so forth – and as unlikely as an American Bastille Day – but Bunch does see hope:
In the mid-1860s, amid the bloodshed of the Civil War, America found it within itself to enact the amendments that banned slavery and guaranteed – however imperfectly it’s played out in real life – equal protection to all citizens. With that in mind, here’s another crazy idea: Let’s once again radically fix the way America does its business – this time, before a civil war breaks out.
That could happen. That should happen. One day someone will pay the price for what just happened, and some successes turn out to be failures. Sometimes those who have lost end up winning, winning something else and perhaps something better. That does happen.