×

Columnist John Sheirer: Drunken abusers don’t belong on the Supreme Court

  • Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his daughter Liza depart their home in Chevy Chase, Md., enroute to his swearing-in ceremony for the Supreme Court, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. AP PHOTO/Cliff Owen



For the Gazette
Monday, October 08, 2018

When I was in college 40 years ago, our dorm rooms were tiny, barely able to hold matching pairs of tiny beds, closets and desks. After a date, there was nowhere to sit comfortably except on the bed. For a shy kid like me, that was awkward. But for some of my classmates, those rooms could be dangerous.

During my freshman year, stories about women being drugged or pressured into drinking and “taken advantage of” (read: “raped”) were common. One such incident happened in my dorm in one of those tiny rooms. I overheard some of the creeps involved bragging about it the next day.

Shortly after one guy brought a young woman home after a night at the bar, several of his male friends arrived, exposed themselves, and demanded sexual service from the woman. The guy telling the story laughed about how she cried, screamed, vomited and eventually escaped after what must have been terrifying moments. And she left the college for good a week later.

Consider Brett Kavanaugh, a man accused of something painfully similar to what happened a few dorm rooms away my first year in college and what still happens in countless settings across this country every day. First we saw Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous, dignified testimony as she described her ordeal and positively identified Kavanaugh as her attacker.

Then we saw Kavanaugh’s unhinged testimony. From the beginning, he was resentful and accusatory with a script that could have been lifted from an alt-right website. He spewed conspiracy theories about Democrats, ascribed his predicament to anger about Trump’s election, and even blamed “the Clintons” — all while repeating “I like beer” enough times to invent a new drinking game.

Then he destroyed his own credibility by lying repeatedly under oath. He lied about seemingly small things, such as obvious sexual and alcohol references in his high school yearbook.

He lied about bigger things, such as the legacy connection that helped him get into Yale, the extent of his own drinking, the legal drinking age when he was young, and calling his friend Mark Judge’s book “fictionalized,” even though it’s a nonfiction memoir with a stumbling-drunk character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh.”

And he lied about very significant things, such as repeatedly claiming that witness statements prove his innocence (they don’t). These lies compounded his past dishonesty under oath when he lied about materials stolen by Republican operatives from Senate Democrats and his role in Bush administration policies on enemy combatants, judicial nominations, and wiretapping.

When asked about the FBI investigating, Kavanaugh evaded, ranted, and accused Democrats of ruining his life. Those aren’t the actions of an innocent person. He repeated that he would “do whatever the committee wanted,” knowing that the Republican-controlled committee planned no further investigation and a quick confirmation vote.

This was Kavanaugh when he had every motivation to be at his best. He was applying for lifetime promotion to the nation’s highest court. Instead of presenting himself as a rational, thoughtful, empathetic person of integrity, he came across as a rage-filled, dishonest, rambling, entitled jerk. Seeing Kavanaugh like this, sober and in public, we could easily picture the combative, violent drunk that several of his classmates remember.

It’s worth noting that Hillary Clinton, the actual target of numerous right-wing conspiracies, testified before hostile Republican Congressional committees without Kavanaugh-style lying, crying or erupting. His meltdown, and her grace under pressure, should retire forever the falsehood that women are too emotional for leadership positions.

Irony can be magical, but sometimes it’s just plain nasty. For example, we have a president accused of sexual assault selecting a Supreme Court nominee who is also accused of sexual assault. And in a deeper irony, Kavanaugh might join Clarence Thomas (accused of sexual harassment decades ago) as the deciding votes to criminalize women’s reproductive choices. In this case, irony sucks.

In a better world, someone who displayed Ford’s courage and character would be our Supreme Court nominee, and Kavanaugh would be referred to Alcoholics Anonymous and mandatory anger-management classes. He should be reevaluated for his present court position, not considered for promotion.

Because Republicans control the Senate, Kavanaugh was on the verge of confirmation for weeks. During the hearing, frankly, they cowered behind prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to keep from looking like bullies during Ford’s testimony. When Mitchell wasn’t partisan enough for their purposes, they emerged from hiding to enable and amplify Kavanaugh’s attacks.

Democrats fought for an FBI investigation until one Republican finally relented, but that investigation was so limited that it was practically useless. Meanwhile, almost all Republicans continued to rush someone to the bench who displayed, at best, biased views, dishonesty and poor judicial temperament. At worst, he showed a criminal disregard for women as human beings. The drunken abusers from my college dorm don’t belong on the Supreme Court, and neither does Kavanaugh.

This is probably not the last fight over inappropriate Supreme Court nominees — or terrible Republican proposals and regressive presidential policies. The best way to ensure pursuit of justice is to sweep the current Republican majorities out of Congress. That can only happen if good people cast wise votes this November.

John Sheirer is an author and teacher who lives in Florence. His most recent book is the satire, “Donald Trump’s Top Secret Concession Speech.” Find him at johnsheirer.com.