In mid-April, rumors started circulating stating what seemed at the time to be an unlikely outcome for the country’s highest court: Justice Anthony Kennedy was to retire. Kennedy had been an associate justice on the Supreme Court for 30 years, appointed to the court in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and confirmed in 1988 by Congress. Kennedy was America’s definition of a “moderate” on the bench, as he has often been the deciding factor in major victories on both sides of the political spectrum. Kennedy was the deciding factor in shutting down a corporate spending limit, which was a huge outcome for Republicans, while also voting to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.
In his majority statement for Obergefell v. Hodges, Kennedy wrote the following:
“No longer may this liberty be denied […] No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
In late June, the unlikely occurred. Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. With that, President Trump was gifted his second Supreme Court seat to fill. After a laundry list of possible options had been released last year, with names from senator Mike Lee (R-UT.) to Amul Thapar, United States Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit judge, President Trump added five more candidates. One of those candidates in the second list was Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Circuit Judge for the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. When the press reported Trump had made his decision, Twitter was circulating with guesses. Everyone presumed it would be Mike Lee, or Don Willett of Texas, or even Brett Kavanaugh, the D.C. judge with twelve years of experience known for firm, constitutionalist, Scalia-esque views.
On July 9, the President had a nominee.
Brett Kavanaugh, due to his “impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law” was nominated by the President. There were to be no more swing votes on the Supreme Court for an immeasurable amount of time (Kavanaugh is only 53), and for the rest of Trump’s presidential tenure, conservative rulings were to be his bulwark. Anything the President did dreadfully wrong, or any extraneous thing he said could be justified to voters in red states with a conservative Supreme Court. And if Kavanaugh were to be confirmed, he would finally have the validation necessary for a second term in the eyes of Republicans. If.
Originally, Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation looked like an unfaltering process. The Republicans hold a majority in both the Senate and the House, and if for any peculiar reason a Republican senator voted to not confirm Kavanaugh, Mike Pence could step in and vote to confirm him. One can only imagine the look on Mitch McConnell’s face during the Republican Senate Policy Lunch. For once, Republicans wanted to get something done as quickly as possible–thus beginning the confirmation process on September 4th.
And then it happened.
On September 14th, The Intercept published a story containing a letter from Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA.) that made accusations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh. At the time the article was published, the accuser remained anonymous. Just two days later, The Washington Post published an investigation by Emma Brown in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology at the University of Palo Alto, came public with her accusations. One week later, Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, accused the Supreme Court nominee of exposing himself to her at a party. Ramirez’s neighbor, sister, former classmates, and even a person she worked with in the dining hall at Yale have spoken in well regards to both her story and to her credibility as a person:”Debbie is not innately brave; she is being brave,” claimed Kerry Berchem, who knew both Ramirez and Kavanaugh while she was attending Yale. Kavanaugh, who until now had been seen as an optimal option in the eyes of Republicans and a viable option in the eyes of moderates, was losing his grip on his own confirmation.
That did not stop him from vehemently denying these allegations, however. In response to Ford’s statement, Kavanaugh issued one of his own, claiming that he has “never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone.” In response to Ramirez’s allegation, Kavanaugh was much more curt: “This is a smear, plain and simple.”
On September 27th, both Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Dr. Ford gave a powerful testimony. When asked what what she could recall the most, Ford responded: “Indelible, in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two [Kavanaugh and Judge] and they’re having fun at my expense.” When asked everything she remembered on the night that it supposedly happened, Ford said she could remember “The stairwell, the living room, the bedroom […] the bed on the right side of the room. The bathroom in close proximity, the laughter — the nefarious laughter. And the multiple attempts to escape and the final ability to do so.”
In Kavanaugh’s testimony and questioning, he was incredibly defensive:”You may defeat me in the final vote, but I will not quit. I have never sexually assaulted anyone,” he proclaimed in his opening statement. When asked about his drinking, Kavanaugh said that he sometimes “had too many beers,” but never to the point of blacking out. He also managed to add that he “liked beer, I still like beer, but I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out and I never sexually assaulted anyone.” When Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN.) asked the question: “Did you ever black out from drinking too much alcohol?” He responded by asking her the same thing, in an appeal to the tu quoque logical fallacy. Klobuchar’s father was an alcoholic, which was mentioned before she asked that question. Kavanaugh later apologized.
After both testimonies, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted strictly along party lines, 13-12, to proceed with the vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. That said, some Republicans had changed their mind on Kavanaugh. Both Jeff Flake (R-AZ.) and Ben Sasse (R-NE.) called for an FBI Investigation and a delay in the final Senate vote, along with the Democrats and both independent senators. Mitch McConnell (R-KY.), the Senate Majority Leader, was furious: “Let me make it very clear. The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close. Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation is out of committee. We’re considering it here on the floor. […] We’ll be voting on it this week.” This is humorous coming from the man who declared any nomination from Obama null and void because it was getting too close to the primaries. McConnell later delayed Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, a Democratic moderate, until the President was out of office and Garland was no longer a nominee.
After all of this—after a wave of allegations and defensive testimonies with little substance-I ask Republicans: is there no better option? A justice in any American legal court, whether they serve on Oklahoma’s Court of Civil Appeals or the Supreme Court, should be a justice with a critical and intricate understanding and dedication to the American legal system. They should also have no allegations regarding any criminal activity. In an epoch where the #MeToo Movement is crucially bringing events like these to light, and victims can finally be in an environment where there voices are heard, there is no room for people like Brett Kavanaugh. There were better options for Republicans. What about Trump’s consideration of Amy Corey Barrett, a socially conservative justice on the Seventh Circuit with a spotless record? She would be confirmed immediately. Is Brett Kavanaugh someone who represents American’s ideals in this day and age? Is Brett Kavanaugh the candidate that will uphold American jurisprudence with unrelenting ethics? I think the answers to these questions can be found here:
“The uproarious laughter between the two […] and they’re having fun at my expense.”