Three Questions for Judge Kavanaugh

Judge Kavanaugh, I don’t know what happened in 1982. But I’m deeply troubled by what I perceive as your lack of integrity last week. You told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that your “have you boofed” yearbook question referred to farting, that “devil’s triangle” was a drinking game, that a “Renate alumnius” was simply a friend of Renate with no sexual insinuations, that the drinking age was 18.

Really? As James Comey tweeted: “small lies matter, even about yearbooks.” No one sensible is going to hold teenage drinking against you, but we are bothered when you mislead senators and the public today and deny what is obvious: As you put it in 1983, “we’re loud, obnoxious drunks.”

.. What can we call these but lies? And they come on top of deeply misleading testimony about your knowledge of stolen documents when you were in the Bush White House and your involvement in judicial nominations then.

.. 2. Do you have empathy for those who aren’t so blessed as yourself?

An air of entitlement hangs over both your testimony

.. Where the Supreme Court has made its worst mistakes, the problems have arisen often not from a lack of intelligence but from a failure of empathy.

  • In Dred Scott and Plessy, justices did not appreciate what it meant to be black in America;
  • in Korematsu, what it meant to be a Japanese-American facing internment;
  • in Buck v. Bell, what it meant to be a marginalized woman;
  • in Lochner, what it meant to be a laborer;
  • in Bowers v. Hardwick, what it meant to be gay.

If you had been on the court, Judge Kavanaugh, in 1873 for Bradwell v. Illinois, which upheld the State of Illinois’s decision to deny a woman a license to practice law based on her gender, your opinion no doubt would have been well reasoned — but would it have been just?

The American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct states, “A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” Sneering at senators, even when feeling provoked, does not fit that code.

.. I’ve learned from my criminal justice reporting that witnesses err surprisingly often. You have earned a reputation as a first-rate conservative judge, and I thought it possible that there was some mistake and that you had been terribly wronged. But ultimately what perhaps damaged you most was not the unproven allegations of assaults decades ago, but your own lies and partisanship just last week.

.. President Trump has mocked Dr. Blasey, and Republican senators have released an explicit sexual statement to shame Julie Swetnick, another woman whom they have not bothered to listen to. So it appears that your side’s strategy is not to dispel the suspicion but rather to humiliate the accusers — violating them in a display of power and entitlement that is an echo of what they say took place so many years ago.

If that’s the path you choose, you should not sit on the Supreme Court.

Why Brett Kavanaugh Wasn’t Believable

Judge Kavanaugh, when it was his turn, was not laughing. He was yelling. He spent more than half an hour raging against Senate Democrats and the “Left” for “totally and permanently” destroying his name, his career, his family, his life. He called his confirmation process a “national disgrace.”

“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit,” Judge Kavanaugh said, sounding like someone who suddenly doubted his confirmation to the Supreme Court — an outcome that seemed preordained only a couple of weeks ago.

Judge Kavanaugh’s defiant fury might be understandable coming from someone who believes himself innocent of the grotesque charges he’s facing. Yet it was also evidence of an unsettling temperament in a man trying to persuade the nation of his judicial demeanor.

.. As he put it in his testimony, “What goes around, comes around,” in the partisan vortex that has been intensifying in Washington for decades now. His open contempt for the Democrats on the committee also raised further questions about his own fair-mindedness, and it served as a reminder of his decades as a Republican warrior who would take no prisoners.

.. He gave coy answers when pressed about what was clearly a sexual innuendo in his high-school yearbook.

He insisted over and over that others Dr. Blasey named as attending the gathering had “said it didn’t happen,” when in fact at least two of them have said only that they don’t recall it — and one of them told a reporter that she believes Dr. Blasey.

.. Judge Kavanaugh clumsily dodged a number of times when senators asked him about his drinking habits. When Senator Amy Klobuchar gently pressed him about whether he’d ever blacked out from drinking, he at first wouldn’t reply directly. “I don’t know, have you?” he replied — a condescending and dismissive response to the legitimate exercise of a senator’s duty of advise and consent. (Later, after a break in the hearing, he apologized.)

.. Judge Kavanaugh gave categorical denials a number of times, including, at other points, that he’d ever blacked out from too much drinking. Given numerous reports now of his heavy drinking in college, such a blanket denial is hard to believe.

.. then there’s the fact that she gains nothing by coming forward. She is in hiding now with her family in the face of death threats.

.. cowardice of the committee’s 11 Republicans, all of them men, and none of them, apparently, capable of asking Dr. Blasey a single question.

.. Eventually, as Judge Kavanaugh testified, the Republican senators ventured out from behind their shield. Doubtless seeking to ape President’s Trump style and win his approval, they began competing with each other to make the most ferocious denunciation of their Democratic colleagues and the most heartfelt declaration of sympathy for Judge Kavanaugh, in a show of empathy far keener than they managed to muster for Dr. Blasey.

.. Pressed over and over by Democratic senators, Judge Kavanaugh never could come up with a clear answer for why he wouldn’t also want a fair, neutral F.B.I. investigation into the allegations against him — the kind of investigation the agency routinely performs, and that Dr. Blasey has called for. At one point, though, he acknowledged that it was common sense to put some questions to other potential witnesses besides him.

.. When Senator Patrick Leahy asked whether the judge was the inspiration for a hard-drinking character named Bart O’Kavanaugh in a memoir about teenage alcoholism by Mr. Judge, Judge Kavanaugh replied, “You’d have to ask him.”

Asking Mr. Judge would be a great idea. Unfortunately he’s hiding out in a Delaware beach town and Senate Republicans are refusing to subpoena him.

.. Why? Mr. Judge is the key witness in Dr. Blasey’s allegation. He has said he has no recollection of the party or of any assault. But he hasn’t faced live questioning to test his own memory and credibility. And Dr. Blasey is far from alone in describing Judge Kavanaugh and Mr. Judge as heavy drinkers; several of Judge Kavanaugh’s college classmates have said the same.

.. If the committee will not make a more serious effort, the only choice for senators seeking to protect the credibility of the Supreme Court will be to vote no.

Trump Seethes, and the Rest of Us Should Tremble

“An attack on our country.”

.. But a lawful raid on his attorney’s office and hotel room is what prompted the president to use those immensely weighted words. They’re a signal — make that a siren — of how cornered he feels, how monstrously large his belief in his own persecution has grown and what a perilous situation America is in.

.. Some unrelated swipe at perceived enemies or random assertion of potency by a man who cannot bear any image of impotence and is always ginning up distractions, as both a matter of strategy and a function of temperament?

.. He was telling us, yet again, not to trust our own government. And he was reminding us, in shocking fashion, about his readiness to sell (and buy) fictions if they serve his self-interest, which he reliably puts before all else.

.. Even though Cohen is the apparent focus of their interest, Trump, too, must feel hideously exposed. This is a man who refused, despite intense pressure, to release his tax returns

.. Now information that may be much more private, and much more damning, is in strangers’ hands.

.. Trump, during a meeting that was supposed to be about Syria, went on and on about the “disgrace” (he used that word seven times) of Mueller’s investigation

.. It was the full martyr complex and all the greatest hits in one meltdown. Mike Pence sat stone-faced on one side of him, John Bolton without much expression on the other. It’s hard to imagine either of them having the rapport with Trump to calm him down.

.. There is no Hope Hicks anymore, no Rob Porter, no Gary Cohn, no H. R. McMaster: The ranks of people who either gave Trump a sense of comfort and stability or sought to steer him away from his most destructive impulses have thinned. He’s more alone than ever. He must be more frightened, too.

But not half as scared as the rest of us should be.

I Love a Parade, but Not This One

Trump’s supporters and opponents alike are decent and patriotic. If only he lived up to their standard.

People who are for Trump always say “Look, he’s got an unfortunate character and temperament, but he’s good on regulation, good on the courts.” The problem, the veteran said, is the but. Once you get to the but, you are normalizing him—you are making him normal, which means you are guaranteeing a future of President Trumps. That means you have lowered the presidency forever, changed it forever, just when the world’s problems are more dangerous, and thoughtfulness and wisdom more needed.

.. Trump supporters, on the other hand, chose him and back him because he isn’t normal. They’d tried normal! It didn’t work! Of course he’s a brute, but his brutishness was the only thing that could surprise Washington, scare it, make it reform. Both parties are corrupt and look out only for themselves; he’s the one who wouldn’t be in hock to them and their donors. Is he weird? Yes. But it’s a weird country now. He’s the only one big enough to push back against what’s pushing us.

.. It is a central belief of Trump supporters that of course he’ll make mistakes—he’s not a politician, he’s new, he’ll learn. An underestimated aspect of Trump support is sheer human sympathy. They see him taking a pounding each day in the press and feel for him as a human being. The press misses this, but Mr. Trump doesn’t. He uses it.

.. His criticism went right at the Trump supporters’ faith that he will learn in the job. The executive said: He doesn’t learn! He’s not able to. He doesn’t have that mechanism inside that allows people to analyze problems and see their part in them. And without that you can’t improve.

.. If his two former wives are speaking truthfully, he betrayed the classic pattern of the abuser: He roughs you up, is contrite, vows to change, roughs you up.

.. You can’t really blackmail Donald Trump on personal conduct because nothing said about him would surprise or shock. Mr. Porter, however, was blackmailable.

.. Why did they let him stay on? Maybe because they were desperate: He was a respected establishment pro who could do the job. The administration struggled to attract such people.

..  I would add the big secret everyone knows both here and abroad and that occasionally springs to the forefront of the mind: A fundamental is unsound. Compared with other countries we look good, but compared with ourselves we do not. Our ratio of total debt to gross domestic product has grown to more than 100% and can’t keep growing forever. 

.. It is a ridiculous and embarrassing idea. If you want to show respect for the military make the Veterans Affairs Department work. A big, pointless, militarist display with gleaming weapons and shining tanks is so . . . Soviet. What do you gain from showing off your weaponry? What are we celebrating—that we have nukes? That we have to have them is a tragedy.

“The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.”

.. If there’s a parade that purports to honor our military men and women, they will go. But they’re not stupid, they’ll know what it is. It is Trump being Trump, and obsessing the nation. It’s bread and circuses.

And it is not like us, at least the old and honored us.

Trump’s Petticoat Government

What’s different about Donald Trump is that his inability to handle the weight and responsibility of his office is not something that crept up gradually

.. Instead it’s been a defining feature of his administration from Day 1 — and indeed was obvious during the campaign that elected him.

.. the president’s unfitness is not really a Harvey Weinstein-style “open secret,” an awful reality known to insiders

.. anyone who reads the papers (this one especially) knows that some combination of Trump’s personality and temperament and advancing age leave him constantly undone by the obligations of the presidency.

.. the book may be dubious in some particulars but as the consummate insiders Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen wrote on Thursday, the parts about Trump’s capabilities and mental state “ring unambiguously true.”

.. the 25th Amendment option isn’t happening — not without some major presidential deterioration in the midst of a major crisis, and probably not even then.

.. So unless Robert Mueller has more goods than I expect, we are going to live for the next few years in the way that America lived during the waning days of Nixon, the end of the Wilson administration

.. the central question of these years is not a normal policy question, or even the abnormal sort that the Resistance and other fascism-fearers expect to face.

.. The idea of a right-populist agenda died with Bannon’s exit from the White House

.. the standard-issue G.O.P. agenda has little left after the tax cuts

.. Trump’s authoritarian impulses, while genuine, seem unlikely to produce even aggrandizement on the scale of past presidents from F.D.R. to Nixon, because he has no competence to execute on them.

.. Can the people who surround Donald Trump work around his incapacity successfully enough to keep his unfitness from producing a historic calamity?

.. the men and women of the West Wing, for all that the media was ridiculing them, actually felt they had a responsibility to the country,”

.. the work has been necessary and important, and the achievement of relative stability a genuine service to the United States.

.. Can it continue in the face of some greater crisis than Trump has yet confronted? Can it continue if the Democrats take a share of power or if the president’s own family faces legal jeopardy?

.. Is the American system more able to correct for presidential incapacity than some of us have feared?

Comments

The GOP has married its fortunes to a fake news industry that has been driving & chasing its audience’s anger deeper & deeper into extremism and fantasy for over 2 decades. A country that mistakes Fox or Breitbart for journalism, or Mr. McConnell or Mr Ryan for anything but thieves (or Obama for a socialist), is a country that can mistake Trump for an intelligent adult.

.. Republican Party interest resides in power, not in government.

What they adore is a lack of government, a lack of free and fair elections, a lack of consumer, environmental and worker protection, a lack of affordable healthcare, a lack of education, information, science and progress… a lack of income taxes to pay for any sort of decent civilization for the non-rich masses.

.. Trump The Useful Idiot is a perfectly fine fake President for Republican pirates and Reverse Robin Hoods to decimate America with fake justices, fake elections, fake healthcare and the fraudulent Prosperity Gospel that has reduced America to a shameful, unrepresentative oligarchic state.

.. The more the media rails about Trump’s mental status, the more the third of the electorate which supports him will feel the vicarious paranoia and outrage against the “elites” who, they feel with some justification, are trying to gaslight him out of office sooner rather than later.

.. As long as the stock market keeps booming and the rich keep growing richer, the #Resistance will continue playing out as a soap opera for our aghast entertainment.

.. The media had their chance to destroy Trump’s candidacy. Instead they nourished it with $5 billion worth of free advertising. His TV rallies and debates were ratings bonanzas. Media mogul Les Moonves even gloated that Trump “may not be good for America, but he’s damned good for CBS!”

Shields and Brooks on the Senate health care bill unveiled, Trump’s tape clarification

Brooks: I favor using market mechanisms to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality.

Shields: The Democrats have to come up with what they are for, rather than what they are against.

Nancy Pelosi passed the Affordable Care Act and raised millions.  She is the most effective leader ..

Brooks: After Trump leaves, will this be the new norm

Shields: Americans don’t believe that Trump is honest, trustworthy, knowledgeable, experience, or has right temperament.

Who’s Conspiracy Mongering Now?

Whatever you like to believe about certain Trump companions and their conversations with Russian persons, nothing about it suggested an organization capable of participating in an arch conspiracy with a foreign intelligence agency. The campaign was a typically disorganized, free-form, low-budget Trump production. People came and went with head-spinning speed while having distressingly little effect on the candidate.

 .. Russia relations were a specific case of the general Trumpian pitch. He is a strong leader who, with his amazing personality, would transform bad situations into good ones.
.. If the Trump campaign directed or cooperated in illegal acts by Russia, that would be collusion in the sense of contributing to a crime.
.. Mr. Trump is many things, but he’s not an idiot. He has a deep, instinctive understanding of New York political, real estate and media culture, and, like many presidents, now is struggling to apply his mostly irrelevant knowledge to a job he is poorly prepared for. He still strikes us as a good bet not to finish his term—his age, his temperament, the anti-synergy between his business interests and his White House life, the latter not helped by his classy in-laws.
.. the seminal fact of Mr. Trump’s time was how quickly his critics sank to his conspiracy-mongering level and worse.