Get ready to hear a lot of this intellectually dishonest heads-I-win, tails-you-lose argument from Democrats over the next few days, and not just from Kirsten Gillibrand. The Democratic senator from New York clucked her tongue at Brett Kavanaugh’s anger during yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, saying it was “discouraging” to witness his “partisan attacks.” Gillibrand has no choice to conclude that it shows his unfitness for the court.
Of course, Gillibrand leaves a few things out of this, including the fact that she announced her opposition to Kavanaugh from the moment he was nominated. But that’s not the biggest issue with this deeply dishonest take:
I thought the second half, though, was so discouraging. I thought the way Judge Kavanaugh started with partisan attacks — it really made me question his fitness for this office, the fact that he does not have the temperament or the character or the honesty or the integrity to be a Supreme Court justice. I was really disturbed by the second half of the hearing, and I was disturbed by my Republican colleagues and how they acted and in what they said.
She’s disturbed by the behavior of her Republican colleagues? What about her own colleagues? One of the reasons Kavanaugh wanted this hearing was to address the obloquy that had been aimed at him for months, especially from Cory Booker (D-NJ). Booker erupted into histrionics during the first hearing, declaring himself Spartacus for releasing e-mails that turned out to be (a) nothingburgers and (b) material that had already been approved for release anyway.
More to the point, one of Kavanaugh’s “partisan attacks” was a direct response to Booker’s assertion before the hearings that Kavanaugh was “evil” and support for him was complicity with evil. Maizie Hirono has been fundraising on the argument that Kavanaugh’s a sex offender, even in advance of hearing his response. Dianne Feinstein buried this allegation for weeks until someone within Democratic ranks leaked it out to the press, creating a massive free-for-all that has permanently damaged his reputation and ability to interact with the community. Feinstein summoned up her own high dudgeon over Kavanaugh’s outrage this morning during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing:
Sen. Feinstein on Kavanaugh's testimony: "I have never seen a nominee for any position behave in that manner. Judge Kavanaugh used as much political rhetoric as my Republican colleagues—and what's more, he went on the attack." https://t.co/pyRUrUbyMw pic.twitter.com/u9NlHkLUG8
— ABC News (@ABC) September 28, 2018
Heaven forfend that “he went on the attack” after two-plus months of attacks on his character! What was Kavanaugh supposed to do when walking into that environment? Smile and nod?
Anger at those who have wronged one is a natural sentiment, and that is precisely what Kavanaugh demonstrated yesterday. As for the judicial temperament argument, it’s absurd as well. Kavanaugh wasn’t acting as a judge yesterday, but as someone publicly accused and being publicly judged of a serious charge without any corroboration or evidence to support it. Judges aren’t supposed to be emotionless drones anyway, but to fault him for anger at those who have set up an environment for a smear campaign — some of whom have actively participated in it — is a bald and grotesque attempt to shift blame and goalposts.
Charles C. W. Cooke slammed the door on this argument last night:
The second assumption is — once again — that “an accusation should be enough.” In this instance, that case wasn’t made explicitly. But it was certainly made implicitly. If the argument is “well, yes, Kavanaugh was within his rights to defend his name robustly, but the act of doing so meant he can’t be a judge in the future,” then the argument is really “the accusation should kill him.” All told, Kavanaugh had only one option today, and that was to do what he did. It would be utterly bizarre if our standard was, “if someone accuses you, and the minority party helps, and you defend yourself from both, you have therefore rendered yourself unsuitable for the position that the accusation is intended to deny you.”
The third assumption is that the mere fact of Kavanaugh’s being furious somehow reflects badly on him. One word I saw a lot was “entitled.” Another was “belligerent.” And, of course, there were the deeply irresponsible people who said that his anger made them think that he was capable of sexual assault. As has been common throughout this process, those who are making this assumption are suffering from a chronic lack of imagination. More specifically, they are demonstrating that they are incapable of even entertaining the possibility that Kavanaugh might be innocent — or that he might think he is innocent. Put simply, if Kavanaugh he believes he is innocent — and he does — there is no other proper way for him to act. What he did today is what I would have done if someone accused me of being a gang rapist and a lecher and a teenage sexual deviant. After ten days of listening to this stuff — and watching in horror as the spaghetti was thrown at the wall — I, too, would have been done. Having slowly realized that I would never regain my reputation in full, I would have been livid, devastated, furious — and so, frankly, would anyone else in that position. Sure, if I were guilty I’d probably have crept away to lick my wounds. But if I were not, I’d have put on my spurs and channeled Agincourt. To wonder why a man in Kavanaugh’s position is angry is to betray either a disastrous lack of empathy or a telling lack of humanity. Of course he’s angry. As opposed to what?
Finally, Gillibrand gives the game away in her preamble, when she hails Ford for telling “her truth.” Why not hail Kavanaugh for telling his truth? Gillibrand isn’t interested in truth at all; if she or her fellow Democrats had that as a goal, they would have alerted Chuck Grassley to the allegation when it was made so that they could delve into it before it went public, so as to find witnesses before the publicity invalidated any attempt to settle the matter. Clearly, truth wasn’t their goal, nor it Gillibrand’s. She’s interested in no-holds-barred partisan hackery, only she doesn’t like it when the intended target fights back.