Kavanaugh could have presented his case with dignity and controlled anger. Instead he chose to be aggrieved and petulant, more Sean Hannity than Felix Frankfurter. Contrast his behavior with Clarence Thomas, who was described by one reporter as “sweating anger” as he denounced what he called a “high tech lynching.” But Thomas never crossed the lines of deportment that Kavanaugh blasted through.
At this point, Kavanaugh is more likely than not to be confirmed along partisan lines for a job in which he could serve for another 40 years. Because of his outburst last week, his confirmation will be a short term win for the Right, but at the cost of casting a long shadow over any conservative jurisprudence that emanates from his pen.
At the heart of judicial conservatism is the belief that rulings should be based on the Constitution and the law, rather than the whims or biases of unelected judges. So it is vitally important that those decisions be seen legitimate by the American people. The legitimacy of the Court is undermined if the public believes that the court’s decisions are arbitrary, partisan rulings by ideologues.