Excused for showing passion

Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the Times yesterday:

Democratic efforts to highlight sexual assault charges that are more than 30 years old have been dismissed by supporters of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as the dredgings of ancient history. But the judge’s response to those accusations has raised new issues that go to the core of who President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is right now: his truthfulness, his partisanship and his temperament.

And, in my view, his ability to reason. Sure, we all get that he’s livid because the allegations are about him and not someone else. It’s human to take things personally; it’s human to go ballistic when it’s you and look on with calm detachment when it’s not you. It’s human, but it’s not all that Supreme Court-suitable. That job demands a lot of people; that goes with the “Supreme” part. The Court’s decisions matter, so you want the people making them to be more than ordinarily endowed with qualities that suit the job.

I suspect that if Kavanaugh learned of a guy who was said by many friends to have been a belligerent drunk as a young man that he would not find it a particularly outrageous claim. It seems to me that someone with an appropriately judicial temperament would be able to take a wide view and realize that most people just aren’t going to assume that he Brett Kavanaugh can’t possibly have been a belligerent drunk as a young man, because why would we? And then he would (you’d think) realize that pitching a belligerent fit would not be the best way to convince us otherwise; more like the opposite.

In short, his ego seems to mess with his ability to be rational. Not good in a justice.

For Democrats determined to derail Judge Kavanaugh, his performance last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee — his dissembling about his teenage years; his playing down drinking in high school and college; his raw, angry emotions; and his broadsides against Democratic questioners — is proving to be a new avenue of attack, if the accusations of sexual assault are not enough to swing the votes of three key Republicans and two undecided Democrats.

That’s the wrong way of putting it. That sounds as if it’s just a pretext, but his performance was a genuine horror. People aren’t pretending to be horrified because it’s a way to derail him; we really are horrified. The narcissism and entitlement make me feel quite sick.

Judge Kavanaugh came up in Washington through partisan politics; he worked on the investigation that led to Mr. Clinton’s impeachment, and later he worked for President George W. Bush. At his first Supreme Court confirmation hearing, last month, he portrayed himself as a neutral arbiter of the law who is above politics, telling the Judiciary Committee that the Supreme Court “must never be viewed as a partisan institution.”

But last week he took the gloves off, ripping into Democrats for what he called “a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election” and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” Senator Mazie K. Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii and a member of the Judiciary Committee, seized on those comments on Monday as she laced into Judge Kavanaugh in a speech on the Senate floor.

“We all saw something about Judge Kavanaugh’s temperament and character that day that should disqualify him from serving on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Ms. Hirono said. “He was angry. He was belligerent. He was partisan. He went on the attack against senators questioning him. These are not qualities we look for in a Supreme Court justice, or a judge for that matter.”

But Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said Judge Kavanaugh could be excused for showing passion. Mr. Grassley said he was reminded of the 1991 testimony of Clarence Thomas, who told the committee that the hearing into sexual harassment allegations from Anita F. Hill amounted to a “high-tech lynching.”

Yes, and that was crap too.

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