Last week Senate Republicans agreed to tap the brakes gently on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Now the FBI has a week to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct that have been raised against the judge.
Is a week enough? I don’t know. But at least it’s a welcome pause in what felt like a rushed decision with profound, long-lasting consequences.
Let’s take a moment of this pause to consider this irrefutable point: Liberals have lots of reasons to oppose Kavanaugh that have nothing to do with the unseemly allegations connected to his high school and college days.
Last Thursday, Judge Kavanaugh launched an angry, petulant attack on Democrats, asserting that he was the victim of a highly coordinated, well-financed liberal conspiracy bent on revenge for the 2016 loss of the White House. He even brought up the Clintons.
And by the next day, my nearby tea-party friend was asserting — with no more evidence than Kavanaugh had — that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a well-paid liar.
But if we accept the philosophical principle of Occam’s razor — the idea that among competing explanations, the simplest is most likely to be correct — we see that it’s unnecessary to go so far afield to explain why liberals oppose Kavanaugh.
For example, we could remember that President Donald Trump outsourced the vetting for his Supreme Court nominees to the unabashedly conservative Federalist Society, guaranteeing that any nominee would have a carefully reviewed right-wing bias acceptable to the most conservative forces in our culture.
We could remember that Trump promised emphatically to appoint only justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh has been carefully equivocal about this, but it’s clear that his confirmation would undermine the hard-fought, continuing battle to allow women to make their own reproductive choices. This alone is enough to explain liberal opposition to Kavanaugh.
There’s considerably more: Kavanaugh’s record on workers’ rights and voting rights; his history as a right-wing operative; his evasive answers to some of the questions he faced during his testimony; and, indeed, his temperament. You don’t have to imagine a conspiratorial left-wing hit job that includes the Clintons and allegations of sexual misconduct in order to figure out why liberals oppose Kavanaugh.
I have my own reasons: I’m probably not the only American male who has wondered why he didn’t have as much fun in high school as Kavanaugh did. His testimony is replete with sports and trips to the beach and friends and parties and evidently so much drinking that Kavanaugh felt a need to downplay it before the committee.
Kavanaugh attended an exclusive, white, all-boys Catholic high school with an elite clientele, for whom achievement and status and money are as natural as breathing, the sort of place that spawns Supreme Court justices. Success and privilege are assumed.
My experience in a public high school in south Texas was different. Some of us went on to become doctors and lawyers, but none of us white guys expected an automatic passkey to the highest realms of power. Our classmates were Hispanics, blacks and girls. Some had money; others lived in poverty. There were Catholics and Protestants and more Jews than you might expect to find in a small Texas town.
After graduation, many went right to work. Others attended the local community college. Some went to the University of Texas or Rice or Ivy League schools. Some joined the army and some were killed in Vietnam. A few committed suicide.
And one girl, two classes ahead of me, bled to death after a desperate, botched attempt at a coat-hanger abortion.
Of course, I’m sure Kavanaugh is a lot smarter than I and most of my classmates were, but I’m afraid that he didn’t grow up in a way that encourages empathy for the disadvantages and shortcomings of others, as opposed to the assumed superiority of his own privileged position.
But maybe the court needs justices who are more sympathetic than self-indulgent, more compassionate than privileged. I doubt that these are values that are readily learned at a place like Georgetown Prep.
(John Crisp, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, lives in Georgetown, Texas.)