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Friday, April 23, 2021

Democrats Should Focus on Character, Not Attack Kavanaugh’s Bad Sentences

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Senator Dianne Feinstein of California is a law professor and formerly served as the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Heaven knows that everything about Brett Kavanaugh is about as tasteless and unfathomable as can be. His confirmation hearings are more farcical than illuminating. They’re a comedy of errors and errors of judgment. He’s such a hoot and lightning rod, you would hope someone had already directed a strong, swift slap across his ass before the Supreme Court nominee had even crossed the threshold.

But will it really kill us to accept this guy for what he is? Will it really destroy the good name of Brett Kavanaugh if we clobber his name out of our mouths, feed it to the fish, and skin it to the ground? It’s unlikely.

Mr. Kavanaugh has a quote-unquote gift for public statements, which makes you wonder how he’s able to say some of the things he says without the gravitas that usually accompanies men of achievement. The problem with memorizing someone’s famous quotes from junior high is that your brain cannot tell them apart from your own. And at the age of 46, Mr. Kavanaugh has none of his own, beyond the downright tawdry. He’s soundly dispensed with the sanctity of meaning.

But of course, this is politics. We didn’t laugh last week when Judge Kavanaugh said anything at all, and we’re not going to this week, either. We didn’t laugh when he apologized for having been drunk in high school. We didn’t laugh when he testified that he’d like to “remember less” of his life. We didn’t laugh when he accused Bill Clinton of trying to kill him. We laugh when we realize how low Republicans are willing to go in order to start a pointless and ethically dishonorable war on someone in the Obama era. Mr. Kavanaugh is no Cincinnatus, but I fear the worst.

Democrats might as well seize the moment with gusto. But don’t let me count the ways in which they are falling short.

I have no doubt that some of our senators would have been able to fight their way through the spectacle with their work and their tongues intact, but others, who have had fewer opportunities to project statesmanlike characteristics as they have fought to protect their conservative buddies, might have struggled more. I just don’t believe that any attempt to exact character assassination will hit the mark when it comes to Mr. Kavanaugh.

If the best anyone can do for Mr. Kavanaugh is to allege that he just “might” have lied about an instance of beer spiking in high school, rather than pursue an actual investigation of this matter, the worst they could do is to attack his character. While some of Mr. Kavanaugh’s opinions have been objectionable and offensive to others, he’s been far more measured in talking about religion and his faith than Mr. Trump has been, and the Democrats have yet to really bludgeon him with an accusation of religious intolerance. I don’t really know what else they could do to prepare him for the crucible that is the Supreme Court, but now that you mention it, my guess is that it isn’t ad hominem character assassination. It’s a shame that Democrats would be content to move on from this if they did manage to launch an ad hominem attack.

But as our politics devolves into the realm of the parable and mockery, we are left with no choice but to concede that. For Democrats to paint Kavanaugh with any brush will lead to his nomination getting through. For Democrats to keep his confirmation off the table entirely will mean that the republic loses, by allowing the most objectionable person in the country to be confirmed. So we will just have to grin and bear it.

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