Kavanagh Nomination a Challenge to #MeToo Movement

Oakland   Flying into San Francisco from Denver there seemed to be people stopping in front of airport TV channels huddled around to read the scrolling headlines as Senators that had been in the middle from Alaska, Arizona, Maine, and West Virginia toppled to one side and then another.  Doing an interview late in the afternoon about the integrated care system in the Veterans Hospital Administration my guest suddenly interjected an aside on Judge Kavanagh that seemed to say that Maine’s Susan Collins had secured his nomination, which she confirmed as soon as I turned off the recorder.

The headline from Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski announcement to oppose Kavanagh had eloquently stated “he is not the right man for this moment” or words to that affect.  The “moment” is a recognition of the rising tide of women coming forward in government, workplaces, and personal spaces to protest a culture of sexual harassment, speak to their own victimization, and call out their abusers.  From Harvey Weinstein to the head of CBS to well known artists, chefs, politicians, actors, professors, thousands of men in positions of power have been forced to deal with accountability for crimes high and low.  The impact has been inarguable at this point.

For a long time, I wrote of the #MeToo “moment” wondering if it was a flash in the pan or would have some deep impact creating social change in the country and realigning the fundamental relationships between men and women.  As the body count rose and the calendar pages turned from month to month, the moment seemed to be having the kind of impact that actually qualified as a movement, even though many of the other indices of a movement were absent.

Now with Kavanagh lurching to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court in a divided Senate with more than half the country opposing his being seated, particularly women, #MeToo faces its biggest test that will actually determine whether these issues recede back into the private spaces or continue to be public concerns.  The impunity with which the President and the mostly white men of the Senate and the Republican Party have rammed this through for someone who was temperamentally unfit, unable to find objectivity given his fierce partisanship, and credibly accused of numerous incidents of sexual abuse and general bad behavior would have impossible to imagine in other political times, much less this one.

To prove sustainability as a movement, even without a defining organization, #MeToo will have to respond.  Punishment must fit the crime.  This may be the time that #MeToo becomes organizational and new and old organizations of women step into this moment in an effort to institutionalize change, rather than allowing this pushback from conservative forces to regain the public space and force women back in to the corner and silence their voices.

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The Ugly Face of Entitlement and Hyper-Partisanship

Little Rock    I don’t read the crime reports.  I have to stop my family from telling me about horrors inflicted on women and children as they read the paper with shock.  I have trouble watching gratuitous violence on television.  Sometimes I feel like an Octavia Butler character suffering from acute and painful empathy.  I know terrible things happen to people constantly, and that is the nature of our world, but I refuse to chose to live in that reality.  It ruins my day and disturbs my sleep.

You couldn’t have paid me to watch the farcical Senate Judiciary hearings as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified about her victimization.  You would have had to hold me back if I had been forced to watch Judge Brett Kavanagh’s dissembling, self-pitying performance.

I was fortunate enough after a meeting that evening to be able to ask a local judge in central Arkansas if he had watched the hearing, hoping he could give me a professional and objective review.  He had, and he did.  He described Ford as measured, calm, and convincing.  He described Kavanagh as not credible and hiding it with anger and righteous indignation.  To the judge he was an attorney who clearly lacked trial experience.  He was combative and bullying as he interrupted and talked back to US Senators.  The judge felt like he was a man who was attacking because he had something to hide.  At one point he described his demeanor as “crazed.”  At another he noted that his temperament alone should clearly disqualify him as a judge of any sort, much less the Supreme Court.   Others still in the room as the meeting broke up added their points as well.  Hearing all of it, even secondhand, was horrific.

I’ve now watched bits and pieces of it, and I appreciate the fact that the judge and my colleagues had let me down easy and sugarcoated how truly awful the whole scene was.  If this is the best we can do, how can we pretend the Supreme Court is anything but a political debate club.

Ford was a painful witness as she tried to be accommodating about her experience of a crime.  Kavanagh was the ugly face of elite entitlement, and as shockingly for a potential Supreme Court justice, he was also the face of hyper-partisanship.  Rather than someone who would sit in judgement of Trump, he would be one of the lickspittles in the Cabinet Room, goading him on about the Clintons or some such nonsense.

Most of the post-hearing news columns I have read, especially by women are just soul stirringly sad and angering.   Perhaps the best though was one written by Washington Post columnist, Alexandra Petri, mostly in CAPITAL LETTERS, entitled HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO BRETT KAVANAGH that perfectly captured Kavanagh’s all-about-me angry bull sense of outraged entitlement and his outrage that anyone, including his victims, could stand in the way of something he so clearly deserved:  a seat on the Supreme Court!  To quote what should be Petri’s best shot at a Pulitzer Prize winning column,

HOW DARE YOU?!
HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO BRETT KAVANAUGH?
HOW DARE YOU DENY HIM THIS SEAT?!

Listen, NO, YOU listen!
Do you know who Brett Kavanaugh is? Brett Kavanaugh went to Georgetown Prep!
BRETT KAVANAUGH IS AN OPTIMIST WHO LOOKS ON THE SUNSHINE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN!
BRETT KAVANAUGH IS NOT YELLING!
YOU’RE YELLING!

If Brett does not secure a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, this country will be IN SHAMBLES! THIS IS HIS BIRTHRIGHT! Do you know how embarrassing it is for a Georgetown Prep graduate to NOT be on the Supreme Court? They are literally 12 PERCENT of the court! THIS IS PROBABLY THE WORST INDIGNITY YOU CAN INFLICT ON A HUMAN BEING!

ALL BRETT IS ASKING FOR IS DUE PROCESS! DUE PROCESS BEFORE HE IS DEPRIVED OF HIS GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO A SEAT ON THE HIGHEST COURT IN THE LAND, WHERE HE WILL DETERMINE THE FATES OF MILLIONS!

I believe Ford, she would have known exactly who Brett Kavanagh was in high school, just as we all now know who he is now.  I almost even believe Kavanagh.  To him, she was just another girl in a long line of them.  Just a plaything to be used and abused.  One of many.  For such a man to be allowed on any court, especially one where his decisions will affect all of us, is a tragedy and a scandal.

This is what elite entitlement looks like.  The Supreme Court decisions with Kavanagh on the court will join the daily police reports as something few of us will have the stomach to read in the future.

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