In nominee’s nod to Bork, there is cause for concern over future rulings
I am sympathetic to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s complaint, despite its hysterical tone, that his life has been wrecked by the chaos of the past few weeks. But in listening to his testimony Thursday, I was alerted to an almost parenthetical comment he made, referring to himself as the object of “Borking” by the Democrats.
This refers to the rejection of Robert Bork’s Supreme Court nomination, a rejection that has kept a white-hot fury-fire burning among conservatives for more than 30 years. But this rejection was based on Bork’s own substantive testimony, which revealed his view of the Constitution as far, far out of the mainstream of American culture. In particular, Bork’s severe originalist ideology led him to criticize the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which had overturned a law of a then-predominantly Catholic state criminalizing birth control. (Yes — birth control, not abortion!)
It is telling that Kavanaugh sees himself as a modern Bork, and it is predictive of how he will bring his personal religious beliefs into the decisions he would make on the Supreme Court.
A few other areas of judicial unfitness
In addition to the Globe’s convincing Sept. 29 editorial questioning Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve because of past lies, there are two additional reasons for the Senate to reject his nomination to the Supreme Court.
His testimony demonstrated a disturbing lack of judicial demeanor and temperament required for the highest court, and his alignment with the Republican Party, evidenced by his decision to appear on Fox News and his stinging attack on the Democrats, would require him to recuse himself from many future cases, especially those involving partisan gerrymandering. That practice is generally, though not always, engineered by Republican legislators to favor Republican candidates. The court is probably divided 4-4 on this issue, and Kavanaugh’s confirmation would either assure the continuation of partisan gerrymandering or, if he recused himself, could result in widely inconsistent lower court results.
The writer, president emeritus of Colby College, teaches constitutional law in adult education programs.
Assessing the truth, we should be mindful of what we don’t know
I was struck by Gina Scaramella’s Sept. 26 letter (“Argument for ‘fair’ hearing is marred by its own leanings toward injustice”), because I am aware of some of the work that the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center does. I respect this organization — both its service to victims and its work on primary prevention of sexual assault.
However, I believe that Scaramella makes an error in logic here. She writes, “Survivors of sexual assault rarely make false reports, while those who commit sexual assaults nearly always make false denials.” Both statements, while probably true, do not give us any help here. Men who are innocent of sexual assault make truthful denials. Women who report sexual assault that did not occur are making false reports. We do not know for certain whether what Christine Blasey Ford describes took place, nor whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh has committed sexual assault, so the principles enunciated by Scaramella cannot be applied here.
I find it interesting that some people feel confident that they know what happened 30 or so years ago. I know that most people’s memories are unreliable about their own experiences in much shorter time periods.
I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that my experiences, even of episodes such as crimes committed against me, one of which came close to causing my death, have faded over the years.
I urge all of us involved in discussion of public issues to be as fair and rational as we can be, and as respectful to others involved in the discussion as we can.
In show of emotion, a double standard is on display
The response of many women listening to both Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh is not just what it triggered for those who have a history of sexual abuse. It was knowing deep in our bones all the times we repressed our anger and were told not to be emotional, even when it was appropriate and justified, and then routinely seeing how white men could be angry and emotional without any cost. Watching the double standard of acceptable behavior play out on Thursday was painful, if telling. The hearings summed up much of what I taught for more than three decades in women’s and gender studies at Wellesley College.
The writer is an associate editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.