SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Brett Kavanaugh Sex Scandals Teach Us That Extremism, Even Supporting Torture, Are A-OK

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What is wrong with us? Specifically: what is wrong with liberal Democrats?

Liberal Democrats are out to get Brett Kavanaugh. They are right to be; he is dangerous. Confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would lock in a right-wing majority for a generation. Abortion rights would be imperiled, true, but his rulings would also impact us in countless ways no one can predict: privacy, technology, balance of powers, corporate influence.

What’s weird is how the “Resistance” is going after the nominee: they’re #MeToo-ing him.

They’re only #MeToo-ing him.

One woman says he tried to rape her when she was 15 and he was 17. Another says that he pulled out his penis and shoved it in her face at a college party. U-S-A! Best country ever!

At this writing a third accuser waits in the wings.

If true these are—obviously, undeniably, absolutely—nasty acts. They prompt serious questions about whether Kavanaugh has the judgment—pun intended—required of the highest court. The fact that these charges date back decades, even to his childhood, does not change that. If he were up for a less important job, one could perhaps chalk them up to youthful douchebaggery. But he’s not applying for deputy undersecretary of agriculture.

What I don’t understand is: how did Kavanaugh’s candidacy get this far? How did his bid last long enough to get to the point where it was imperiled by #MeToo-related personal misbehavior? Why didn’t it founder first on the rockier shoals of his insane ideology?

As a judge the nominee was quoted saying that the NSA’s mass surveillance of every American’s emails, phone calls and texts is “entirely consistent” with the Constitution. As a lawyer once told me, that is not and cannot be true. “In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this [NSA] program,” Kavanaugh wrote. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this issue. The NSA programs exposed by Edward Snowden transformed the United States from the supposed “land of the free” to an authoritarian Orwellian dystopia. Surely Senate Democrats might have found something to object to there.

As George W. Bush’s White House lawyer Kavanaugh worked on Alberto Gonzalez’s notorious “torture memos,” the flimsy legalistic covers Bush used to justify waterboarding and murdering innocent Muslim kidnap victims at Guantánamo concentration camp and CIA dungeons around the world. We don’t know what he told other lawyers when the memos were written but even if he opposed them he had a legal and ethical obligation to resign, contact the World Court and speak publicly about these brazen war crimes. He did not.

Not only did Kavanaugh enable Bush’s merry band of torture goons, he played what Senator Chuck Schumer described as “a critical role” in Bush’s novel use of “signing statements.” The vaunted John McCain-sponsored bill banning torture was a classic example. Bush signed it. Then he signed a signing statement that amounted to crossing his fingers behind his back: the federal government would not enforce the law. McCain’s bill became law but torture continues.

Most disturbing of all—this is a high bar given the above—Kavanaugh is a fervent devotee to the weird counterconstitutional “doctrine of the unitary executive” promoted by such fellow neocons as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. “In its most extreme form, unitary executive theory can mean that neither Congress nor the federal courts can tell the President what to do or how to do it, particularly regarding national security matters,” explained Watergate alum John Dean.

You can see why Donald Trump is into this guy.

Supporting torture. Undermining Congress and the rule of law. Contempt for habeas corpus. Giving the president the powers of a king. Any of these are more than enough reason to oppose Kavanaugh but Democrats ignored or barely mentioned them during judiciary committee hearings. There were no rants, no floor speeches. Liberal protesters did not gather to condemn Kavanaugh on torture. Liberal groups did not air ads about it.

Give the Democrats benefit of the doubt: maybe they determined, perhaps via focus groups and tracking polls, that the sexual allegations would have longer legs, would make more headway, than Kavanaugh’s judicial extremism. Marketing money is limited. Better to focus on what works.

Trouble is, we’re not just filling a court vacancy. We’re sending messages to the world. The message Democrats are trying to send, the one that powerful men will remember if Kavanaugh’s confirmation fails, is that women can no longer be disrespected. That’s fantastic. It’s long overdue. It needs to be repeated.

But it isn’t enough.

The Democrats’ decision to ignore Kavanaugh’s stances on important policies tacitly conveys that they either endorse torture themselves or don’t much care about it, that they either tolerate the imperial presidency or don’t care about it, that they sign off on un-American views about government or are willing to look the other way.

A reasonable reading of political tea leaves has to conclude that Democrats are now a pro-torture party. In 2009 Obama refused to prosecute Bush-era CIA torturers. In 2013 Obama appointed John Brennan, also a torturer, to CIA director. In 2018 Senate Democrats like Dianne Feinstein voted to give the top CIA job to Gina Haspel, a monster who personally conducted waterboarding sessions.

Those messages to the world are toxic and dangerous. Our national moral high ground has been further eroded because Democrats took the easy path to non-confirmation.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

29 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Brett Kavanaugh Sex Scandals Teach Us That Extremism, Even Supporting Torture, Are A-OK

  1. As Sheldon Whitehouse has pointed out, there is a strategy in effect to move court cases up to the Supreme Court. Kavanot is supposed to be there to seal the deal. One such case would remove the ability of States to try people for the same federal crime. This would neutralize the Mueller strategy of spinning off cases to the states. Orin Hatch wrote an amicus brief.
    Kavanot is a product of the Federalist society and a family background of wealthy white privilege.
    As Majority Leader McConnell is saying, these Supreme Court moves, and the many other court placements, are the culmination of his career. This is how the right-wing elites undo decades of liberal progress that was all about fulfilling the promise of the Constitution.

  2. Through the sheer power of her personal authenticity Dr. Ford, a female member of the professional class, has been granted humanity by the media.

    This certainly was disorienting to Judge Kavanaugh, a male member of the ruling class, who – after having played by the rules all his life – is now justifiably angry to have had the rules changed on him without warning. Who among us could have anticipated that future professional women would retroactively be granted autonomy over their own bodies at some unspecified point in the future? Certainly not “good people” who were busy partying like it was 1982 just as they were supposed to be (in between learning competitive games and how to conduct themselves as members of the ruling class).

    Somehow I can’t see a Christine Ford being taken seriously even in this limited way without impeccable professional credentials, say, being employed as a worker-bee at an Amazon packing sweatshop. Although to be fair we may be on the brink of allowing a future Dr. Ford to be a Latina, or lesbian, even though she would have undoubtedly faced even more of an uphill struggle had she been of the funny-looking persuasion.

    If we can keep admitting new people then, perhaps, one day we as a society will come to recognize the humanity of some random taxi driver picked up in some location with a name like Karachi on an anonymous tip. Who knew he was going to be retroactively granted the status of a person?

    Until this day, “good people”, like Kavanaugh, will intuitively side with the managers in the intelligence agencies who are likewise “good people”: they will bravely continue to legislate tough love against all the sordid rest of us including said taxi driver, who, although technically innocent, in the summary judgment of the experts might have potentially been radicalized by all the torture techniques the “good guys” have decreed he should be subjected to.

    Perchance when the public spectacle keeps expanding the select circle of “good people”, the ranking members of the elevated Senate committees may begin to waste their beautiful minds on such minor points that concern faraway indistinct vaguely humanoid shaped beings such as war, torture, loss of civil liberties, access to public reproductive health infrastructure, etc. as were raised in this piece?

    • The future of democracy looks to be in a race with climate change, admitting only one person into the ranks of humanity at a time, while climate change moves inexorably toward a reset of the human etch-a-sketch by shaking it upside down.

    • «Perchance when the public spectacle keeps expanding the select circle of “good people”, the ranking members of the elevated Senate committees may begin to waste their beautiful minds on such minor points that concern faraway indistinct vaguely humanoid shaped beings such as war, torture, loss of civil liberties, access to public reproductive health infrastructure, etc. as were raised in this piece?» Not to worry ; we’ll be long gone before then – either bombed to smithereens or baked to extinction…. 😉

      Henri

  3. The sad truth seems to be, Ted, that if one wants to prevent Mr Kavanaugh from being confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, it’s sex that will make a difference. Torture, contempt for Habeas corpus, presidential immunity, etc, etc, – who cares ? None of the US senators voting on Mr Kavanaugh’s appointment would ever suffer political consequences for voting for an appointee with tMr Kavanaugh’s positions on these issues, and none who vote against it on these ground will benefit politically from doing so. And given recent developments with regard to cannabis legalisation, the old tactic of asking candidates if they inhaled won’t work either. What’s left ? Sex, which as all good advertisers knows, sells….

    (Note the parallel with Mr Trump himself – the so-called «political opposition» (with a few honourable exceptions) to him concentrates its fire on «collusion with the Russians», something for which no evidence has been forthcoming, despite nearly 1½ years of a high-powered (and extremely well-publicised) investigation, the main purpose of which, we are asked to believe, was to investigate such «collusion», rather than, e g, the taxcuts for the super-rich, the deregulation which helps the same group to further enrich themselves by destroying the environment, etc, etc. Why ? Well, Russian «collusion» is sexier than global warming. But nothing, not even the Russians, are sexier than sex itself, thus the stance of the «politcal opposition» on Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation….)

    Henri

    • Hi Henri,

      I agree that a sex scandal is more likely to prevent a SCOTUS nominee … in 2018 … and with a senate minority Democratic caucus lacking a complete political spine among its combined members.

      Note, however, in 1987, the last actual senate vote rejection of a nominee was of Bork because of extreme legal views (Dem 54-46 majority) while the Thomas 1991 nomination was successful despite its sex abuse scandal.

      • «Note, however, in 1987, the last actual senate vote rejection of a nominee was of Bork because of extreme legal views (Dem 54-46 majority) while the Thomas 1991 nomination was successful despite its sex abuse scandal.» Good points, falco, but as you indicate, the political situation in the US Senate in 1987 and Mr Bork’s racism and background sufficed to convince some 58 senators to vote against him. (on the other hand, perhaps he emerged the winner after all ; as a US Supreme Court judge, he would have been soon forgotten, as a rejected nominee, he gave the English language a verb which has been in use for more than a generation….)

        As to Mr Thomas, it is indeed interesting to note that his appointment was confirmed by a Democratic US Senate, despite the sex scandal,. But perhaps it should be noted that 1991 was a quite some time ago, with regard to how such matters play out, and the accuser was a black, rather than a white woman, which I suspect also may have played a role….

        In any event, US politics remain, not unexpectedly, a matter of panem et circenses. Juvenalis would be pleased….

        Henri

    • “Well, Russian «collusion» is sexier than global warming.”

      The Global Cooling deniers now call it “CLIMATE CHANGE”.
      Global Warming was so Al Gore.
      Remember when the UN said 2012 was the point of no return? Or That England would never see snow again?
      Too warm, Climate change. Too cold Climate change. Too wet, Climate change. Too dry, Climate Change. Bad economic numbers, Climate Change. People escaping their shit hole countries, Climate Change.

  4. The sad truth seems to be, Ted, that if one wants to prevent Mr Kavanaugh from being confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, it’s sex that makes a difference. Torture, contempt for Habeas corpus, presidential immunity, etc, etc, – who cares ? None of the US senators voting on Mr Kavanaugh’s appointment would ever suffer political consequences for voting for an appointee with tMr Kavanaugh’s positions on these isues. And given recent developments with regard to cannabis legalisation, the old tactic of asking candidates if they inhaled won’t work either. What’s left ? Sex, which as all good advertisers knows, sells….

    (Note the parallel with Mr Trump himself – the so-called «political opposition» (with a few honourable exceptions) to him concentrates its fire on «collusion with the Russians», something for which no evidence has been forthcoming, despite nearly 1½ years of a high-powered (and extremely well-publicised) investigation, the main purpose of which, we are asked to believe, was to investigate such, rather than the taxcuts for the super-rich, the deregulation which helps to destroy the environment in a manner which further enriches the same group, etc, etc. Why ? Well, Russian collusion ise sexier than global warming. But nothing, not even the Russians, are sexier than sex itself, thus the stance of the «politcal opposition» on Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation….)

    Henri

  5. I’m troubled by the fact that so many people are choosing to see this as a matter of torture vs. #MeToo, or, more exactly, torture vs. sexual assault: I don’t see them as all that far removed from one another.

    Yesterday Ted tweeted, “American morality: #Kavanaugh gets away with being pro-torture, may be forced to withdraw over penis waving. Our country is disgusting.” I replied, “Yes… But let’s don’t trivialize sexual assault and rape, since they are hand-in-glove with other kinds of torture, and speak to a sense of entitlement and lack of empathy that equally make him unqualified (to put it mildly) for any judgeship, never mind the Supreme Court.”

    Reminds me of the old TV commercial for Certs….

    • > I don’t see them as all that far removed from one another.

      Good point. I am troubled by the fact that so many people see attempted rape as a ‘youthful indiscretion.’ Drinking beer is a youthful indiscretion’ Sexual assault is a sign of far deeper problems; it calls into question whether the candidate is capable of making good decisions.

  6. “Liberal Democrats???”

    After I wipe the coffee spray off the electronics I will hobble down to the emergency
    room to deal with violent laughter-induce injuries to the thoracic region.

  7. This will blow up in the Dems’ faces (both of them). Kavanaugh, who apparently was an alcoholic in high school and or college, is now being confronted with allegations (some of which are from people who admit that they too were drunk at the time) about his behavior from back then.

    I wonder why all the people who have rammed it down my throat all these years about alcoholism being a disease are so rabidly resistant to saying that in Kavanaugh’s defense. I wonder when it will become okay to turn on the mentally ill or teh gays. Oh, that could never happen.

    I wish HRC, who attacked the multiple women who accused her husband, would step up and deliver a heartfelt speech written by someone for her to perform. Perhaps the Democrats can’t scrape together her fee.

    • alex_the_tired

      “I wonder why all the people who have rammed it down my throat all these years about alcoholism being a disease are so rabidly resistant to saying that in Kavanaugh’s defense.”

      Alcoholism is a disease/ Binge drinking is not. I think all frats, and rich kids, have binge drinking parties.
      Everyone on both sides were blackout drunks. Yet only Brett is singled out.

  8. How does the common man explain his loyalty to the Constitution and its officers when the officers have no loyalty to the Constitution with regard to declaration of war, and a statement of account, about which the Supreme Court ruled that a request for this statement by a citizen need not be complied with for lack of standing by taxpaying citizens to bring such a request.

    Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7

    No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

    And why was marijuana made illegal without a Constitutional Amendment, but one was required to prohibit the use of alcohol?

    Alexander Hamilton argued in favor of making a the US a constitutional monarchy, but failing to win that argument, stated that Washington would rule administratively as a monarch.

      • CrazyH

        Because of Hearst.
        http://ozarkia.net/bill/pot/blunderof37.html
        “Ok, enter William Randolph Hearst. Hearst’s company was a major consumer of the cheap tree-pulp paper that had replaced hemp paper in the late 19th century. The Hearst Corporation was also a major logging company, and produced Du Pont’s chemical-drenched tree pulp paper, which yellowed and fell apart after a short time. Fueled by the advertising sold to the petrochemical industries, Hearst Newspapers were also known for their sensationalist stories. Hearst despised poor people, black people, chinese, hindus, and all other minorities. Most of all he hated Mexicans. Pancho Villa’s cannabis-smoking troops had reclaimed some 800,000 acres of prime timberland from Hearst in the name of the mexican peasants. And all of the low-quality paper the company planned to make by deforesting it’s vast timber holdings were in danger of being replaced by low-cost, high quality paper made from hemp.”

    • The common man is ignorant and slave to inertia.
      He is led astray by evil murderous lying elites.
      Not just one or two evil murderous lying elites, mind you, but generations and eons of them.
      The good elites: Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, are killed.
      Until the good elites go kick-ass, which it is not in their nature to do, the evil elites will always win.

      • yeah, Ghandi liked to sleep in the same bed with “young” women. VERY young women.
        Ghandi also said some fairly racist shit about Blacks while living in South Africa.
        Would Joseph Smith make your list?
        Read up on some Mormon History and how they were persecuted and killed all the way across the US.

  9. Since water torture is now the accepted scientific modern way to make people speak truthfully, and since candidates for office and the Supreme Court are notorious liars, let’s have side-by-side water boarding of candidates instead of side-by-side press conferences (these which are now called debates).

    What is done in the dark should be done in the light.

    Let those who believe in slavery be slaves, let those who believe in torture, be tortured, etc.

    And then:

    These scoundrels should be water boarded back into compliance with their “truths” (as stated) as they become at variance with those they made during their confirmation hearings and campaigns.

    Of course, this would require a Constitutional Amendment, because as it now stands, no member of Congress can be forced to testify about statements he made in Congress.

  10. DEATH TO ALL EXTREMISTS!

    2/3 of all Republicans approve of torture. They drool over the thought of a Unitary Executive – never once considering the possibility that said exec could order them tortured. Oh, no – he’ll only use his powers on the bad guys. A third of Democrats approve or torture as well.

    Morons.

    So yeah, it’s unlikely that merely pointing up his history would lose him the appointment. At least #MeToo’s got legs.

  11. Spot on, Ted. I’ve been saying this all along, how come the real threat his judicial views pose to our democracy is not enough to sink this nomination? Of course, his drunken escapades and sexual misconduct are bad as well. Now his freshman roommate has come out to say Kavanaugh was stumbling drunk often and was a beligerent drunk. Who better than a freshman roommate to testify to this? And of course, how could K remember what happened if he was this drunk? He is no choirboy,just part of the normal old boys network, where this behavior is normal.

    • Same as it ever was.

      Here is the problem though, show me a Utopia?
      They are all fictional.
      Society has always been many layered, from the privileged to the dying poor.
      Both ends find the loopholes and take advantage of them.
      Consider this, how easy is it to assault or rob people walking with their headphones on?
      We have lost the ability to discern “danger”.
      We need that culling promised in The Coming Plague.

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