Justice on Trial: A Lawless Auto-da-Fé for Brett Kavanaugh

The old saw comparing legislation to the nauseating process of making sausage, referenced late in this detailed work, is far too mild a metaphor to describe the vicious efforts to destroy Brett Kavanaugh and prevent his ascent to the Supreme Court.  Immediately after President Trump announced the nomination, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer declared that he would "oppose Judge Kavanaugh's nomination with everything" he had.  It soon became obvious that "everything" included lying, flouting committee rules, and the 24/7 vilification of a family man with a sterling reputation.  Schumer's Democratic colleagues, aided by an incendiary mob of rabid political activists and media partisans, were more than willing to join in this high-tech lynching, a lawless auto-da- that made the Bork and Thomas confirmation hearings seem like desultory dress rehearsals.  

After finishing the first chapter of Justice on Trial, I thought I had made a purchasing mistake, as the details read like a novel intent on providing setting and sequence information about every single event.  But in succeeding chapters, those little details became part of a gripping narrative that highlighted depths of depravity that are difficult to fathom.  The details not only bore witness to the authors' thoroughness and judicial expertise, but also occasionally became glimmers of hope in the midst of an ocean of despair, as when Mrs. Kavanaugh (Ashley) took solace from a daily devotional passage or when her husband was bolstered by a hymn frequently sung at Georgetown Prep: "Be Not Afraid."

The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway and Judicial Crisis Network's Carrie Severino highlight the invaluable role of White House counsel Don McGahn in gathering a list of potential Court nominees and weathering the disgraceful confirmation process.  It is left to readers to guess why Senator Feinstein failed to follow committee protocol vis-à-vis Christine Blasey Ford's accusation against Kavanaugh, an accusation that was in her possession weeks before the confirmation hearings.  (My own thought is that Feinstein was loath to employ what seemed to be a "Hail Blasey" desperation ploy until all other attacks had failed, fearful that a timely investigation wouldn't find the accusation credible.)  To their credit, the authors make their case more credible by avoiding speculation about motives.  Instead, they employ a fact-based tone, allowing the actions and words of the principals to speak largely for themselves — a tack scrupulously avoided by "journalistic" outlets eager to print scurrilous accusations about Kavanaugh while maintaining an utter lack of curiosity about the background of Kavanaugh's accusers, especially Christine Blasey Ford.

Among those bits of relevant information (beyond the fact that she wasn't certain where or when the alleged assault occurred or how she got home afterward or how many persons attended the party or that she never connected Kavanaugh to the "assault" until decades later when his name came to prominence) were the following: Blasey Ford was an anti-Trump partisan who scrubbed her social media messages prior to sending her letter to Feinstein.  Blasey Ford's yearbook and high school reputation (which included a "riff" on her maiden name that is regularly employed by Rush Limbaugh) made Kavanaugh's yearbook and foibles pale into insignificance.  Blasey used her maiden name prior to the Kavanaugh accusation.  The doctor flew frequently, even on long trips, undermining the assertion that she was afraid of confined spaces like airplanes.  The story about the extra "escape" door to her home didn't conform to the time or reason for its installation.  The timid-voiced psychologist did, in fact, counsel someone on taking a polygraph test, contrary to her Senate testimony.  Most importantly (and purposely concealed by the Washington Post), Blasey's closest high school friend, Leland Keyser, did not remember either the alleged party or Brett Kavanaugh, though she was a Democrat opposed to the nomination.  In fact, Keyser was even threatened by a Blasey-supporter if she didn't perjure herself and corroborate the assault story.  Indeed, no one at all could corroborate any part of Blasey's account.  

The authors' confirmation narrative continues like a descent into ever lower levels of Hell as accusations move from Blasey Ford to Deborah Ramirez to Michael Avenatti's media pawn, Julie Swetnick.  Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono's believe-all-women and shut-up-men approach toward these accusations was matched only by journalists whose bombshell stories ignored inconsistencies and readily available facts about the accusers.  Among that group was the author of the much ballyhooed Harvey Weinstein exposé, Ronan Farrow, whose hit piece in the New Yorker touting Ramirez's absurd accusations was panned by National Review's Charles Cooke, who was "struggling to remember reading a less responsible piece of 'journalism' in a major media outlet."  The increasing absurdity of these last-minute slanders, however, actually helped turn the confirmation tide toward Kavanaugh, with one GOP-staffer even calling Avenatti "manna from Heaven."      

The most heroic senator in this Kavanaugh saga (with honorable mentions going to Lindsey Graham and Charles Grassley) is Maine's Susan Collins, who, along with her husband, endured death threats during the ordeal.  Despite the intimidation, Collins was determined to vote based on her honest analysis of Kavanaugh's record and testimony.  Moreover, as Hemingway and Severino emphasize, Collins not only voted to confirm, but also gave a lengthy speech explaining why she voted that way, noting in the process that the accusations against Kavanaugh did not rise to the level of probability.     

Two examples stand as representative of the depths of moral depravity to which Kavanaugh's opponents descended, egged on by Democrats and the mainstream media.  The first is an un-publishable joke at Kavanaugh's expense by late-night political stooge Jimmy Kimmel that would have gotten him thrown off the air both by his sponsors and the FCC a generation ago.  But in today's ideologically debased society, his tasteless organ-removing humor passed the OK-for-public-consumption test.  Secondly, even after Kavanaugh's confirmation, the comedy writer Ariel Dumas sent out this despicable tweet: "Whatever happens, I'm just glad we ruined Brett Kavanaugh's life."

Justice on Trial notes, both early on and in closing, that the raw politicization of Supreme Court confirmation hearings began in earnest decades ago with Senator Ted Kennedy's mendacious "Bork's America" speech and continued in the same vein with the partially successful "high-tech lynching" of Clarence Thomas.  They also include comments by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that the process has inevitably become political precisely because the Court has transformed itself from a body that interprets the Constitution to a small cadre of philosopher-kings who legislate from the bench, a transformation that agrees with Professor Laurence Tribe's judicial philosophy as expressed in his book, God Save This Honorable Court.  (The title would more honestly be God Save This Honorable Court from Performing Its Constitutional Function.)  

There's little likelihood that the Court will revert to its original interpretive duties in the near future.  Consequently, a reprise of the Kavanaugh confirmation spectacle may be avoided or mitigated only by political calculations, since, as the authors contend, several GOP senatorial victories in 2018 can plausibly be attributed to public disgust over a process that sank to scouring the nominee's high school yearbook for a definition of "boofing" (flatulence) in order to destroy a man with a lifelong record of integrity and a large cohort of female colleagues and friends who were willing to endure ridicule and retribution to vouch for him.     

In short, Justice on Trial is an even-toned and comprehensive retrospective of the most reprehensible Supreme Court confirmation process to date.  Anyone who found the hearings and media coverage sickening should be warned that this book will present the reader with many more instances of mendacity and moral turpitude, a sordid tale assuaged by a reliable and heart-rending portrait of a loving, supportive family and the husband, father, and now Supreme Court justice who was so viciously slandered. 

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?" is also available on Kindle.

The old saw comparing legislation to the nauseating process of making sausage, referenced late in this detailed work, is far too mild a metaphor to describe the vicious efforts to destroy Brett Kavanaugh and prevent his ascent to the Supreme Court.  Immediately after President Trump announced the nomination, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer declared that he would "oppose Judge Kavanaugh's nomination with everything" he had.  It soon became obvious that "everything" included lying, flouting committee rules, and the 24/7 vilification of a family man with a sterling reputation.  Schumer's Democratic colleagues, aided by an incendiary mob of rabid political activists and media partisans, were more than willing to join in this high-tech lynching, a lawless auto-da- that made the Bork and Thomas confirmation hearings seem like desultory dress rehearsals.  

After finishing the first chapter of Justice on Trial, I thought I had made a purchasing mistake, as the details read like a novel intent on providing setting and sequence information about every single event.  But in succeeding chapters, those little details became part of a gripping narrative that highlighted depths of depravity that are difficult to fathom.  The details not only bore witness to the authors' thoroughness and judicial expertise, but also occasionally became glimmers of hope in the midst of an ocean of despair, as when Mrs. Kavanaugh (Ashley) took solace from a daily devotional passage or when her husband was bolstered by a hymn frequently sung at Georgetown Prep: "Be Not Afraid."

The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway and Judicial Crisis Network's Carrie Severino highlight the invaluable role of White House counsel Don McGahn in gathering a list of potential Court nominees and weathering the disgraceful confirmation process.  It is left to readers to guess why Senator Feinstein failed to follow committee protocol vis-à-vis Christine Blasey Ford's accusation against Kavanaugh, an accusation that was in her possession weeks before the confirmation hearings.  (My own thought is that Feinstein was loath to employ what seemed to be a "Hail Blasey" desperation ploy until all other attacks had failed, fearful that a timely investigation wouldn't find the accusation credible.)  To their credit, the authors make their case more credible by avoiding speculation about motives.  Instead, they employ a fact-based tone, allowing the actions and words of the principals to speak largely for themselves — a tack scrupulously avoided by "journalistic" outlets eager to print scurrilous accusations about Kavanaugh while maintaining an utter lack of curiosity about the background of Kavanaugh's accusers, especially Christine Blasey Ford.

Among those bits of relevant information (beyond the fact that she wasn't certain where or when the alleged assault occurred or how she got home afterward or how many persons attended the party or that she never connected Kavanaugh to the "assault" until decades later when his name came to prominence) were the following: Blasey Ford was an anti-Trump partisan who scrubbed her social media messages prior to sending her letter to Feinstein.  Blasey Ford's yearbook and high school reputation (which included a "riff" on her maiden name that is regularly employed by Rush Limbaugh) made Kavanaugh's yearbook and foibles pale into insignificance.  Blasey used her maiden name prior to the Kavanaugh accusation.  The doctor flew frequently, even on long trips, undermining the assertion that she was afraid of confined spaces like airplanes.  The story about the extra "escape" door to her home didn't conform to the time or reason for its installation.  The timid-voiced psychologist did, in fact, counsel someone on taking a polygraph test, contrary to her Senate testimony.  Most importantly (and purposely concealed by the Washington Post), Blasey's closest high school friend, Leland Keyser, did not remember either the alleged party or Brett Kavanaugh, though she was a Democrat opposed to the nomination.  In fact, Keyser was even threatened by a Blasey-supporter if she didn't perjure herself and corroborate the assault story.  Indeed, no one at all could corroborate any part of Blasey's account.  

The authors' confirmation narrative continues like a descent into ever lower levels of Hell as accusations move from Blasey Ford to Deborah Ramirez to Michael Avenatti's media pawn, Julie Swetnick.  Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono's believe-all-women and shut-up-men approach toward these accusations was matched only by journalists whose bombshell stories ignored inconsistencies and readily available facts about the accusers.  Among that group was the author of the much ballyhooed Harvey Weinstein exposé, Ronan Farrow, whose hit piece in the New Yorker touting Ramirez's absurd accusations was panned by National Review's Charles Cooke, who was "struggling to remember reading a less responsible piece of 'journalism' in a major media outlet."  The increasing absurdity of these last-minute slanders, however, actually helped turn the confirmation tide toward Kavanaugh, with one GOP-staffer even calling Avenatti "manna from Heaven."      

The most heroic senator in this Kavanaugh saga (with honorable mentions going to Lindsey Graham and Charles Grassley) is Maine's Susan Collins, who, along with her husband, endured death threats during the ordeal.  Despite the intimidation, Collins was determined to vote based on her honest analysis of Kavanaugh's record and testimony.  Moreover, as Hemingway and Severino emphasize, Collins not only voted to confirm, but also gave a lengthy speech explaining why she voted that way, noting in the process that the accusations against Kavanaugh did not rise to the level of probability.     

Two examples stand as representative of the depths of moral depravity to which Kavanaugh's opponents descended, egged on by Democrats and the mainstream media.  The first is an un-publishable joke at Kavanaugh's expense by late-night political stooge Jimmy Kimmel that would have gotten him thrown off the air both by his sponsors and the FCC a generation ago.  But in today's ideologically debased society, his tasteless organ-removing humor passed the OK-for-public-consumption test.  Secondly, even after Kavanaugh's confirmation, the comedy writer Ariel Dumas sent out this despicable tweet: "Whatever happens, I'm just glad we ruined Brett Kavanaugh's life."

Justice on Trial notes, both early on and in closing, that the raw politicization of Supreme Court confirmation hearings began in earnest decades ago with Senator Ted Kennedy's mendacious "Bork's America" speech and continued in the same vein with the partially successful "high-tech lynching" of Clarence Thomas.  They also include comments by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that the process has inevitably become political precisely because the Court has transformed itself from a body that interprets the Constitution to a small cadre of philosopher-kings who legislate from the bench, a transformation that agrees with Professor Laurence Tribe's judicial philosophy as expressed in his book, God Save This Honorable Court.  (The title would more honestly be God Save This Honorable Court from Performing Its Constitutional Function.)  

There's little likelihood that the Court will revert to its original interpretive duties in the near future.  Consequently, a reprise of the Kavanaugh confirmation spectacle may be avoided or mitigated only by political calculations, since, as the authors contend, several GOP senatorial victories in 2018 can plausibly be attributed to public disgust over a process that sank to scouring the nominee's high school yearbook for a definition of "boofing" (flatulence) in order to destroy a man with a lifelong record of integrity and a large cohort of female colleagues and friends who were willing to endure ridicule and retribution to vouch for him.     

In short, Justice on Trial is an even-toned and comprehensive retrospective of the most reprehensible Supreme Court confirmation process to date.  Anyone who found the hearings and media coverage sickening should be warned that this book will present the reader with many more instances of mendacity and moral turpitude, a sordid tale assuaged by a reliable and heart-rending portrait of a loving, supportive family and the husband, father, and now Supreme Court justice who was so viciously slandered. 

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?" is also available on Kindle.