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The Supreme Court

Many of us have spent much of the past week listening to testimony in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee as it considered President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for a place on the U.S. Supreme Court. The hearings featured four hours of sworn testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, including detailed charges that Kavangugh had forcibly sexually abused her when both were teenagers. Kavanaugh vehemently denied that he had abused Ford, and in one angry rant claimed that the charges were a conspiracy by Democrats fueled by anger at the 2016 election of Donald Trump and were intended as the revenge of the Clintons.

Republicans have a slim majority both on the Judiciary Committee and in the entire Senate, and Republican Senators have complied with the wishes of the wealthy, white, men who effectively control the Republican Party and its officeholders. They will vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation despite compelling adverse information, much of which was not investigated by the FBI, and offers of testimony that Kavanaugh’s past behavior includes much intoxication and aggression. There were crowds of women demonstrating near the hearings, aggressively asserting that Kavanaugh’s sexual abuse of Ford should disqualify him from the Supreme Court.

All the Republican Senators voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to a full vote except one of the two women Republicans, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. None of the Republicans chose to take cover behind yesterday’s statement of John Paul Stephens, a retired Republican Supreme Court Justice, who said that Kavanaugh’s conduct in the confirmation hearings demonstrated that he was not temperamentally fit to serve on the Supreme Court. That was a change from Stephens’s initial opinion that Kavanaugh was indeed qualified.

I found today’s speech by the other woman Republican Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, particularly depressing. Collins detailed her sympathy for women who had been sexually abused and affirmed that sexual abuse was widespread and serious. She did not follow President Trump’s lead in mocking Ford’s claims of sexual abuse, which he did this week before a cheering group of supporters in Mississippi, reminding one of ancient fans cheering at the Roman Coliseum as lions tore Christians apart. Instead Collins attacked the delayed release of the letter Ford had sent to her elected representatives, who are Democrats, about the sexual abuse. Ford requested that the letter be kept confidential, and it was for weeks until someone disseminated it. Collins’s behavior was from the Trump playbook: attack on a minor or unrelated issue to divert attention from real issues, such as whether Ford’s story was true and, if so, whether Kavanaugh’s nomination should be rejected. She did not contest the truthfulness of Ford’s sworn testimony, yet Collins said she would vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

On the eve of the formal vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice, which will likely go through despite multiple charges that he was untruthful and otherwise unfit, I console myself with a dark thought. Science predicts that the next few decades will feature harsh judgments from a more powerful Supreme Court, Mother Nature, about man’s treatment of her planet. Already her emerging responses to man’s abuses dwarf whatever Kavanaugh may do on his very human court. Rising seas, more powerful storms, new weather patterns that will cause greater famines and more heat – all make Kavanaugh’s answers to ordinary legal matters less important.

As I said, this is an environmentalist’s desperate attempt to feel better about a poor Supreme Court appointment. It still feels real dirty.


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