Why Brett Kavanaugh Doesn’t Belong on the Supreme Court

kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court because he’s dishonest and unable to use his considerable legal education and experience to form a logical, coherent defense strategy. In addition, his performative, self-pitying rage before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed him to be a conspiratorial partisan, which undercuts any notion that he can be a fair-minded adjudicator of the cases that come before him.

It’s indisputable that Kavanaugh lied repeatedly in his testimony to the Senate. At Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson wrote an 11,000-word article dedicated to refuting an array of Kavanaugh assertions with facts.

As Robinson wrote, when viewing the testimony of Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford “honestly, impartially, and carefully” it’s clear that:

  1. Kavanaugh is lying.
  2. There’s no reason to believe Blasey Ford is lying.

Now, that Kavanaugh drank too much (and underage) 35 years ago doesn’t matter very much today. His dishonesty is happening right now in real time, and that is important because it undermines his credibility as a judge. I’m not going to recreate Robinson’s article here. Read it for yourself and you’ll see a sober-minded dissection of Kavanaugh’s lies, misdirection, and use of performative anger to blunt Democratic questioning.

Robinson’s excellent article missed one Kavanaugh whopper: his assertion that he got to Yale Law School “without any connections” by “busting his tail.” In fact, Kavanaugh was a legacy student because his grandfather attended Yale as an undergraduate.

Kavanaugh’s blatant dishonesty ought to be disqualifying, but I’m also bothered by something else: how inane his defense has been. He’s supposed to be an elite legal thinker — one of the top legal minds the country has to offer. But what he’s offered in his defense has been:

  1. A calendar
  2. A letter signed by 65 women, some of whom later retracted their support
  3. The lack of corroboration of Ford’s story
  4. Irrelevant and misleading assertions about his career and the nature of federal background checks
  5. Misleading and false claims about his high school behavior in general, and his drinking in particular.
  6. Evading direct questions.
  7. Self-pitying indignation.

I understand the difficulty in attempting to prove a negative. But, there’s a difference between asserting innocence, and accusing Senate Democrats of a “well-orchestrated political hit.” (It’s sorta interesting to note that while defending himself from an accusation made without supporting evidence, Kavanaugh makes an accusation without supporting evidence.)

The point, however, is how flimsy and dishonest Kavanaugh’s arguments are on his own behalf. Imagine a similar accusation made against Antonin Scalia, for example. While I think Scalia was wrong about a great many things, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have made a forceful, logically coherent, and legally sound case in defending himself. There is no chance he’d have offered up a calendar and tried to claim that because he didn’t have this particular underage drinking party penciled in, it could not have happened. (Side note: Robinson points out that such an event actually IS in Kavanaugh’s calendar, including the names of two of the boys Ford remembers being at the gathering where she was sexually assaulted.)

As a public relations professional with some experience in crisis communications, one thing is particularly striking: how easy it would be to construct a response that used existing facts, avoided telling obvious lies, and would likely have Kavanaugh already confirmed an on his way to the Supreme Court.

What we know from multiple descriptions from people who knew Kavanaugh, and from Kavanaugh’s own contemporaneous accounts that he was a binge drinker who got belligerent and aggressive when he was drunk. He’d already be on the Supreme Court if when Ford’s allegations were made public he emerged with a statement in which he:

  1. Admitted to binge drinking in high school and college
  2. Admitted that he sometimes drank so much that he could not remember what he’d done the night before
  3. Acknowledged it was possible that during one of these blackout episodes, he did exactly what Ford has claimed
  4. Apologized to Ford and anyone else he may have hurt when he was drunk and out of control, and
  5. Asserted that his life of service to America is demonstration that while he’s personally ashamed of his excessive drinking and out of control behavior, he doesn’t live that way anymore.

He could even toss in a sixth point about how he’ll work with an appropriate organization to address the dangers of drinking alcohol underage and to excess, but I don’t think that would have been necessary. Those five points above would not have satisfied many on the left. He’d be acknowledging it was possible he’d committed sexual assault without admitting it.

That statement would likely have headed off the second round of hearings and the FBI investigation. It would have given Republicans cover to mutter platitudes about how youthful indiscretions shouldn’t disqualify someone from important office, and a majority of voters would probably have agreed. In the end, the strategy I describe would have likely resulted in Kavanaugh being confirmed on a mostly party-line vote (although I think it’s possible he could have picked up the support of a few red-state Democrats).

It’s almost inconceivable that no one on Kavanaugh’s team or in the GOP proposed this strategy. It has the advantage of being the easiest path, in part because it’s a good fit with things the public already knows about Kavanaugh.

Instead, Kavanaugh and the GOP decided to construct their defense on lies and bluster. They may be able to bully Kavanaugh through the system and onto the Supreme Court. But his nomination and the confirmation process lays bare the fundamental dishonesty and abuse of power that lies at the heart of today’s Republican party.

Whether or not Kavanaugh assaulted Ford, he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court because he’s revealed himself as entitled, dishonest, partisan, and unable to think clearly under pressure.

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For what it’s worth, I believe her

blasey ford

I don’t want to write about this, but I feel like I should because of how some are attacking Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility based on her not remembering certain details. Maybe my experience will help others understand, maybe not. Either way here goes…

I was abused as a child. Not sexually, but physically and emotionally. It was violent. It was torture. It wasn’t daily, but it was frequent, and I lived in fear at all times. The abuse left physical marks — scratches, bruises, welts, lumps. It left indelible emotional scars that are with me to this very fucking moment. I’m 48 years old. The last episode of abuse I recall was at least 34 years ago.

I remember many details, which I don’t want to share. Just thinking about them as I write is awful enough. Here’s what haunts me most:

In the midst of abusive episodes, in the midst of physical and verbal violence, the phone would ring. My abuser would go on screaming vile insults and answer the call with a calm and placid tone — just another relaxing day. I’d be required to stand silently while a protracted conversation took place, which would be followed by resumption of the abuse.

One time, it was our priest on the line. After a cheerful conversation, the abuse resumed.

At the time, it was terrifying and humiliating. Looking back as an adult, I realize this wasn’t someone getting angry and losing control. It was intentional. Even with breaks and an opportunity to reconsider, the abuser would go back to torturing me. Decades later, this knowledge tears me up.

I remember where most of these events took place because they were at home. I know who abused me because I knew them well. I recall with specificity some of the exact things done to me — implements used, injuries caused, words said. Being forced to clean up after.

I remember instances where there were witnesses, and who those witnesses were. I remember feeling powerless, frightened, and hopeless. I remember feeling nauseous every day coming home from school. It wasn’t until I left home that I learned I wasn’t just prone to being car sick.

But, I couldn’t give you a single date. There are instances where I couldn’t give a location other than “the car” or “beach house.” At this point, I couldn’t tell you what precipitated even one episode of abuse, although I surely knew at the time.

I never reported any of this despite frequent opportunities. I talked about it years later with loved ones, and then in counseling, but at the time, I lied. The abuse left visible marks that drew questions from friends, teachers, and in some cases complete strangers. At every turn, I lied about the cause of the injuries.

I still don’t fully understand why I protected the abuser. As an adult looking back, I think it was fear that nothing would happen and that I’d get it even worse. And there was shame because I believed I deserved it. One time, I ran away from home (it lasted maybe four hours). The aftermath…well…the difference between me escaping that episode alive or without serious head trauma was the quick reflexes of someone nearby.

I sometimes wonder: what the fuck was wrong with me? Not just for not telling someone, but what was wrong with me that caused the abuse. Because, as crazy as it sounds now, I believed I deserved it. Intellectually I know I didn’t. I know it was about the abuser’s problems. But…I still sometimes wonder.

I recognize there are differences in how child abuse and sexual assault are viewed by many. Children are considered blameless victims. Teen girls and women who get assaulted are often assigned some measure of responsibility for getting attacked. “What was she doing at a drinking party with boys?” “She was wearing a short skirt…” and so on.

That’s all bullshit. What causes sexual assault is the same thing as what causes child abuse: an abusive person. It’s not the victim’s fault. Even if we sometimes blame ourselves.

What does all this say about whether Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh are telling the truth? Maybe nothing. But, the delay in Blasey Ford talking about the assault, and the gaps in her recollection are not indicators she’s lying. It’s normal. For what it’s worth, I believe her.

“Sully” Sucked, But It Didn’t Have To

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I wanted to love Sully, the 2016* film starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood about airline pilot “Sully” Sullenberger successfully executing an emergency water landing on the Hudson River, but I couldn’t because the movie was crummy. And what grated as I watched: it didn’t have to be.

Critics and audiences liked Sully a lot more than I did. Maybe I’m being too picky. But, I suspect a significant chunk of the positive feeling toward the movie is connected to positive feelings for Sullenberger the man. I share many of those feelings, which is a reason why this crappy movie rankles. Sully deserved better.

To recap (spoiler alert): Sullenberger and crew took off from LaGuardia Airport on a cold winter morning with 155 people on board. At about 2,800 feet, the passenger jet passed through a flock of Canadian geese and suffered “bird strikes” that destroyed both engines. Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles ran through options (trying to return to LaGuardia or re-route to nearby Teterboro), and decided their best option was to attempt a water landing. They pulled it off, and all 155 on board survived.

So why did the film crash and sink? First, it suffered from the malady that afflicts many “this really happened” stories. When people already know the outcome of an event, it can be difficult for filmmakers to generate drama. When joining the project, Eastwood reportedly wondered where the antagonist was. Rather than thinking deeper about the story they should tell, Eastwood and company just made one up.

Second, it suffered from self-inflicted wounds. For example, the film opened with a sequence where a passenger jet crashed into New York City buildings. It was a frightening reminder of the 9/11 attacks, but it was a terrible choice for this film because it didn’t happen. It was a nightmare suffered by the film’s version of Sully. I haven’t read the source material, but I assume the scene was based on his actual nightmares. But…

Third, the real-life events were a triumph of teamwork, preparation, and training. The water landing was the culmination of Sullenberger’s lifetime of work and attention to detail. It was a symphony of teamwork between him and Skiles, as well as the calm, swift actions of the flight crew, air traffic controllers, ferry boat drivers and rescue workers. By focusing on Sullenberger’s nightmare and post-traumatic stress disorder, filmmakers introduced a sourness that pervaded everything.

Fourth, while making a “this happened” story, filmmakers scabbed on a happy ending by creating a preposterous scene that never happened.

In short, Sully was a bad movie because of storytelling decisions.

How could it have been good? How could the film have mined drama from a brief event where the outcome is known?

By shifting the focus.

Sully Sullenberger, the person, was extraordinary. He was among the best at nearly everything he tried to do for nearly his entire life. He studied and worked and trained, and eventually became so good at flying aircraft that he became a trainer and safety investigator.

His co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, had a story. So did the flight attendants who helped implement safety protocols that got every passenger off the plane alive.

I can see several different ways to attack the story, all of which could have been dramatic, interesting, and remained true to the lives of these heroic people.

One option would have been a biopic of Sullenger. Show his upbringing, his schooling, his learning to fly, his intense training. Those sequences can carry some drama because each of those steps is about a determined person overcoming obstacles in pursuit of a goal. What might have been cool was to craft the scenes in such a way that they highlight the reality that no person is truly self-made (a point Sullenberger makes in speeches), and that teamwork is essential in nearly every human endeavor (another point he makes).

Another option would have been to have multiple story lines about key figures in the water landing and safely getting all passengers out of the airplane. This could have opened rich lines for storytelling, because many people were involved in the rescue, and and at least some of them have interesting stories worth telling.

There are still other storytelling options, all of which could have centered around the core lessons to be drawn from Sullenberger’s life: work hard, prepare, and collaborate.

Better Without Wall? My Latest at Bullets Forever

Miami Heat v Washington Wizards

I FINALLY made time to write something. This piece is about how the Wizards have been better without John Wall, and how he could help them get better yet by making some simple adjustments to how he plays.

Specifically:

  1. Don’t shoot quite so much.
  2. Especially cut back on the two-point jumpers with more than 10 seconds on the shot clock, and
  3. Use what he’s best at (penetrating and passing) to get good shots for good-shooting teammates.

Some of the comments are a real treat.

 

Read All About It (and Listen Too)

becker-broom

Three new items today:

  1. Episode 2 of my new Washington Wizards podcast Becker & Broom with longtime friend Ben Becker. Subscribe on iTunes, Overcast, or wherever you find podcasts.
  2. A companion article about how 2016-17 is a classic #SoWizards season. The team is winning, fans are feeling good, and they really just look average.
  3. A Player Production Average update.

Also, launch date for my mystery novel, No In Between, is lurching closer.

New At Bullets Forever

I meant to post these as I published them, but… Anyway, here they are:

And, of course, my new podcast with Ben Becker. Our first episode focuses on the article about Gortat’s touches, as well as on what the Wizards can do to improve.

Be on the lookout for my mystery novel, which is launching in about two weeks.

Programming Note

programming-note

During the holidays, I gave some thought to the state of my various writing projects and aspirations, and decided to make a few changes.

  1. The content here at kevinbroom.com will be shifting. I’ve done mostly Wizards analysis here, but that will be ending. Instead, I’ll be more focused on writing, the writing life, and artistic expression. These topics occupy a bigger place in my mind than sports ever has, and I hope readers find my thoughts interesting.
  2. My Wizards content is moving it to Bullets Forever, which has long been a source of terrific Wizards coverage and analysis. I’m thrilled they were willing to add me to the chorus, and looking forward to being part of the team.
  3. I’m going to partner with my friend Ben Becker to attempt a Wizards podcast that will be distributed through Bullets Forever. We’re gearing up to begin production, and hope to have our first edition available in January.

That’s all for now.