October 1, 2018 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
What the Kavanaugh Investigation Really Means
It's not the the last step in confirming him. It's the first step in reforming the Supreme Court.
Monday’s debate is over the scope of a background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh. The White House outlined a narrow course of action for the FBI. It excludes, for instance, interviews with Christian Blasey Ford. While the Democrats are crying foul, key Republicans, who could force the president to widen the inquiry, are staying mum.
This week will be rife with this kind of push and pull. The Democrats want to see more. The Republicans want to see less. But let’s not lose sight of where we are heading. No matter how wide, or narrow, the investigation’s scope is, the Republicans are signalling it’s Kavanaugh or bust. The Republicans seem prepared to overlook or ignore incriminating evidence in order to transform the United States Supreme Court for the next 30 years, even if that means losing the House and the Senate.
It’s still unclear why the Republicans are all-in for Kavanaugh. Any Republican apparatchik will do. Much better to cut him off in order to go with a nominee with less baggage. Yes, the Republicans say they fear losing the Senate if they fail, but that always felt like rationalizing. Midterms are about partisans, and partisans are going to vote whether or not Kavanaugh is confirmed. (Plus, as Jonathan Bernstein said this morning, there’s a lot of time between now and Election Day for people to forget about Kavanaugh.) If the midterms attract casual voters, I doubt they will be out to reward the GOP. They will be apoplectic Democrats. I still think the likeliest explanation is Trump’ pride. He wants Kavanaugh. So the GOP is obeying his commands.
If the Republicans are going to confirm him no matter what, why are the Democrats making so much noise about a sham investigation? For one thing, it could turn up damaging information. It could be so bad that the Republicans abandon Kavanaugh. (That’s unlikely, as I’ve said.) More importantly, the more damaging the information is, the more energized the Democratic base will be. Yes, the base is already amped up on account of the president, but the Kavanaugh affair has tapped into wells of rage few knew existed. The expected blue wave could turn into a blue tsunami.
That’s the short game. The long game for the Democrats harder to know, but I think we’re seeing the beginning of it now. Don’t think of this week’s FBI background investigation as the last step in confirming Judge Kavanaugh. Think of it as the beginning of much more glaring future exposure of Justice Kavanaugh.
He’s already exposed and has only himself to blame. Last week, he attacked the Democrats for “a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” he said, “fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”
That’s irrevocable according to The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein:
“With such a partisan route as his pathway, a Justice Kavanaugh would arrive at the Supreme Court as a patient zero, carrying a virus of illegitimacy to its decisions. Since Kavanaugh declared his hostility to the Democratic Party and the left so openly and with such ferocity, it has seemed inevitable that tens of millions of Americans will never see him as an impartial judge.”
Put other way, he’s compromised.
And there’s no way to reverse it. Every 5-4 decision coming out of the new court can be called Kavanaugh’s revenge against the Democrats. Therefore, every 5-4 decision coming out of the new court can be seen as evidence that the court needs to be reformed in order to restore faith in the institution and the rule of law.
In this way, this week’s background investigation has two purposes. One, it provides political cover for doing what the Republicans were going to do all along. More importantly, it lays the groundwork for future investigations called for after the Democrats take the House in November (maybe the Senate, too.) If Kavanaugh is confirmed, expect the Democrats to investigate him all the way to 2020, making him the poster-boy of white male privilege and the injustice faced by half the republic.
About Kavanaugh’s lying
I haven’t talked about Judge Kavanaugh’s lying. Wow, the man can lie! And about such trivial things! The Post, the Times and the Boston Globe all ran fact-checks on his Thursday testimony. Bottom line: Kavanaugh has a very Trumpian regard for the truth. I don’t mean that he intends to deceive, because his lies are often about easily checked matters, like the legal drinking age in Maryland during his youth. I mean he lies in order to coerce, manipulate and force listeners into positions against their will. Yes, he shouldn’t be a Supreme Court justice. But he shouldn’t be a jurist, period.
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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.