by Brent Budowsky
One of the most profound and revealing moments in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh was an exchange between Kavanaugh and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Klobuchar began by mentioning the challenges with alcoholism faced by her father and proceeded to ask Kavanaugh, in a respectful and serious manner, whether he had ever used so much alcohol that he could not remember what had happened during the time he had been drinking.
Kavanaugh, who had previously expressed appreciation for the way Klobuchar asked probing but respectful questions earlier in the hearings, responded that his answer was no. He then gratuitously asked, more in the style of a political opponent than a judge considering a case, whether Klobuchar had ever drank so much she could not remember what she did at the time. Kavanaugh then repeated his attack line against Klobuchar a second time, after which she responded calmly and professionally by repeating her question.
Later, to his credit, Kavanaugh apologized for this outburst, though not other outbursts disparaging and attacking a long list of others who do not support his confirmation. At one point, in a bizarre comment that demonstrated the opposite of a judicial temperament, he brought “the Clintons” into his presentation that disparaged and attacked the motives of those opposing his confirmation.
This profoundly revealing exchange between Klobuchar and Kavanaugh raises a number of important questions, ranging from whether Kavanaugh should not be confirmed for reasons beyond the allegations of abuse against women, and whether the Klobuchar style might offer a very appealing manner for a Democratic nominee for president to offer the nation in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Regarding the Kavanaugh confirmation, I would urge Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and other senators to carefully reflect on the matter of judicial temperament. Has Kavanaugh attacked so many individuals and groups in such aggressive, partisan and personal terms that a long list of future litigants would feel with reason that they would never get a fair chance in his court? A Supreme Court justice must never create the impression he may seek judicial revenge against abused women, Democrats, or other litigants who opposed his confirmation or executive power bias in favor of the president who appointed him. In Kavanaugh’s case, his demonstration of anger and attacks against many probable future litigants argue strongly against confirmation.
Regarding the abuse allegations, I have never offered a definitive public opinion about what actually happened at the moments in question. However, the allegations are serious and have not been fairly respected or sufficiently investigated — to this day — by President Trump or Senate Republicans. I found Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony to be powerful, sincere, honest, courageous and riveting and she —and all women — deserve better than they have received from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tries to force a Senate vote this week, senators should support a motion to recommit the nomination back to committee.
If Klobuchar runs for president in 2020, she would offer one potentially strong model for a candidacy that Democrats should carefully consider. A Democratic nominee can be strongly progressive while trying to heal the wounds of the nation fomented by Trump. Any Democratic nominee should reach out to all Americans with a reasoned and respectful case that appeals to the better angels of the American nature, by contrast with Trump, an embittering and divisive figure who would now bring his angry politics of polarization, rage and division to the chambers of the Supreme Court.
Klobuchar is one of many potential candidates who could bring together people and communities across America and reunite our nation with democracies around the world. Her exemplary conduct during her exchange with Kavanaugh demonstrated a politics of civility, respect and principle that is the antidote to the political poisons that Trump is injecting into American democracy and Supreme Court politics.