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Unhinged? Unlikely

Trump is a pathological liar and we now know that Kavanaugh has lied his way through his confirmation hearings for his federal judgeship and now for the Supreme Court

 U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018. (Photo: Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)

Some reporters, bloggers, and pundits think that during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Judge Brett Kavanaugh just “lost it” and became "unhinged."  

I disagree.  I have no doubt that he was angry and emotional, but he was not out-of-control. Rather, his comments were very strategic and calculated. He was putting on a performance -- the performance that Donald Trump insisted he put on under threat of withdrawing his nomination.

"It is time for more protest. Doing Trump's bidding, the spineless, sexist, hypocritical Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. So the fight isn't over."

Kavanaugh spent several days huddled with White House officials preparing his testimony and discussing their strategy for combatting the various accusations of sexual assault, drunkenness, and violent behavior. It is well-known that at Trump’s request, Kavanaugh appeared on Fox News to defend himself and that Trump was unhappy with his performance, which he thought was too timid and defensive. Kavanaugh's testimony was his last chance to show Trump he was worthy  .

Trump and Kavanaugh have much in common.  They were both born to well-off parents. They attended private schools.  They grew up entitled and privileged. Trump has a history of sexual abuse and it appears that Kavanaugh does as well.  Trump is a pathological liar and we now know that Kavanaugh has lied his way through his confirmation hearings for his federal judgeship and now for the Supreme Court.

But there are also differences between the two men.  Kavanaugh was a big drinker.  Trump doesn’t drink.  Kavanaugh was a good student in college and law school, while Trump was a mediocre student and today is barely literate.  Kavanaugh spent his entire adult life as a conservative Republican zealot. Throughout his life, Trump had no clear principles or ideology other than a passion for wealth, celebrity, and humiliating his critics.  

In his testimony on Thursday, Kavanaugh adopted Trump’s modus operandus when confronted with accusations of misconduct and wrongdoing.   Attack.  Never admit a mistake.  Charge your opponents with being part of a conspiracy. Lie if necessary.  Kavanaugh’s rant on Thursday, like Trump’s similar rants throughout his presidency, demonstrate that both are unfit for public office. 


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Trump did not have to talk to Kavanaugh directly to relay the message that he would withdraw the nomination unless he stepped up his game when testifying before the Senate.  The message was clear:   If you don’t go on the offensive, be defiant, make it partisan, attack the Democrats and describe the attack on you as a left-wing conspiracy and witch-hunt, and insinuate that the criticisms of you are revenge among Hillary Clinton supporters, I will withdraw your nomination and find another candidate. 

In January 2017, more than four million Americans took to the streets as part of the women’s march to protest Donald Trump’s reactionary agenda. A key part of that agenda was changing the composition of the Supreme Court to guarantee a right-wing majority that will repeal Roe v Wade  and same-sex marriage, dismantle voting rights and environment protections, and eviscerate the rights of miners, janitors, school teachers, and other workers and their unions.   Putting Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court will guarantee that, even if Trump is impeached, resigns, decides not to run for re-election, or is defeated for re-election in 2020, his legacy will guaranteed in the right-wing Supreme Court for the next three or four decades.

It is time for more protest. Doing Trump's bidding, the spineless, sexist, hypocritical Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. So the fight isn't over.   

Overturning Trump’s election would require impeachment. But overturning  Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh simply requires 51 Senators to vote “no.”  Forty-eight of the 49 Democrats have already indicated that they will oppose Kavanaugh. Only Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia remains on the fence.  Forty-eight of 51 Senate Republicans have signaled their intention to support Kavanaugh.  Jeff Flake of Arizona said that he’d vote “no” unless the FBI is permitted to investigate Dr. Christine Ford’s allegations of Kavanaugh’s sexual assault. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkoswki of Alaska are still publicly undecided.

It is time for Americans to demand that the Senate refuse to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination until the FBI has completed a thorough investigation of the allegations against him.  Protest directed at Flake of Arizona led to him to call for such an FBI investigation before he’ll vote for or against Kavanaugh.  That gives Americans of conscience a chance to change the political dynamic.  Protest should directed at the three other Senators who still appear to be on the fence  -- Collins, Murkowski, and Manchin. So it is up to the American people to again take to the streets, particularly in West Virginia, Alaska and Maine, and at the trio's houses in their home states and in the DC area, to heighten the pressure.  

The #MeToo movement has gained incredible momentum during the past year, forcing the resignation and firing of powerful men in entertainment, media, business, and politics who engaged in sexual harassment and assault.  Just as unions, environmental and  LGBT groups, and civil groups organizations joined forces with women’s groups at marches around the country in January 2017, we need a diverse coalition to join forces to say “no” to Trump and Kavanaugh.   If public opinion polls – especially in Alaska, Maine, and West Virginia -- show broad support for Dr. Ford and other accusers over support for  Kavanaugh, we can still stop this wretched man from getting a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. He is the author of  The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books) and an editor (with Kate Aronoff and Michael Kazin) of We Own the Future: Democratic Socialism, American Style (published in January by The New Press). He is coauthor of the forthcoming Baseball Rebels: The Reformers and Radicals Who Shook Up the Game and Changed America.

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