The Kavanaugh hearings in the Senate over the past couple of weeks have highlighted a real conundrum, even though I haven't seen it discussed much in the mainstream media.
Judge Kavanaugh has been criticized for his strong response to the allegations against him.
Liberal critics ... said Kavanaugh showed he did not have the proper judicial temperament for the job.
“I thought his partisan remarks and his angry, unprofessional tone were not befitting the position he seeks,” said Jill Dash, a vice president of the American Constitution Society, a progressive legal group. “Putting someone on the court with a seething partisan vindictiveness will do real damage to the institution. It is not how we expect a Supreme Court justice, or any judge, to comport himself.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, who was criticized for holding Ford’s accusation in confidence for weeks at the accuser’s request, said Friday that she was stunned that Kavanaugh had joined in the Republicans’ political attack.
“Candidly, in my 25 years on this committee, I have never seen a nominee for any position behave in that manner,” she said.
He “yelled at Democrats,” she said, and his suggestion that Ford’s allegation had something to do with Democrats avenging the Clintons was “unbelievable.”
“This was not someone who reflected an impartial temperament or the fairness and evenhandedness one would see in a judge. This was someone who was angry and belligerent,” Feinstein said. “In stark contrast,” she added, it was Ford who “demonstrated a balanced temperament.”
Kavanaugh’s defenders said the judge was rightly angry at what they, too, characterized as false and unfair accusations that were designed to destroy his reputation.
“Both witnesses did a good job. I thought Brett Kavanaugh was compelling. He was angry because he was defending his honor,” said John Malcolm, a constitutional expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“You spend a lifetime building up a reputation,” he added. “How could you not be angry to see your reputation destroyed with unfair, last-minute allegations that smelled of a partisan hit job?”
There's more at the link.
The obvious rejoinder to many of those critics is "Well, what do you expect?" If I were in Judge Kavanaugh's shoes, my response would have been rather less temperate - and a lot more rude - than his was. However, that's beside the point. The question is, what are the objective, rational, universal standards that we expect all our judges, irrespective of political persuasion, to adopt, exhibit and implement in their judicial decisions? Are there, in fact, any such standards at all?
It's clear that Republicans and Democrats in general don't share the same expectations for judicial conduct. What complicates matters even more is that nowadays, there's no default party political standard anyway. Both parties are fractured and fissured by internal dissent, traditionalists versus progressives, old-school versus upstart activists, male versus female (and any of the umpteen other politically correct genders out there), and so on. If there's no core party identity, how can there be any core party expectations of judges and other public servants?
Eliyahu M. Goldratt, the well-known business management expert, said:
"Tell me how you measure me, and I will tell you how I will behave."
In future, potential nominees will look at the events of the past few weeks and realize that they will not be assessed fairly, according to logical and rational standards, but in a partisan and emotional manner. That may put off many of them from accepting nomination . . . which might, of course, be precisely what at least some politicians hope to achieve.
The Senators conducting this inquisition are guilty of allowing the process to be hijacked for partisan purposes, with little or no regard to their responsibilities to the nation. They exemplify pandering to their political base, seeking electoral advantage rather than the good of the country. They're on the horns of a dilemma as they do so. If they pander to one part of their party's base, they risk alienating another part or parts of it. I think the progressive jihad against Judge Kavanaugh has very effectively alienated much of the more traditional Democratic Party base. It appears likely that some of it may vote differently in November as a result. Progressives, on the other hand, appear to believe that their supporters will be more motivated to vote because of this debacle.
Perhaps the politicians' dilemma is best summed up by a (possibly apocryphal) quotation attributed to French politician Alexandre Ledru-Rollin:
"There go my people, I must find out where they are going so I can lead them."
Pass the popcorn, please.