Published November 30, 2018
Well, did you enjoy the Senate Judiciary Committee’s reality-TV mini-series of the Kavanaugh-Ford-Republican-Democrat smackdown? No, me neither. But that deep and very public dive into the muck and the mire which dominated so much of what we still laughably call “the news” for almost a month during September and October seems not to have been enough for some Democrats, foiled of the opportunity with which they thought his nomination had presented them to keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court — and, incidentally, to wreck the career and reputation of a conservative judge. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), for one, has no doubt that the American people’s appetite for character assassination (at least if the character is that of a Republican) and salacious gossip remains undiminished. Vote Democratic, said the Congressman — who most likely will be Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee if the Democrats take control of that chamber in November — and you’ll get plenty more where that came from.
Speaking on the eve of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote this weekend [reported The New York Times], Mr. Nadler said that there was evidence that Senate Republicans and the F.B.I. had overseen a “whitewash” investigation of the allegations and that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court was at stake. He sidestepped the issue of impeachment. “It is not something we are eager to do,” Mr. Nadler said in an interview. “But the Senate having failed to do its proper constitutionally mandated job of advise and consent, we are going to have to do something to provide a check and balance, to protect the rule of law and to protect the legitimacy of one of our most important institutions.”
Is it possible that there can be anyone in these United States — anyone, that is, who is not an academic, a journalist, a member of a militant feminist group or who is not, like Representative Nadler, a Democratic politician seeking further occasions to proclaim for the benefit of an appreciative media his anti-Trump, anti-Republican bona fides — can there be, I say, anyone apart from such exotica who wants to re-open the unproven and unprovable sexual assault case brought by Dr Christine Blasey Ford against now-Justice Kavanagh?
I can’t see it myself — which is why I think Mr Nadler, by promising to keep “investigating” until he comes up with a result satisfactory to the new Justice’s Democratic enemies, is likely to drive away many potential Democratic voters who are not already put off by the high probability of a Democratic House majority’s investigating and impeaching the President. Moreover, by such pandering to the most vocal elements in their party, Democrats are missing what might otherwise be an opportunity to widen the gap between President Trump and his many GOP critics — a gap which now appears to be closing instead. Why put the Republicans on notice that they are hated merely as such and quite as much as Mr Trump is? I imagine that there are more Republican members than Senator Lindsey Graham, once regarded by many as a RINO, who have noticed this and who are, accordingly, less likely to be accommodating to Democratic concerns in the future.
Not for the first time since November 9, 2016, one feels compelled to conclude that, unlikely as it seems, a significant number of leading Democrats and their media allies have been quite literally driven crazy by their hatred of the President and, now, of his fellow Republicans — who therefore feel no more inclined to distinguish between themselves and their leader than the Democrats are. I don’t know if there is an entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders under “political madness” but if there isn’t there ought to be. You could look for it as a sub-head under “suicidal tendencies.”
And yet the likes of Congressman Nadler look comparatively sane next to the Minnesota teacher who lost her job after tweeting: “So whose [sic] gonna take one for the team and kill Kavanaugh?” Not content with merely killing Kavanaugh, a professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University wants to kill anyone (or at least any man) who believes the newly minted justice might be innocent of the charges that Ms Ford and a couple of considerably less credible women brought against him. “Look at [this] chorus of entitled white men justifying a serial rapist’s [sic] arrogated entitlement,” she wrote. “All of them deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.” Such views are apparently less remarkable in Washington than they are in Minnesota, since the professor was not dismissed or asked to resign but merely suspended from teaching and sent off on a “research leave” — “to prevent,” in the words of the official statement, “further disruption to her students and out of an abundance of caution for the security of our community.”
I wonder what the Georgetown School of Foreign Service expects her “research” to produce? The bland reaction of the university, like that of the media, to similarly blood-curdling rhetoric of the “antifa” left suggests a sense of complacency about the rapid degradation of our national discourse into threats and name-calling that is truly terrifying. When President Trump spoke of the danger to all of us posed by “wacko” and “totally unhinged” Democrats who supported the kind of “angry left-wing mob” that disrupted the Kavanaugh hearings, occupied congressional offices and have otherwise made nuisances of themselves since Mr Trump was elected, the media’s response was not to acknowledge that the left had an anger problem but to criticize him for using the word “mob” and to deny that the mob’s purpose was any more intimidatory than that of the Tea Party (remember them?) in the Obama years. Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, having missed the memo, wrote that if the president feared the “angry mob,” well then, “Good — he should.” So, presumably, should we all. Unless we want what the mob wants.
The President’s late opponent, Hillary Clinton, was equally graceless — and, I’d have thought, equally foolish merely from the point of view of her own self-interest — when she said in an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN that, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. . . That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength.” The former Secretary of State seems a little bit hazy about the definition of “civility.” If you can only be civil when you win, then you’re not being civil. Or civilized. Whatever may be the case with the Republicans, it’s pretty clear that the only thing she respects, or cares about, is strength.
Can she not see this? Can she imagine that the American people don’t see it? As it so often happens, Mrs Clinton’s comments were most revealing about her complete lack of self-awareness. In that, she stands for a whole political tendency in our country which simply cannot see any legitimate point of view but its own. Anyone with a different outlook on politics or, indeed, life itself can only be motivated by malice, bigotry or hatred — “a basket of deplorables,” in fact. And yet this tendency is by now so widespread as to have infected higher education (and a lot of lower education as well), the media, the permanent government, the Democratic party and such venerable institutions as the ACLU and the American Bar Association, both of whom chose to toss their reputation for fairness and impartiality to the four winds over the Kavanaugh nomination. How could they have dreamed of doing anything so self-destructive unless they had already made the same assumption as the media, namely that no point of view but their own was possible for a decent person.
The preposterousness of such an idea must be obvious to anyone who does not share it, mustn’t it? How is it possible for there to be a majority of the American people who do share it, at least so far as to vote into power a party motivated by such undying hatred for half the country? And yet it may happen. Even so keen a political intelligence as that of James Carville, agreeing wholeheartedly with Representative Nadler, claims to believe that it is as good for Democrats as they could have hoped to have Mr Kavanaugh on the Court and serving as an excuse for more “investigations” — and therefore more potential damage to the Republicans. “Kavanaugh is going to be an issue in 2018,” said the elfin pundit to an interviewer. “He’s going to be an issue in 2020. The Democrats are going to keep digging up stuff. The press is not going to stop all of the things that they’re working on about Kavanaugh.”
I had supposed that Mr Carville was the canny political strategist who, back in 1992, gave Bill Clinton a perhaps crucial boost towards the presidency by encouraging him to rebuke the then-prominent black rapper and radical “Sister Souljah” as a reassurance to moderate voters. How can he not see the electoral rewards to be reaped by any Democrat prepared to do the like today to the “angry mob” shouting down anyone who doesn’t agree with it instead of either allying himself with it or denying its existence? Even so simple a thing as letting go of the lost anti-Kavanaugh cause would be bound to appeal to the large if indeterminate number of Americans who, whether they inclined to believe Mr Kavanaugh or Ms Ford, were sickened and disgusted by the spectacle of their stage-managed confrontation. Yet nowadays Mr Carville, not capable of believing that such disgust can have put him and his party in a hole, wants to “keep digging.”
If it turns out that he’s right about this as the Democrats’ best hope for success in November and beyond, it will be because something like a majority of Americans will have come to accept, as the media and the Democrats already have accepted, that our politics, at least when Republicans are in power, should consist mainly or entirely of the search for newer and better scandals. Certainly the chief scandal-mongers appeared to be in no doubt as to which way their endless calumnies were bound to turn the country. When Ms Ford was first called before the Committee, The Washington Post, opined that her testimony “threatens to further erode support for House Republicans struggling to survive in centrist suburban districts.” The New York Times attributed similar views to Republicans themselves, whose “thinking,” according Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, was “that Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation would cause a backlash from female and independent voters against Republican candidates in dozens of highly competitive House races — many of which have already been slipping away — and do more damage than in statewide Senate contests.”
One is tempted to observe that Democrats are as blind to the possibility of a different kind of backlash — over their handling of the Kavanaugh nomination — as they are to the existence of the “angry mobs” Mr Trump warned against. They won’t have read about either one in the papers, of course, nor will they have seen on any of the pundit-panels they watch anything about the damage caused to the FBI by its increasingly obvious anti-Trump partisanship during the 2016 campaign. Congressman Nadler’s allegation of an FBI. “whitewash” notwithstanding, the constant refrain of the Democrats during the Kavanaugh hearings in demanding an FBI investigation when there was nothing to investigate — or a re-investigation when the one Senator Jeff Flake got for them, like all the others, came up with the wrong answer — could only reinforce a dawning public awareness of the left’s use of investigations as what Andrew McCarthy calls “a political weapon.”
Under the pretext of carrying out its counterintelligence mission or conducting a background check, the Left turns the FBI loose to do an aggressive investigation that leaves no stone unturned. Except now there is no crime — no proper trigger, no identifiable criminal transaction with essential elements on which the FBI can get a quick, definitive handle. Instead, the bureau is being told to leave no stone unturned until it finds something on which the president can be impeached. Democrats demand that Judge Kavanaugh’s life be scrutinized until the FBI finds some misconduct — no matter how old, ambiguous, and remote from his developed adult character — that might be used to brand him unfit for the High Court.
“The Left,” writes Mr McCarthy, “is destroying investigative norms,” but this is only what we should expect as a result of the absurd situation at which we have now arrived in which no constitutional protections are to be afforded a candidate for the Court which is charged by the Constitution with ensuring those protections for others. It was headline news when Senator Susan Collins announced her vote for Judge Kavanaugh on the grounds that the presumption of innocence was too important to our legal system to be abandoned. But that it very nearly was abandoned and would have been abandoned if the Democratic minority had had their way should have been much bigger news. Some might have thought that when “Chuck” Schumer announced, on Mr Kavanaugh’s appointment that he would do “anything” to stop it that he was just engaging the usual rhetorical overkill that has become such an unhappy feature of our system. But the problem with rhetorical extremism is that it tends to drag actual extremism, sometimes in the form of angry mobs, along behind it.
To me it seems that America has turned another corner on the road to national ruin, one comparable to that of the news media’s announcement two years ago, made on their behalf by Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times, that they no longer felt bound by any obligation of fairness to those of whose politics they disapproved (see “The End of the News” in The New Criterion of September, 2016). This time it is the rule of law which has fallen before the “progressive” cultural tide. One of our two great political parties has let it be known in no uncertain terms that, in order further to thwart democratic decision-making and ensure that the progressive cause will continue to be advanced by judge-made law, it is prepared to cast aside not only “investigative norms” but any rule of procedural fairness that might prevent it from keeping someone ideologically uncongenial off the Supreme Court.
Of course I could be wrong. If the Democrats win a majority of the House this month, as the experts tell us they will, it will suggest that the evidence of their bad faith and lack of scruple as outlined above is no more compelling than the evidence against poor Mr Kavanaugh. What seems beyond dispute, however, is this: we have been put on notice that whenever and wherever Democrats are once again entrusted with power, they may be expected to use it without restraint against their political enemies — who will be anyone and everyone seeking to stand in the way of that power’s exercise according to their political will. And that they will call such ruthlessness “civility.”
James Bowman is resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.