“When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
And when you look into Kavanaugh, Kavanaugh looks into you. The U.S. Senate hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's elevation to the U.S. Supreme Court began with a bang – interminable bangs by energetic protesters -- and ended with a whispered sigh. “Senate concludes Kavanaugh hearing; confirmation likely” the Chicago Tribune noted.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation was “likely” from the get-go. One of Kavanaugh's bitterest opponents in the Senate, Dick Blumenthal, admitted days before the hearing that Kavanaugh would be confirmed – because confirmation of Supreme Court justices is a political affair, a matter of votes and numbers, and the party with the most votes in Congress ultimately wins.
During his interrogatories with overtly hostile Democrats, all of whom seemed to be reading from the same scrip, Kavanaugh’s character came through the screen, as they say in Hollywood. He was personable, modest, supremely intelligent, professorial in an inoffensive and measured way, and authoritative on the law. Most important, he knew what he said and did not say on any question put to him by his Grand Inquisitors.
Opposition to Kavanaugh’s appointment to the court was therefore an exercise in futility for the party out of power in the White House and Congress. To put it in terms easily understood by court watchers, Democrats lost the vote on Kavanaugh the moment Donald Trump was sworn in as President; Republicans at that time already had majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. Presidential elections matter, which is why leading Democrats such as Blumenthal and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York have been, since Trump’s inauguration, trying desperately to depose him “by any means necessary.” Prior to the Kavanaugh nomination, some Democrats were arguing that since Trump was a scoundrel unfit to be President, ALL his court appointments should be declared null and void.
So then, if Kavanaugh’s confirmation is inevitable, what were Democrats doing in the hearings? What was all the Sturm und Drang really about?
Democrats were protesting. It’s what you do when the numbers are agin’ya. There is a status difference between right and proper Democrat Senators such as Blumenthal and the disruptive protesters at the hearing who shouted out indecipherable and always energetic messages, but the protestor’s efforts to derail the hearings and the sometimes off-point efforts of Democrat Senators to thumbscrew Kavanagh were grimly related.
The protests that interrupted the hearings as regularly as clockwork were the product of much planning and deliberation by an assortment of leftist groups. Jennifer Epps-Addison, the network president and co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action, remarked that the protests were unusual, even abnormal: "The protests are not normal, but these are not normal times." She acknowledged, according to a report in USA Today that “the tactic of direct and sustained protests hasn’t been seen in these types of hearings before."
Blumenthal, whose own prosecutions when he was for twenty years Attorney General of Connecticut were never interrupted by protest groups, took the frequent abnormalities in stride. The protesters were, he said, exercising their cherished First Amendment rights.
On a Tuesday hearing, no fewer than seventy protestors were arrested for outbursts and disruptions. Epps-Addison pledged that the protests would continue during the duration of the Kavanaugh hearing – they did – and remarked it was a travesty to allow the hearings to proceed after Trump was implicated as a "co-conspirator" in crimes with his former attorney, Michael Cohen.
While protestors were burbling in the background, Blumenthal, addressing Kavanaugh, remarked “The president of the United States who has nominated you is an unindicted co-conspirator...” This was news to Alan Dershowitz, perhaps less agitated than Blumenthal, writing in the Boston Globe. Senator Cory Booker, the Spartacus of the Senate, made the same unfounded assertion.
Dershowitz explained patiently, “An unindicted co-conspirator is someone against whom a grand jury has found probable cause, on the basis of evidence, that he or she is guilty of being a co-conspirator in a crime. But as far as we know there has been no grand jury indictment in this case, because Cohen waived the grand jury and pleaded guilty to ‘an information’ prepared by a prosecutor, not a grand jury.”
If asked to produce among the mile high pile of legal documents furnished to Democrats at the hearing one document that identified Trump as a “co-conspirator” in any crime, Blumenthal would be flummoxed, as he occasionally was by Kavanaugh’s studious answers to his sometimes sophomoric interrogatories.
There is good reason to suppose that the unorthodox tactics deployed by protestors were planned long in advance of the hearing. Among the people protesting was Rachel O'Leary Carmona, chief operating officer of the Women's March on Washington, who confirmed, according to USA Today, “that her group had coordinated a plan to disrupt the hearings. That included offering lodging to traveling protesters and ‘jail and bail support’ if necessary of (sic) the people protesting.”
The as yet unexamined question that emerges from the Kavanaugh hearings is this: Did any of the Senate organizers of the “Never Kavanaugh” movement on display at the hearings coordinate their graceless activities with any of the protestors? That is a question that has not yet been put to Blumenthal, the Tomás de Torquemada of the “Never Trump” movement.