Sunday, October 7, 2018

A Supreme Injustice


Many people are outraged over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, and perhaps rightly so, but the real injustice is not who was appointed, but the way in which the process of confirmation was conducted. It does not bode well for the future of the country when the justice system itself becomes entrenched in politics and agenda-setting.

I am old enough to vaguely remember the Anita Hill hearings that dragged out the eventual confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas. I am grateful to Hill for her courage and personal conduct during an excruciating process. I am also grateful for the fact that the televised hearings pre-empted my own appearance on The Jerry Springer Show, back when it was produced in Cincinnati and had not yet become the totally dysfunctional mess it is today. In retrospect, it was still a trap production, and more on that later. The point here is that when President George H.W. Bush appointed Justice Thomas, there still was a process of confirmation, a clear path that everyone followed with respect for

Contrast those events of 1991 with recent trends in filling Supreme Court vacancies. Fresh in our collective minds is the Republican refusal to allow President Barack Obama to fill a vacancy near the end of his term. Forget respect for the process, Mitch McConnell and friends flat-out suspended the process, blocking all attempts to even hold confirmation hearings for nominee Merrick Garland. That this refusal to participate in the process was not illegal, never mind unethical, boggles the mind. From announcement of his nomination to his Senate confirmation, Justice Thomas' process extended from July 1, 1991 to October 15, 1991. Months. MONTHS.

We could argue forever as to whether Anita Hill had credibility, whether her testimony had any effect in swaying some Senate votes, or even whether the effects of Justice Thomas' appointment changed the Supreme Court for better or worse. What we cannot argue is that the process was adhered to, was executed with civility and decorum, and with respect for the justice system. All of that went out the window with this latest sorry excuse for a "process."

There is wild speculation as to why the hurry-hurry rush-rush to get Kavanaugh on the bench. One claim that probably does carry some weight is that President Trump needs a powerful ally in undermining the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 elections. It is not much of a leap to suggest that this is a "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" arrangement, with the added benefit that a now highly conservative Supreme Court is not likely to oppose gun rights, or support rights to birth control, or take a liberal stance on other critical issues that could come before its bench. Still, there is no excuse for conducting confirmation hearings with such recklessness, and complete disrespect for people who claim to be victims of the nominee's prior behaviors. Kavanaugh's conduct during the hearings should raise serious questions about his fitness for a position that demands the ultimate in professionalism.

I am taken back to The Jerry Springer Show again. I was to be on a panel of adult children of divorce. I'd already been on Donahue, so had faith in the process of television production. I can say truthfully that Phil Donahue did his homework, and had no real agenda but truth, compassion, and respect. Jerry Springer's staff wanted conflict, victim roles, and ratings. You, as a guest, were expected to comply. Donahue's process was honest and respectful. Springer's show was coercive and basically ambush "journalism."

This latest Supreme Court confirmation was not process. It was theatre. It did not even pretend to have the best interests of the nation at heart. The President is still fixated on "ratings," and this was his latest show. Hell, Rosanne Barr might have made a better nominee in that case. The citizenry knows better, the difference between entertainment and distraction and the very real repercussions of hastily-drafted personnel to places of great power. We, the people, will remember this, your disdain for process and civil conduct.

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