As I sat glued to the TV for all of last Thursday and half of Friday, a quote from Thomas Jefferson kept reverberating through my mind: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”
I mean, is this sickening display of hatred and hypocrisy and hyper-partisanship — and any other hideous “h” word you can think of — really what the Founding Fathers envisioned when they bestowed the blessings of liberty on us all those years ago? Is this the kind of spectacle that Americans want their children and grandchildren to be experiencing?
I’m talking, of course, about the riveting Senate committee hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and the disgusting but ultra-dramatic three-ring circus surrounding it.
I agreed with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who called it “Washington at its ugliest” — and with Democrat Chris Coons, who bemoaned “the Twitter-filled, smash-mouth politics of our day.”
Though I was one of the countless millions around the world unable to tear themselves away, I misspoke when I said I just “sat glued to the TV.” Though I did that during all three meals of the day Thursday (as Brenda retreated to the bedroom and all but stuffed cotton in her ears), I listened on the radio while mowing the lawn, raking up remaining debris from Hurricane Florence, grading papers, running errands in the car, even taking a shower.
If only from a media standpoint, this is a huge story in anybody’s book. Though news is hard to define, consider the list of “news values” that journalism students are made to memorize: Prominence. Timeliness. Impact. Magnitude. Conflict. Oddity. Emotional impact. Proximity. The Kavanaugh story is hitting on at least seven of those eight cylinders.
Yep, this has been a true media phenomenon. I daresay that Americans may well have spent more time caught up more deeply in this sorry story than anything since, maybe, the JFK assassination and its aftermath. More than Watergate, probably.
And it was all so nauseatingly party-driven. Never mind who’s right or wrong, who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. All that matters, it seems, is which partisan camp stands to come out in the catbird seat when the Supreme Court of the future takes up horrendously controversial subjects like — oh, whether to address the landmark abortion ruling of Roe v. Wade.
Though I’m trying to keep partisanship out of this commentary, that’s about as easy as talking about Florence without mentioning wind or rain — especially given the exquisite timeliness of this eruption, coming at a time when the “#MeToo movement” has already brought so many men crashing down from positions of great power and wealth with revelations of sexual misdeeds.
To be honest, I had decidedly mixed feelings about the Kavanaugh case at first. I mean, how could you not feel sorry for this guy whose life had been cruising along so nicely until somebody leveled this accusation, threatening to send his confirmation veering into the gutter? How many of us want to be answerable for everything we did as teens?
But that was before I sat in disbelief, watching the disgraceful tantrum Kavanaugh threw during his committee testimony. He rudely interrupted questioners. He ranted and raved that his accusers were conducting a “vast left-wing conspiracy” and seeking “revenge for the Clintons.” When Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked whether he had ever drunk himself into a stupor, he mockingly demanded to know whether she had.
Whew. Sorry, Your Honor. But if a witness had treated you half so disrespectfully in your courtroom, wouldn’t he have ended up cooling his heels in jail on contempt charges? I’m afraid you didn’t help your cause at all by coming across less as a thoughtful jurist than as a spoiled, arrogant frat boy.
By contrast, Christine Blasey Ford’s tearful, timid story of a long-ago sexual attack was so heartbreakingly believable that not a single committee member of either party dared doubt it had really happened. All some could do was question whether Kavanaugh was the guilty party — even though she said she was 100 percent certain that he was.
Anyway. At this writing, it’s anyone’s guess where this X-rated screenplay will go from here. But one thing is sure about the committee hearing: In the morning-after words of Republican Sen. John Kennedy, “There were no winners in this room yesterday. None.”