The newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court will always have an asterisk – figuratively speaking – next to his name. The asterisk will note that the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate pushed through the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh despite a credible allegation of sexual assault against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a college professor.
Dr. Ford had nothing to gain when she came forward and alleged that Kavanaugh had assaulted her when they were teenagers three decades ago.
The judge strongly denied that allegation and also brushed off the claims of two other women.
It is worth noting that Ford became Enemy No. 1 for many rabid supporters of President Donald J. Trump, who had flexed his political muscle to ensure that Kavanaugh, his nominee for the highest court in the land, made it through the GOP-controlled Senate.
In the end, all but one Republican voted to confirm the circuit court judge. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who opposed the nomination, voted “present.” This was done to offset the absence of Kavanaugh supporter Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who was attending his daughter’s wedding.
One Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, in a tough re-election race next month in a state that Trump won in 2016 by a landslide, voted for the 53-year-old conservative judge.
Associate Justice Kavanaugh – he was sworn in Saturday night, just hours after the Senate vote – has a dark cloud hanging over his head because of the sexual assault or harassment allegations and his win-at-all-costs attitude during the contentious Judiciary Committee hearings.
It obviously didn’t matter to Republicans that a significant number of Americans not only opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination, but made their feelings known in daily demonstrations on Capitol Hill.
It is telling that President Trump, who fuels the anger of his followers with untruths about perceived slights, and Republicans in Congress chose to dismiss the anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators as an “angry mob.”
The president’s bullying tactics, especially toward the mainstream press, have been well documented. Indeed, he has gone so far as to issue veiled political threats against Republican members of Congress who would deign to oppose or criticize him.
Republicans in the Senate were unpersuasive when they argued that Kavanaugh should be given the benefit of the doubt with regard to Ford’s sexual assault claim because no one stepped forward to confirm what she recalled.
They chose to believe him rather than her.
INTIMIDATED BY TRUMP
The bottom line is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his members were intimidated by President Trump, who has shown no hesitation in publicly berating members of his Cabinet and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
As we said at the outset, Dr. Ford had nothing to gain by telling her life story to the nation and insisting it was Kavanaugh as a high school student who assaulted her during a house party.
Kavanaugh, on the other hand, had everything to lose at the confirmation hearings. Although he had a lifetime appointment as judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Supreme Court is the ultimate prize.
Trump and the GOP majority in Congress have made stacking the high court with conservative justices a priority. The goal, first and foremost, is to reverse Roe v. Wade, which would take away a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. Such a reversal would open the floodgates to attacks on other court rulings that conservatives have long resented.
Kavanaugh’s presence on the Supreme Court has tipped the scales in terms of political ideology. Of the nine justices, five are in the conservative wing: Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Four of the justices are considered liberal: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer.
Justice Kavanaugh replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sometimes sided with the liberals on the court.
During the Judiciary Committee hearings, Kavanaugh sought to reassure Democrats and those Americans who have misgivings about him that he would be fair and would respect legal precedent.
However, Trump and Republicans in Congress have a political agenda that will require the Supreme Court to provide legal cover for their actions.