The Saudi Cesspool

Alan Zendell, October 19. 2018

For as long as I can remember, the Saudi Royal Family have been racist, misogynistic, elitists who care only about wealth and power. They are ruthless and cruel, and no friend of the United States except in the sense of mutual profiteering and the Arab tradition of “the enemy of my enemy.” With an economy almost entirely based on the West’s unquenchable thirst for oil, Saudi Arabia is a country that would be insignificant if not for its huge, untapped reserves.

On its face, the apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who wrote for the Washington Post while residing in Virginia, is an awful crime. It’s the sort of act that violates local and international laws, and the diplomatic protocols that protect journalists everywhere. Rarely has the international community been in such tacit agreement that a horrendous crime was committed and its perpetrators need to be severely punished – slam dunk, right?

It might have been if the Khashoggi case were actually about law, human rights, and respecting journalistic integrity. As the guilty Saudis scrambled to invent a narrative that trod the precarious line between implicating the Royal Family and finding a scapegoat to sacrifice, President Trump made it clear that he would oppose any action that might damage his relationship with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

We’ve heard things like this from Trump before when he or someone he liked was credibly accused of wrongdoing. Whether it was his corrupt Cabinet officers or Roy Moore or Brett Kavanaugh, or accusations of his own sexual misconduct or possible involvement with Russia, Trump played the innocent-until-proven-guilty card repeatedly whenever he was invested in the outcome.

In the Khashoggi case, Trump even invented a rogue killer theory as an unsubtle wink to the Crown Prince, while maintaining there was no reason to cancel a $150 billion arms deal that’s still in the works with the Saudis, because it would hurt American companies and cost American jobs. I had the same knee-jerk response I usually have when Trump invents a fantasy based on alternate facts, but this time I couldn’t go there.

For once, Trump is telling the truth, and the fact that it’s a very ugly truth that we’d rather not face doesn’t make his point of view any less valid. Decades of allowing corporate greed to slow our path toward energy independence has left us squarely over the same barrel we were hung up on during the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973-4. Forty-five years have passed since then, when we could have been maximizing development of renewable energy and protecting our environment in the bargain, instead of letting OPEC and the oil cartels determine our energy policies.

Another ugly truth is that in the horrific triangle that is Middle East politics, despite the likelihood that the nine-eleven attacks were funded by Saudi oil money, we chose Saudi Arabia as the Sunni bulwark against Shiite Iran. Thus we are backing the Saudis in their three-year war against the Shiite Houthis in Yemen, whose slogan is: “God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam.” No wonder we’re on the side of the Saudis … except that the Saudi Royal Family said much the same thing when Israel was created by the UN’s partitioning of Palestine in 1948.

The Saudis were still saying it when we re-supplied the Israeli military in 1973 after a couple of Arab-Israeli wars; the Royal Family was the driving force behind the Oil Embargo. To illustrate how convoluted our relationship with the Saudis is, there were reports in both the Arab and Israeli press in 2015 that Israel had offered its Iron Dome technology to protect Riyadh from Yemeni missile attacks.

The strains on U.S. bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia over the “contradictory demands of unflinching support for Israel and the preservation of close ties to the Arab oil-producing monarchies” were made more complicated by the 1979 Shiite revolution in Iran. When Trump broke with our European allies and withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, our entanglement with the Saudi Royal Family became even more strangling.

With our mid-term elections eighteen days away, many in Congress are grandstanding against the president’s reluctance to punish the Royal Family for its obvious involvement in Khashoggi’s murder. Their anger is fueled by Trump’s relentless attacks on the press as the enemy of the people, which they view as enabling the Saudis to eliminate a journalist whose writings made them uncomfortable. The result is that the legal and moral implications of Khashoggi’s murder are submerged so deeply in our domestic politics and our complicated foreign policy agenda as to be unrecognizable.

But unless the Congress forces Trump’s hand, when the smoke clears, the despicable Saudis will continue with business as usual. There are a couple of ways to look at that. You might say we can’t fight sewer rats without getting down in the sewer and just shrug it all off. Or you can recognize that we’re locked in a Faustian bargain with the Royal Family, and as Faust learned, the Devil always wins.

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Trump is on the 2018 Ballot

Alan Zendell, October 15, 2018

Ever since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president he has made it clear that he has no respect for the Federal Reserve Board and the economic models they use to maintain a stable economic environment. It was thus no surprise when he went on a rant about the “crazy interest rate hike” last week or that he displayed complete ignorance about it. He believes that only he drives the markets – how dare the Fed take its role seriously? His main concern is the mid-term election and the harm a falling stock market might cause to Republicans. The modest hits to stock prices last week will be forgotten by Election Day.

What should not be forgotten is the importance of this election for everyone who believes that there’s more to maintaining America’s greatness than healthy stock prices. Take the rule of law, for example. We are continually reminded that our president has a very different view of that than most Americans.

The case of the mysterious disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi national who has been writing for the Washington Post and living in the United States is almost a microcosm of what most Americans find abhorrent about Trump. As we have seen repeatedly, our President considers denial of accusations to be proof of innocence. As a devotee of the Roy Cohn Philosophy of Jurisprudence, Trump has always relied on denial as proof of his own innocence, whether he was in court defending himself against charges of fraud and corrupt business practices or in the court of public opinion against credible accusations of sexual misconduct by nearly twenty women.

We saw it in his defense of Brett Kavanaugh, his unwillingness to deal with corrupt Cabinet members, and again today. Trump seems to unquestioningly accept Saudi King Salman’s “very strong denial” that his government had nothing to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance despite mounting intelligence that Saudi operatives had him killed. With the whole world listening, Trump endorsed Salman’s alternate theory that Khashoggi was the victim of rogue killers. One has to wonder if they’re related to the four-hundred pound man in a bathtub who Trump suggested was the real hacker who interfered with our election in 2016. Given Vladimir Putin’s denial of Russian responsibility, any other explanation was preferable.

Equally disturbing are the other issues raised by the Khashoggi case. Khashoggi was an unabashed critic of the Saudi government’s policies, much like the journalists and media outlets Trump refers to as enemies of the people. Is that why he is so willing to accept the King’s denial? This is the same King Salman who unequivocally denied Saudi involvement in the nine-eleven attacks. Robert W. Jordan, our ambassador to Saudi Arabia at the time, said this morning that today’s denials are no more credible than the one’s he made back then.

This case is also an example of the degree to which Trump scoffs at the notion of America taking the moral high ground in world affairs. He claims that punishing Saudi Arabia by canceling our massive arms deal with them would hurt American jobs and defense contractors, while many, including our European allies and Ambassador Jordan suggest that the only action necessary would be withholding shipments of spare parts, which would quickly ground the Saudi Air Force. That’s the same Air Force that is accused of bombing civilians in Yemen, which Trump excuses as an unfortunate consequence of the ongoing battle against Iran.

The same president who has repeatedly accused our allies of acting against our interests and has unleashed a massive trade war, primarily against China, suddenly fears that punishing Saudi Arabia in any meaningful way would weaken our ability to counter Iran. That simply makes no sense. It’s more likely that Trump’s financial involvement with the Saudi Royal family plays a large role in this decision, much the way many people suspect his financial entanglements with Russian oligarchs seem to always give Putin and Russia a free pass.

As our election nears, these are the things Americans need to be concerned about. Trump has shown an uncanny ability to intimidate his own party, which makes their control of Congress a real peril for our nation. Our Constitution was built on checks and balances which are in serious danger of being permanently undermined. The most important thing Americans who care about our nation’s future can do in this election is assure that there is a strong, loyal opposition to a president who would prefer to act without any restraint.

Trump loves to tell voters that he is on the ballot this year, and he’s right. There’s nothing more critical at stake than the restoration of a vital two-party system.

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Presumption of Innocence

Alan Zendell, October 4, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a classic speech this morning. He’s at his most eloquent spewing political spin disguised as high-sounding principle. In this case, he was making the innocent-until-proven-guilty defense of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Presumption of innocence is one of the pillars on which our system of justice is based, and the one that most set us apart from our European forbears two hundred and fifty years ago. No less than Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said, “it is better one hundred guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer.”

Christine Blasey Ford delivered heartfelt testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, in which she accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both in high school. Despite the fact that a sizable majority of Americans believed Ford, without corroborating evidence, it’s doubtful that Kavanaugh could be convicted in a court of law based on what she told the Senate. That’s not surprising given the history of the way our law enforcement and legal systems have treated sexual assaults against women and the fact that the alleged attack occurred thirty-six years ago.

But the controversy triggered by Ford’s testimony isn’t about whether Judge Kavanaugh could go to prison; it’s about whether he’s fit to serve for decades on the Supreme Court. It’s also not about entitlement. No one, no matter how talented or hard-working can claim a seat on the Court as a birthright. It’s also not about him being uniquely qualified. Even President Trump said Kavanaugh was merely one of twenty-five highly qualified candidates on his short list.

Kavanaugh’s likely confirmation is also not about the ordeal the process has put him and his family through. Anyone who stands before Congress for a critical position in the government understands the game he’s involved in. If Kavanaugh’s not confirmed, I won’t feel any more sympathy for him than I did for Tom Brady when his New England Patriots failed to win the Super Bowl or for Bryce Harper when his World Series-bound team imploded around him. They’re all big boys who are worth millions.

What this is about − the only thing it’s about − is what is best for our country. McConnell claims Kavanaugh should be viewed as innocent because it cannot be proved with certainty that he’s guilty. But is that a high enough bar for a Supreme Court Justice?

If fifty Senators vote to confirm him, their motives will be anything but pure. They all have political baggage, bases to please, and overarching desires to be re-elected. For some, Kavanaugh represents an extension of the judicial philosophy that ruled large corporations have the same status as people, and since “political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment,” they cannot be limited in their spending in support of political candidates. For others, he represents the hope that Roe v Wade will be overturned, and for still others, his conservative values equate to support for the super-rich in the never-ending battle over entitlements and transfer of wealth.

Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate told us a lot more about him than whether he was guilty of sexual assault. He revealed himself to be unable to control his rage or to keep from being verbally abusive to members of the Committee. Worse he displayed a partisan anger that sounded like the beginning of a vendetta against Democrats that could affect his legal opinions for years. He proudly announced that had written every word of his remarks himself the day before, which means they weren’t just the product of an over-emotional temper tantrum. They were carefully thought out and reviewed over a period of at least eighteen hours, and as such represent a uniquely clear look into his soul.

Today, as the confirmation vote nears, and after doubling down on his defense of himself all week, Kavanaugh finally realized he needed to apologize for both his tone and his words. Even if his apology was sincere, if anything it only the underlined the inappropriateness of his belligerence and highly partisan political leanings. Many of his initial supporters, including two retired Justices have withdrawn their support for him based on what he revealed about himself during his testimony. If Kavanaugh’s rant before the Committee felt eerily familiar, President Trump’s disgusting mockery of Professor Ford during a rally in Mississippi a few days ago was a disheartening reminder of who he sounded like.

And speaking of our loutish president, let’s not forget what the confirmation vote will really be about. Kavanaugh was selected from that short list of twenty-five because of his extensive writings on the limits of presidential power and presidential immunity from criminal prosecution. As Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s activities draw to a close, the issue of whether Trump or his family members can be charged with crimes is almost certain to be heard by the Court. When that happens, do we want someone like Brett Kavanaugh casting the deciding vote?

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Senator Jeff Flake

Alan Zendell, September 29, 2018

Opinions abound concerning Senator Jeff Flake’s (R, Arizona) motivations. Yesterday, he forced Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Kentucky) to allow a one-week delay in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court seat currently held by Anthony Kennedy.

Women’s rights activists criticize him because despite making speeches about Donald Trump’s lack of respect for truth and what Flake considers the president’s generally immoral behavior, he votes with Trump 95% of the time. Trump supporters call Flake a disgruntled lame duck Senator who was rightly forced to give up his seat by the president he attacked, while many Conservatives and Independents who dislike Trump view Flake as an honest man whose conservative principles and Mormon values guide his decisions.

In August 2017 I posted an article titled Conservative Values. I had read Senator Flake’s book, The Conscience of a Conservative, and came away from it with a revelation of sorts. It was no coincidence that he named his book after one written by Barry Goldwater almost sixty years earlier. Flake wears the mantle of a latter day Goldwater, even having served as the Executive Director of the Goldwater Institute.

I never expected to find common ground with his values, but politics aside, I was in complete agreement with Flake’s governing principles. I found his book honest and sincere, the work of a man who believes in bipartisanism and integrity in government. I disagreed with the way he voted most of the time, but never with his conduct as a Senator.

Flake was inclined to support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination based on his writings and decisions, which seemed to be aligned with his own ideology. But he strongly opposed the hyper-partisanship of Mitch McConnell and the other Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee, and said that confirming a Justice that way denigrated the integrity of the Court and undermined the confidence of everyday Americans.

I was watching the hearings when the Committee voted 11-10 along party lines to move Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. Chris Coons (D, Delaware) had just completed a speech imploring his colleagues to wait until the FBI could investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh. He’d spoken softly and compellingly, but Chairman Grassley forged ahead with the vote, during which Flake, to the dismay of millions, voted with the majority.

After the vote, while Grassley was preparing to adjourn, Senator Flake quietly left his seat, walked behind the Chairman, and tapped Senator Coons on the shoulder, after which they left the  room together. The torment on Flake’s face and the body language of the two men made it clear that something unexpected was about to occur.

Flake had decided to cross the aisle and force the majority to compromise. He wasn’t convinced Kavanaugh was innocent of the charges leveled against him and he felt the harm the divisiveness was doing to the country. He understood that it was important for the nation to accept Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and that that could only happen if the Senate ceased its attempts to force it through under a cloud of doubt and partisanship.

The subsequent confrontation between Flake and two women activists in an elevator has been seen by everyone who is not in a coma. Flake appeared devastated by it. If he still harbored doubts about his decision, that encounter silenced them, and he issued his ultimatum to his party’s leadership. Say what you will about his lame duck status. Flake’s action was exactly what the country needed. If there was ever a perfect example of putting the nation ahead of politics, that was it.

Will an FBI investigation change the outcome? Given the vagaries of memory and the thirty-six years that have elapsed since the alleged assault on Professor Ford, I doubt that anything conclusive will be found no matter how thoroughly the FBI does its job, but the facts will be out in the open.

I absolutely believed Professor Ford’s testimony, but it’s possible that they were both telling the truth as they remembered it. If Kavanaugh was as drunk as Ford claimed, he might well not recall the incident, but whether or not we ever know for sure what really happened in that room, we’re learning other things. We saw the raw hatred and rage Kavanaugh feels toward Democrats, which raises questions about whether he can ever be an apolitical Justice.

It’s clear that he misrepresented the choir boy image of himself during his high school and college years, and we’re already learning more about who Judge Kavanaugh really is as people who know him come forward to testify. Confirmed or not, the country will know who he is when the process concludes.

We can thank Senator Flake for that. The country desperately needed someone to step up yesterday, and Flake did. I’m going to miss his voice in the Senate.

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The Morning After

Alan Zendell, September 28, 2018

Yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court came off yesterday pretty much the way Chairman Chuck Grassley intended. There were no witnesses other than Professor Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. None of the eleven white male members of the Committee questioned Professor Ford directly; instead, Rachel Mitchell, a professional prosecutor with a long history of trying sexual assault cases addressed all questions on their behalf.

There were some positive differences in style between the Kavanaugh hearing and the Clarence Thomas hearing of 1991. Professor Ford was treated respectfully, and Ms. Mitchell addressed her with professional calm and sensitivity, but then, Mitchell was there to assure that no Republican Senator could say anything that might be taken as offensive to women. They were simply muzzled.

Except for those differences, the hearing was a replay of 1991. Anita Hill was a credible, sympathetic witness back then, and Professor Ford was even more so, yesterday. Even the Republican members of the Committee acknowledged her sincerity and admitted that her testimony was believable. No one accused her of lying outright, but all of their other words and actions suggested as much without saying it directly.

The partisan nature of the confirmation process mirrored everything else the current Congress has done. We’re used to extreme partisanship, but we’ve never seen it so starkly exposed in a Supreme Court confirmation proceeding as we have this week. In 1991, the Democrats held a 57-43 majority in the Senate, while Justice Thomas was the choice of a Republican president. The final confirmation vote was close, 52-48, but it was notably bipartisan with eleven Democrats voting for confirmation and two Republicans voting against.

There was one aspect of yesterday’s hearing that I found absolutely chilling. Like Justice Thomas, Judge Kavanaugh forcefully defended himself against charges of sexual misconduct, sometimes quoting Justice Thomas verbatim. But where Thomas was disciplined and calm in his defense, Kavanaugh raged like a caged animal. Whether his fury was genuine or a well-rehearsed act, it showed a side of him that made many people, myself included, question whether he would be capable of reasoned decision making when something angered him.

Justice Thomas spent his time addressing his accuser and the allegations against him. Whether we believed him or Dr. Hill in 1991, he at least responded directly to the charges. Judge Kavanaugh spent the majority of his time in a partisan rant against Democrats, attacking Senator Feinstein (D, California) for rigging the process against him, and even accusing Democrats of seeking revenge on behalf of the Clintons because of his decades-old work with Independent Counsel Ken Starr. It was abundantly clear that his anger against Democrats was the primary motivation for his remarks.

Even highly conservative justices like Antonin Scalia, who imposed their ideology on dozens of decisions, never expressed the kind of partisan wrath and anger that was the entire substance of Kavanaugh’s response. Whatever else you may think of Kavanaugh, did his remarks before the Committee yesterday sound like the kind of reasoned Justice you want on the Supreme Court? Until yesterday, I was resigned to the likely inevitability of his confirmation. But yesterday, he scared me. His testimony sounded like Donald Trump at one of his staged campaign rallies, and I fear he will take his partisan anger with him to the Court.

As expected, the hearing ended with no input from professional investigators or any witnesses other than the accuser and the accused. Everyone knew at the outset that like the Clarence Thomas hearing this one would end with no clear outcome. With the possible exception of Senator Flake, the Committee would be evenly deadlocked along party lines. Flake could have derailed the nomination process simply by not voting with the other Republicans to send the nomination to the full Senate, but he announced this morning that he will vote in support of Judge Kavanaugh. I wish he’d gone the other way, but I believe he acted with integrity.

So we’re back where we were when Mitch McConnell tried to force a bad health care bill through the Senate. The Republicans have a razor-thin majority, and once again the decision will come down to two women, Lisa Murkowski (R, Alaska) and Susan Collins (R, Maine). I don’t envy them. They will be relentlessly hounded by the president until the final vote, and they will have to decide based on a seriously broken and partisan process.

Personally, I still believe that President Trump’s motivation in nominating Judge Kavanaugh was that he believes it will insulate him from the findings of the Mueller investigation. That’s unfair to Judge Kavanaugh, because we really don’t know how he’d rule if the Special Counsel finds that the President should be charged with crimes, but that obvious bias taints Kavanaugh’s nomination. The Trump administration has shown a reckless disregard for the rule of law since day one. It’s not surprising that that stench may now spread to the Supreme Court itself.

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The Hearing

Alan Zendell, September 27, 2018

I really don’t want to but I feel compelled. I watched every minute of the Anita Hill hearing twenty-seven years ago. For most of it, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing, and although I was forty-eight years old and a veteran of government politics at the time, I must have been hopelessly naïve back then. When the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to ignore Ms Hill and vote to send Clarence Thomas’ nomination on to the full Senate I was stunned.

It was 1991, Anita Hill was a black woman, and the committee was entirely populated by white men. Arlen Specter (R, Pennsylvania) grilled Ms Hill as though she were on trial for treason. It was painful to watch, and no one, not even committee chairman Joe Biden (D, Delaware) stood up for her. The current members of the committee all remember that shameful performance and the way Senator Specter came away from it figuratively tarred and feathered by most of the people who watched it. That’s why the Republican majority hired a female prosecutor to handle the questioning during tomorrow’s hearing in which Brett Kavanaugh will be confronted by the first of his accusers, Professor Christine Ford.

I have no doubt that Thursday’s hearing will be excruciating to watch, but I will force myself to stay the course. In fact it may not be so bad – at least I won’t have listen to the smug, self-righteous Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) and the equally smug but impeccably polite Chuck Grassley’s (R, Iowa) air time will be minimal.

The hearing will not be a court proceeding, and there won’t be a presiding judge. In a court trial, the prosecution and/or the judge can limit what is placed in evidence. I wonder what they’ll do when Professor Ford refers to people who witnessed the events she has described, especially Judge Kavanaugh’s best bud Mark Judge, whose ex-girlfriend has said she’s willing to talk to the FBI. Will they let Ford name him as a witness? And if they do, how will they justify not inviting him to testify under oath as to what he saw?

They’ll fight like Hell to keep anyone else from speaking because that might break the inevitable he-said she-said deadlock. No matter how fiercely Mr. Judge denies Ford’s allegations through his attorney when addressing the media, the Senators know what would likely happen if he were asked the same questions on live television. With the entire world watching it’s a rare individual indeed who can look into the cameras and not be truthful, not to mention that lying would leave him vulnerable to perjury charges. Even the insufferably arrogant Michael Cohen couldn’t stand that kind of heat. Remember when he said he’d take a bullet for the president?

I won’t attempt to predict the outcome – we all know what the possibilities are. But one thing I will predict is that if Ford is as credible a witness as Hill was in 1991, and the Committee brushes her aside as it did Hill, there will be severe consequences this time. You know what they say about the wrath of a woman scorned; this time it will be millions of women who feel abused.

They might or might not wind up confirming Kavanaugh, but either way, they’ll pay in November. I have no doubt that treating Professor Ford the way their predecessors treated Ms Hill would be the final straw for women voters. There’s no Hillary Clinton to smear this year, no one to balance against a hateful, immoral president who needs to be neutralized by a Congress willing to meet its constitutional responsibility to keep him in check.

The saddest aspect of all this is that what we saw at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday when the world laughed in the face of our president will turn out to have been only the beginning of our national shame. Remember when most of our allies seemed to buy into the perception that we were the good guys? Trump has made short shrift of whatever remained of that myth.

I hope the Judiciary Committee remembers that it won’t only be American voters who are watching on Thursday. The whole world will bear witness. Vladimir Putin will be watching. So will Kim Jung Un. The possibilities are literally mind-blowing. I’d better get some sleep.

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It’s the Supreme Court, Stupid!

Alan Zendell, September 26, 2018

Amid the hype and exaggerations of presidential campaigns we continually hear candidates boast about the things they’re going to do after they’re elected. Caught up in the noise that precedes a presidential election, most Americans forget that there are very few things a president can do on his own authority.

As President Trump learned to his great displeasure, the president can’t force health care legislation to be passed, he cannot arbitrarily change immigration policy on his own, and he can’t bestow tax cuts on his supporters unless the Congress goes along with him. So what can the president do?

He can issue executive orders as long as they don’t violate the Constitution or existing statutes, all of which can be reversed by subsequent orders. The president can order military actions, but only the Congress can declare war. The most significant thing a president can do is appoint federal judges, and the most important of those are appointments of justices to the Supreme Court.

If Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is confirmed by the Senate, he could serve in that capacity for as long as forty years. If you’re middle-aged, that’s probably the rest of your life. Your children and grandchildren will likely live with the consequences of his influence on the Court for half of their lives. That’s more important than anything else you see on your favorite news program.

Don’t be distracted. The UN General Assembly laughing at our president’s boasts and the rebukes by our European allies of his heavy-handed attempts to intimidate them are pretty important. The threats to our security posed by Iran and North Korea are damned important, too. The continuing love affair between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is both important and amusing, but all of those together pale in significance to filling the current vacancy on the Supreme Court.

In 1991 the Senate Judiciary Committee heard charges of sexual misconduct against Justice Clarence Thomas and despite the credible testimony of his accuser, Anita Hill, concluded that they were insignificant. President Trump was accused of sexual misconduct by nearly twenty women during the 2016 presidential campaign, but voters, especially women, elected him anyway. The Kavanaugh hearing is occurring under different circumstances, however.

Trump’s approval rating among women is dropping precipitously, and nearly a third of women who voted for him now tell pollsters they regret doing so. Perhaps more important, the MeToo movement is enjoying a groundswell of support from both women and men that has brought down celebrities and politicians who until now have thought themselves untouchable. And looming over the proceedings are the mid-term elections which will either affirm The Republican majorities in the Congress or end Trump’s ability to behave with impunity.

There’s a growing sense among voters that we are approaching a defining moment in our country’s history. Americans, especially women are watching as their representatives perform on live TV, and they hear every disparaging word uttered by the president. In the past hundred years we’ve seen women rise up and assert themselves on a national scale – the suffrage movement, women’s liberation, the women’s marches on Washington and more than one Year of the Woman. But never before has the future direction of our nation been more squarely in the hands of women.

Three women have now made credible accusations about the character and integrity of Brett Kavanaugh. They offered to testify under oath and requested investigations of their claims by law enforcement, and one of them has filed a deposition with the Senate under penalty of perjury. Every day, classmates who knew Kavanaugh well both at Georgetown Prep and Yale come forward to challenge his truthfulness and choir boy image, while prominent people who originally supported Kavanaugh’s nomination are withdrawing their support.

It’s unlikely that a Senate hearing will be able to establish the truth of all these allegations. As Senator Jeff Flake (R, Arizona) said today, the only thing certain about this decision is that it will be made under a cloud of doubt. One thing is clear. Rushing to judgment and forcing this nomination through the Senate reeks with impropriety. Once Kavanaugh is confirmed it will be impossible to reverse that decision.

The President’s supporters claim that failing to fill the vacancy immediately threatens our national security. That’s utter nonsense. They allowed the Court to function with an unfilled vacancy for more than a year when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill it.

President Trump has declared that opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination is entirely political. He’s right, but it’s no more political than either the nomination itself or the Republican Senate’s attempts to force it through before the election. Of course it’s political. Politics is the means by which we conduct our national business. What’s important is whether that business is conducted in the best interests of the country.

If the Judiciary Committee proceeds without verifying the veracity of sworn allegations, they will make a mockery of the confirmation process and seriously damage the integrity of the Court. I urge everyone, especially those who have to cast votes on the nomination to listen to Senator Flake’s speech and heed his warning. This is too important for partisanship to rule.

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