Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh began his testimony at a hearing examining allegations that he sexually assaulted a young women in high school with an angry, 45-minute long rant.
The judge was emotional, shrill, hysterical, and he would have looked so much more attractive if he’d smiled.
He also revealed himself as a staunch partisan. Kavanaugh, who denied in a previous day of testimony that he is a “Republican judge,” twice looked over at the section of the room where Democratic senators sit and singled them out as his enemies. “I love teaching law,” Kavanaugh raged, “Thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee unleashed, I may never be able to teach again.” He added that “thanks to what some of you on this side of the committee have unleashed, I may never be able to coach again.”
The Supreme Court nominee also claimed that “the behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment.”
Kavanaugh is accused of attempted rape by psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford, who testified under oath that he sexually assaulted her. Though many Senate Democrats indicated that they believe Dr. Ford, they are not the source of the allegation.
The judge’s rant was a frightening moment for anyone who cares about a fair and impartial judiciary. If confirmed, Kavanaugh will sit on highly political cases. He may even be called upon to decide the outcome of an election. He will do the former even if he is not confirmed and remains a lower court judge.
Yet it was also an important and revealing moment, where one of the nation’s most prominent judges took off his mask.
During his own Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Judge Neil Gorsuch claimed that “there’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge.” It wasn’t a believable statement then and it’s not a believable statement now. And it is easily disproven by data.
In 2014, the Washington Times examined how judges appointed by Democratic or Republican presidents decided cases involving the Affordable Care Act. It found that “Democratic appointees ruled in favor of Obamacare more than 90 percent of the time, while Republican appointees ruled against it nearly 80 percent of the time.”
Similarly, a scholarly study by Lee Epstein, Andrew D. Martin, Kevin M. Quinn, and Jeffrey A. Sega determined that “a strong relationship exists between ideology and votes” (on the Supreme Court, their data indicates a “correlation of .79.”)
Simply put, there is a reason why Senate Republicans held a seat on the Supreme Court open for more than a year until it could be filled by a Republican. There’s also a reason why Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), in an angry rant of his own delivered during Thursday’s hearing, appeared livid at the very small possibility that Senate Democrats may “hold this seat open” until after the 2020 election.
Whoever is confirmed to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court won’t simply decide questions like whether there is a right to an abortion or whether religious conservative can ignore many civil rights laws, that judge will also decide whether we still have a functioning Voting Rights Act — and potentially whether many states continue to have competitive elections at all.
Kavanaugh’s record leaves little doubt that he agrees with the Republican Party’s view on most legal questions, but the man who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday was not the measured, carefully spoken judge that Kavanaugh presents himself as most of the time. Instead, he depicted himself as the partisan operative who once served as a top aide to Independent Counsel Ken Starr.
And, in that sense, it was a bit refreshing. Kavanaugh was always going to be a partisan judge, but now he’ll have a tough time pretending that he’s anything else.