Cranky Kavanaugh Not Suited to be a Supreme Court Judge

By the time you read this, more likely than not Brett Kavanaugh will have become the 114th Supreme Court justice in American history.  Next to the 45 presidents, it is the second most exclusive job one can hold.  And unlike presidents, justices’ jobs are for life.

The controversy over his confirmation concerning alleged sexual misconduct from his high school and college days has underscored the divisions among political parties and the public.

For me the issue isn’t the alleged sexual assault.  It isn’t even the decisions he has made as a federal judge.  It was his histrionic performance at last week’s Senate judiciary hearing.  He wasn’t just angry, he was furious; he wasn’t just defiant, he was combative; he wasn’t just teary, he was red-in-the-face near full-out balling.   And remember, he was exhibiting these emotions reading from prepared remarks, not speaking extemporaneously.  Are these the traits of a Supreme Court justice who needs to be measured and reasonable when deciding cases?

Someone with the temperament of Kavanaugh should not be a judge, especially on the Supreme Court, one of the most hallowed government institutions.

Of course, the same could be said about Trump regarding the presidency.   He has drained the office of all decorum.  Is it any surprise that he chose a less-than-stellar candidate for the Court?

Too bad that the confirmation vote was delayed a week because all it served to do was to give those Republicans on the fence—Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—a “the FBI could not find corroboration” excuse to vote for him.   The whole delay was an agonizing tease for those who did not want a justice with an asterisk by his name like Clarence Thomas.  Now for the next 30 years or so we will have a judge who could have assaulted a woman.

When my students study characters in literature, we talk about how all of us have different sides to our personalities.  It is very possible that Kavanaugh has many positive sides to him.   The problem is that there is a darker side to his character.  We should expect those nine people who serve this country on the Supreme Court bench to be of the highest moral fiber.   Kavanaugh’s demeanor last week should have sealed his fate.

It didn’t.

In this age of Trump, the decency bar continues to sink lower.

We have a president who ridiculed Prof. Christine Blasey Ford at a rally, with the crowd encouraging him to continue.

Trump could care less about the twisted optics of his mockery of a sexual assault victim, even as he stands accused of sexual misconduct himself.

More disturbing were the people laughing at his insulting behavior.

Based on his resume, Kavanaugh looked like a cinch for the Court.  He declared it as such in his remarks last week.  Like a spoiled brat, he assumed that coming from a wealthy family, attending the right schools, and working for the right powerful people meant he could walk right through the doors to the Supreme Court Building.  And he may yet do it.

If he is confirmed, he should remember these words:

“To be a good judge . . . it’s important to have the proper demeanor . . . to keep our emotions in check.  To be calm amidst the storm.”

He should remember them because he said them back in 2015.  So just who is the real Judge Kavanaugh?

Hath Not a Republican Eyes?

When a driver cuts you off in traffic, the devil inside you wants to catch up with that discourteous motorist and cut in front of him—tit for tat.  One of those “There, how do YOU like it?”

While this might feel good for about a second, what does this behavior say about the so-called good driver?

This is how I view the recent spate of people ambushing Trump administration officials while they are out in public as private citizens with their families.

Last week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was refused service at a restaurant.  And Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had protesters interrupt her meal at another restaurant; some shouted outside her home.

These incidents bring a smile to those opposed to President Trump’s administration and its heartless policies; however, they are trading a pound of incivility for an ounce of revenge.

Is that the best way to respond to someone whose views we don’t agree with, berating them as they eat out or yelling at them where they live?

I wouldn’t want someone who disagreed with my views harassing me as I shopped at a market. It’s like the fans in a sports arena interfering with play on the field.   That’s a red line never to be crossed.

In a speech to supporters, Congresswoman Maxine Waters advocated for more below the belt tactics.

“If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station . . . you push back on them [that they] are not welcome anywhere.”

Opposed to that strategy, political commentator David Axelrod said on CNN that “a race to the bottom in terms of civility in our politics is [not] the way to go.”

You end up making those who you revile sympathetic, the opposite of what was intended.   Watching a cell phone video of an adult screaming “Shame on You!” makes these Trump employees appear as victims.

Turning away Sanders resurrects ugly memories of America’s past when African-Americans were refused service at restaurants.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama said it succinctly at the 2016 Democratic National Convention:  “When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”  It used to be the American way.

Intolerance of those who are different—be they of another ethnicity, religion, or political persuasion—counteracts values in our country that this upcoming Fourth of July is supposed to celebrate.

Every citizen is entitled to an opinion.  And every citizen is entitled to privacy.

Send emails.  Write letters.  Make phone calls.  March outside the White House and federal buildings.  Vote your opponents out.

But getting in people’s faces is boorish behavior, the type anti-Trumpers accuse the President of exhibiting.

It’s troubling when our emotions rule our intellect.

Four centuries ago, Shakespeare wrote a poignant speech for his Jewish character Shylock who is victimized by Christians in “The Merchant of Venice.”

“Hath not a Jew eyes . . . hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is?”

Now, re-read the same passage only this time replace “Jew” with “Republican” or “Democrat” or any other kind of people for whom you harbor ill will.

Tolerance for those unlike us embodies the soul of this democracy.

 

No Surprise: Trump Diminishes Teachers of the Year Ceremony

Teachers rarely receive national attention which is why the annual ceremony acknowledging all states’ Teacher of the Year honorees is so significant.

For 65 years, these gifted instructors have been showcased at the White House hosted by the President.

If you are a teacher, it is a moment to cherish.   This year, it was a moment to forget.

Last week, President Trump hosted the teachers in the crowded Oval Office, the favorite room of his where he greets paeans, remaining seated as if he was a king on his throne. Also in the room was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an anti-public education advocate, all making nice smiling for the pool cameras.

Remember, Trump lambasted public education in his inauguration speech as a system that “leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge.”   This came from the same paragraph lumping education with poverty, job loss, and crime as part of the “American carnage.”

Yet there he was reading from a TelePrompTer about how valuable teachers are.

The entire ceremony took barely five minutes.

Compare this to the forty minutes former President Barack Obama shared with last year’s winners.

Obama relished this annual event, treating it as more of a celebration than a static photo op.  Last year’s ceremony was held in the East Room to accommodate more people, with the teachers standing on risers so that they all are clearly seen.

Obama is announced at the same time as Jahana Hayes, the 2016 Teacher of the Year, allowing her the spotlight and the lectern first to deliver a four-minute speech, about the same amount of time given to this year’s entire ceremony.

Not only does he personally hand the Crystal Apple award to Hayes, but tells a story about her so that the public can gain an insight to what makes her such a special educator.

This year’s Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, lost among the crowded pack of educators surrounding Trump, wasn’t given an entrance, wasn’t allowed to give a speech, and had very little said about her.

Standing to Trump’s right, Trump barely looks up at her, quickly pats her arm, then awkwardly holds the Crystal Apple himself smiling at the cameras as if it were meant for him before giving it to Chaffee.

He doesn’t shake her hand, he doesn’t stand up to hand the award to her, he doesn’t say anything about her except her name, what she teaches, and where she works.

Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss discovered that very few relatives of the teachers were allowed in the Oval Office; most “who had traveled at their own expense for many hours to attend were left to wait in a building near the White House.”  Even Chaffee’s husband and daughter “were kept waiting in a hallway before being allowed to enter the Oval Office.”

In fact, the video does not appear on the official White House website link of “events” videos.

One video that is featured came a week earlier showing Trump welcoming this year’s Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots.  Their ceremony happened in a larger arena on the South Lawn with more observers and media in attendance.

Trump spent 16 minutes with the team, underscoring how some people care more about the champs on a football field than the champs in the classroom.

But not Obama as evidenced by what he said:

“Part of the reason this event is so important is for us to be able to send a message to future generations of teachers, to talented young people all across the country to understand this is a dream job; that this is an area . . . where you have the potential to make more of a difference than just about anything you can go into.”

If only Trump did his homework and plagiarized even a bit of Obama’s remarks as his wife did copying Michelle’s.  Then again, to paraphrase his comment about healthcare, who knew that honoring teachers could be so complicated?