Nothing against the other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe they all, in their way, showed up to make a stand at last week’s Ford-Kavanaugh hearings. But I’d like to zero in on the three women Dems, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Kamala Harris of California, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota (there are no women among the Republican senators on the committee) because their five-minute interchanges with Kavanaugh are very revealing, in body language and rhetorical tactics, of the way in which this guy speaks to women who do not agree with him. Of course, he’s under serious stress; but even under stress, one can choose whether you’re going to communicate respectfully, or whether you default to aggro-mansplaining-bro-talk. Not every dude is good at this, but I’d like to think a Supreme Court Justice would have that self-discipline.
I like some of our U.S. Senators. I loathe a lot of them. I’m not in the school of “burn down the whole institution.” Yes, they all speak political doubletalk as their primary language, but sometimes, their first language, the voice of their essential personality, breaks through (with the GOP Senators, you can usually just tell when the volume spikes on your TV).
Dr. Ford’s testimony is well-documented and remains utterly piercing and revelatory. I don’t wish to spotlight her any more than she already has endured in the course of doing her civic duty. Here I’m focusing on the Kavanugh moments, because they should NOT be forgotten as he proceeds to his new job on the highest court of the land.
“Indelible in the hippocampus,” (to borrow Dr. Ford’s phrase) and also preserved in public record and on the handy internet, are these interchanges between the three elected women senators who were in position to directly question Judge Brett/Bart “I Like Beer, Bro, OK?” O’Kavanaugh.
(Note: some of these clips are from the first Senate hearing, in which Kavanaugh appeared relatively placid, and some of from the second hearing, after he was coached to appear more Trump-y.)
Sen. Harris endures Brett’s unanticipated display of Every Possible Way To Not Answer A Question:
Sen Harris presses Brett on his opinion of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and other immigration issues:
Amy Klobuchar questions Brett about his drinking, to which he basically replies as Judd Nelson from the BREAKFAST CLUB: “What about you? No, dad, what about YOU?” Especially gauche because Sen. Klobuchar’s father is a recovering alcoholic, which she diplomatically mentions. Brett apologizes shortly after, realizing he stepped over a line. “Sorry, uh, for dodging your question about my drunkenness by asking if you’ve ever been blackout drunk. I just meant, doesn’t everyone get blotto trashed? Is that a weird thing?”
Sen. Klobuchar questions Brett about whether he considers Roe v. Wade “settled law”…
…and also about what the word “dastardly” means, when you’re talking about a president suspected of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Sen. Hirono schooled Brett on part of the history of indigenous people in Hawaii, and the relevance of the terminology used to describe native populations.
Things get testy in the first minute of the final hearing, as Sen. Harris motions to delay the confirmation proceedings of a Supreme Court nominee. The Republicans found that outrageous because they have never, ever done anything like that, except for just last year. You know, that time they didn’t consider President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland for a year because they just really didn’t wanna.
And then as the GOP rushed forward to the final vote, “regular order” got outta hand again. Sen. Hirono can be heard firmly dissenting: “No, no, NO.” And then some of the Dems walked out of the room, and shortly afterwards Sen. Flake of Arizona launched his final Flake/F.B.I Fake-Out maneuver.
Although the full Senate vote was largely predetermined along partisan lines, there was perfunctory debate following the F.B.I.’s highly-criticized report. Sen. Hirono spoke several times on the floor:
And lastly, Sen. Harris again faces the monolithic struggle of trying to get Brett to answer a Yes or No question. Not an abstract question, like “Does life have any meaning?” but a pretty straight Y/N question, to which Brett found at least six ways of not saying his clear answer, which we’re pretty sure was, “No.” He spent a lot of time preparing all those different ways of not answering, which he states as the reason he did not watch Dr. Ford’s testimony.
So Sen. Harris did get one clear factual answer out of the guy. Notably, not one senator ever directly asked Brett if he liked beer, yet he felt the need to answer that (immaterial) question definitively, and often.
You may opine that watching U.S. Congresspeople on TV is both torturous and boring. In this case, I find the interactions between Judge Brett and the three women on the Judiciary Committee, particularly the women of color, to be both familiar and illuminating. As of this writing, Brett’s going to be confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, and that’s the result that is going to stay with our day-to-day lives. But I wished to commend and remember these moments from Senators Hirono, Harris, and Klobuchar, who happen to be women, and happened to be crucial to this cultural moment, and, to my mind, painted the clearest picture of what really just happened to America.