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Elizabeth Cook: Fiery rebuke raises new questions

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

— Carl Sandburg

After Brett Kavanaugh’s first appearance before the Senate Judicial Committee regarding sexual allegations, a conservative commentator suggested the Supreme Court nominee’s demeanor should have been more steely and determined.

Maybe Kavanaugh listened, for he was indeed determined when he testified before the committee on Thursday. He did not give an inch as he answered committee members’ questions. He did, however, ride a roller coaster of emotions, from tearful to contentious. His rage toward Democratic senators and the process they have put him and his family through was in full view.

Brett Kavanaugh is angry and bitter. Woe be to any Democrat who has to argue a case before him in the future.

Many people, including the president, have applauded the fiery rebuke Kavanaugh gave Democrats on the committee Thursday. But at times Kavanaugh seemed to be pounding the table instead of giving straight answers. Would he support asking for an FBI investigation or not?

He said he would do what the committee wanted, but he repeatedly said FBI investigations don’t conclude anything.

Still, by a strange twist of Sen. Jeff Flake’s arm, there will be a short FBI investigation, limited to one week.

Kavanaugh did not want to wait another day for the confirmation process to end. Was that impatience, exhaustion, the fear that a new FBI investigation may derail his nomination with new information — or all three?

Thursday’s hearing was about an incident from Kavanaugh’s high school days, but in form and substance the nominee revealed more  about the man he is today — accomplished, proud and, when pushed, emotional. Furthermore, even if his past is sexually pure, he clearly has a partisan taint.

The Kavanaugh hearings have prompted countless Americans to think back to our high school days and thank God we don’t have to go through a Senate confirmation process.

Nearly everyone made mistakes when we were young. Still, we can see that the basic foundation of the person each of us is today, our character, was formed even before we reached the trial-and-error years of adolescence.

What does that say about Brett Kavanaugh? Countless people have signed letters and sent messages expressing confidence in his sterling character. As he said himself, when asked about a reference in his yearbook to “ralphing:”

“Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.”

Those facts supersede everything else, he implied.

The forces swirling around this confirmation process are hard to sort out — Democrats’ desperation to stop Kavanaugh, even if it means smearing his reputation; Republicans’ insistence that the process move forward, even  if they come across as tone-deaf toward victims of sexual assault.

And then there’s the credible testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed 36 years ago.

If you wear a party label, you’ve probably picked a side in this debate. To the rest of us, this is  a Gordian knot of historic grudges, present divisions and future fears — a knot that we fear will only get worse.

What kind of people do we want on the Supreme Court, anyway?

Naively, some of us figure the nation’s top jurists grew up nerdy, so logical and temperate that they were well outside the fast crowd in high school, and so intent on the law by college that they were more interested in debates than dates. More likely to know about Ralph Waldo Emerson than ralphing. And to whom the word “brewski” would be an ironic affectation.

That’s probably unrealistic. The court needs well-rounded people in touch with the world around them. What matters most is justices’ knowledge and interpretation of the law, unshaded by political ideology.

No politics? That may be naive, too — as likely as finding a snowball unaffected by heat.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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