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Sunday 24 February 2019
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Editorial

Injudicious judge

BRENT KAVANAUGH’S unbridled ambition to sit on the US Supreme Court – as well as the Republican party’s willingness to rush a confirmation process despite glaring inconsistencies in Kavanaugh’s testimony, his manifestly injudicious temper, as well as serious unresolved questions over his conduct in relation to Christine Blasey Ford notwithstanding the completion of a limited FBI probe – will have serious repercussions for America’s standing in the world.

This was a judicial confirmation process that was anything but judicious, reflecting partisan politics and, in the process, testing the limits of American democracy. The manner of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, voted upon on Saturday even after stirring testimony from Ford who alleges he sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, managed to exercise several key organs of US society.

The Senate was shown to be overwhelmed by partisan logic and not public interest; the FBI was, yet again, made into a political scapegoat via the White House’s mandate for a one-week probe; and the Supreme Court was left nursing serious wounds because of Kavanaugh’s partisan stance as well as politicisation of the whole process of appointment. Thousands protested, with some even going so far as to confront senators as in elevators and be arrested. Voices from the #MeToo movement spoke up. As did conservatives who regarded Kavanaugh, not Ford, as a brave victim.

Of course, behind all of the riveting drama was the knowledge that Kavanaugh’s appointment will change the balance of the court. Because some of the most important reforms in American society, including in relation to women’s rights, minorities, and the LGBTQ community, have come through decisions of the court, there is a sense that decades of progress stand to be overturned, much in the manner in which US President Donald Trump has sought to dismantle the forward-thinking measures of his predecessor Barack Obama.

The backward trajectory may be welcomed by Americans on the right, but the world looks on in horror as the United States turns inward, isolating itself and thereby endangering its standing. Trump’s ill-advised withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is one example; his sticking to the unconvincing Kavanaugh just his latest.

In the end, as the judge settles into his new robes this week, both sides must be dissatisfied. The right knows the left will be energised in upcoming mid-term elections; the left will be demoralised by the nature of the individual appointed.

But at least all have been able to have a say whether through the judicial appointment committee or the representatives who took a vote. The Supreme Court appointment is for life, but the real judge will ultimately be the people come the mid-terms.

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