Living Large In Carson City: Candy Is Dandy But Liquor Is Quicker Edition

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Another week, another turn of events that no one expected or  could have foreseen. Thursday saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh telling their sides of the brouhaha that came about when allegations arose pointing to Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge having sexually assaulted Blasey Ford back when the three were in high school. Predictably, other women came forward with increasingly disturbing accusations about Kavanaugh’s less than honorable actions toward women that occurred throughout his high school and college careers.

Then there is the drinking thing. In his fiery rebuttal to Blasey Ford’s accusations, Kavanaugh went full metal jacket attacking, denying and sanctimoniously portraying himself as nothing less than a saint among sinners during his high school and college days. It worked for the optics, but reality has different parameters.  Old friends stepped up countering Kavanaugh’s claims that he never drank to excess during those formative years. One comment from his freshman roommate, James Roche, sums up the gist of what most thought of Kavanaugh’s denials,

“Although Brett was normally reserved,” Roche explained, “he was a notably heavy drinker” and was “frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk,” and that Kavanaugh “became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”

Thursday was an amazing day for a look at how our government, the Senate specifically, has gone off the rails. Partisan bickering is the law of the land these days, and no one seemed to know how to get the engine back on the rails. At the end of the marathon Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, most people who endured the spectacle were drained emotionally and mentally. I know I was. Yet, nothing seemed to have been decided on any front. The tone deaf Republicans on the committee maintained their insistence on plowing ahead with a vote for confirmation despite the allegations and the veracity of Blasey Ford excruciating account of what transpired all those years ago. It felt as if the Republicans had unceremoniously punked us all.

Then, lo and behold, Jeff Flake (R-AZ) grew a pair. Disturbed by Kavanaugh’s wildly partisan and often disrespectful engagement with the Judiciary committee’s Democrats, and an encounter with two sexual assault victims in an elevator, Flake had his come to Jesus moment. Partnering with Chris Coons (D-DE), Flake decided to vote for passing Kavanaugh out of committee with the caveat that the FBI reopen the Kavanaugh investigation for no longer than one week to investigate the accusations that surfaced against nominee.

The FBI at this moment is two days into an investigation of sexual misconduct by  Kavanaugh dating back to his high school and college days. Trump stated early on that the FBI will conduct the investigation however they deem necessary. In and article on NBC’s website, the authors, Ken Dilanian, Geoff Bennett and Kristen Welker, quote Trump as saying,

Trump said the FBI had “free rein” in the investigation.

“They’re going to do whatever they have to do,” he said. “Whatever it is they do, they’ll be doing—things that we never even thought of. And hopefully at the conclusion everything will be fine.” NBC News

This is where I get off the bus. The accusations of sexual assault are serious, but the investigation seems doomed by partisan chicanery on the Republican’s part. Don McGahn, White House Counsel and Assistant to the President, is orchestrating the investigation and, at this point, seems hell bent on not allowing the FBI to do a thorough inquiry into what happened or to look at all accusations beyond Blasey Ford and one other woman’s claims of misconduct. Few people would be surprised by this fact having witnessed the Republican duplicity that has surrounded the confirmation hearings to date.

The point that most people are beginning to see as central to the confirmation proceedings is that Kavanaugh is a liar, pure and simple. People for the American Way published a blistering summation of how Kavanaugh has dissembled and mislead both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people. What is disturbing is how callous the Republicans and their supporters have been throughout the process. Facts are superfluous. The pain and suffering of the alleged victims means nothing to these people. They disguise their partisanship by openly and falsely accusing the Democrats of exactly what they are guilty of doing and by painting them as unpatriotic and driven to ruin Kavanaugh’s good name and future as a Supreme Court justice.

In the end the extension of the FBI investigation is more of the same in what goes on in Trump’s universe. It’s a distraction. Trump and his minions, including Mitch McConnell (R-KY), honestly believe that the sexual accusations are superfluous to whether or not Kavanaugh is confirmed. Regardless of the FBI conclusions, they believe that they have the votes to push him through.

Flake is an outlier, but does he have the backbone to stand up to his Republican counterparts? Sure, he’s on his way out of the Senate next January, but how deep does his allegiance to the party run? Can he live up to his claim that if Kavanaugh lied to the committee about sexual allegations it would be a deal breaker? What about Kavanaugh’s lies about drinking, misrepresenting his judicial accomplishments, and other lies that he told as a matter of course?

There is also this to consider. In an article for Quartz by Heather Timmons titled, Inexperienced and “sanctimonious:” Trump’s top Supreme Court pick was downgraded by peers, makes this point,

In 2003, “it was noted that he had never tried a case to verdict or judgment; that his litigation experience over the years was always in the company of senior counsel; and that he had very little experience with criminal cases,” the ABA’s 2006 report says. The additional interviews in 2006 “expanded upon those earlier concerns”:

One judge who witnessed the nominee’s oral presentation in court commented that the nominee was “less than adequate” before the court, had been “sanctimonious,” and demonstrated “experience on the level of an associate.” A lawyer who had observed him during a different court proceeding stated: “Mr. Kavanaugh did not handle the case well as an advocate and dissembled.” Other lawyers expressed similar concerns, repeating in substance that the nominee was young and inexperienced in the practice of law.

Yet, the Republicans have circled the wagons and intend to go through with a vote for confirmation as early as Friday of this week. On one hand, the Republicans see Kavanaugh as a win/win candidate. If he is confirmed, viola, they have an ideologue on the bench for possibly the next 20 or 30 years who they can depend on to deliver the deciding vote on wide range of topics that could remake the American experience as we know it. If he is voted down, they have an instant rallying cry that could spur their base next month to get out the vote and jeopardize the expected Blue Wave putting taking back the House by Democrats in peril. You can forget about the Senate entirely.

There is only one thing to take away from the Kavanaugh debacle. Just when you think our elected officials have mucked things up past repair, their capacity for self-destruction makes them want for more. How our Republic has lasted this long is a true mystery to me.

Living Large In Carson City: The Bread And Circus Show Comes To Washington Edition

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Image: The Morning Call

Yesterday was one of those days that will remain in our memories forever. Where were you when Nixon resigned? Where were you when the first man walked on the moon? Where were you when you heard that John Kennedy was dead? In the future we will add, where were you when the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to ignore a sexually assaulted woman in favor of her alleged assailant. A man who is a part of the “good ole’ boy” network that grooms the elite of Washington society for positions like the one Brett Kavanaugh is hoping to fill on the Supreme Court. It was that kind of day.

I confess to watching the entire circus from gavel to gavel. The first part, Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, was a study in integrity and an important civics lesson. Integrity in that she had a narrative to tell, and she told it with humility and emotion, but not in a way that elicited undue sympathy (although I can’t believe anyone could watch her speaking without feeling sympathy). A study in civics because she knew what had been done to her and chose to tell the story, not for personal gain, but simply because it was the right thing to do. A sexual predator was on the shortlist for a seat on the Supreme Court, and she felt it was her civic duty to speak out, although reluctantly, to ensure that the Senate Judiciary Committee and the president had all the information pertinent to choosing a qualified subject.

Later in the day, things came apart when Kavanaugh took his seat at the witness table. His anger and incredulity of being put through such a rancorous and contentious grilling was evident in his 40-minute long opening remarks. Alternately, while bellowing out his objections to crying then back to bellowing then starting all over again, several points became very clear.

First, his belief in his accomplishments was huge. Granted, he has had a charmed life up until now attending a private high school, admission to Yale and then acceptance into Yale Law School, all of which he proudly chronicled over and over again. From there his grooming cycle took him to Ken Starr’s investigation of the Clintons, legal counsel in Bush’s White House then a federal circuit judgeship. And naturally, in his eyes, the Supreme Court was supposed to be his next stop. It’s the way the grooming process works.

His disdain for the process that would subject an anointed one such as himself to public scrutiny was palpable. When questioned, he fairly mocked the Democratic senators by throwing their questions back at them. This tactic didn’t work all that well on Senator Whitehouse (D-RI), and especially not on Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who Kavanaugh had to apologize to after making insensitive remarks about her drinking habits. As the daughter of a recovering alcoholic, Kavanaugh’s flippant hectoring of Klobuchar came off as brutish and bullying, which it was.

In the end, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) brought the session to a halt when he asked Kavanaugh to turn around and ask White House Counsel, Don McGahn, seated behind Kavanaugh, if he would ask the president to reopen the FBI file on Kavanaugh so the allegations brought against him by Blasey Ford could be investigated. Kavanaugh refused to commit to making the request.

The rest of the day was a mishmash of crazy on an epic scale. Having asked for an outside counsel to grill Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh, the senators abandoned that tactic to ask their own questions after Durbin put the nominee on the ropes. The questioning devolved almost immediately to a partisan, unhinged tirade by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to a weird come to Jesus moment instigated by John Kennedy (R-LA) that looked like a cross between The Waltons and the horror movie Halloween with Kennedy starring in the role of Michael Meyers. 

The one truth that came from these exchanges is that, truly, the Senate Judiciary Committee has become a partisan political body beholding to the White House and Donald Trump over the objections of the 10 politically neutered Democrats who sit on their hands and dream of better days. Kavanaugh in his opening remarks and subsequent testimony emerged as a hardcore ideologue who, in his mind, has paid his dues and deserves the right to sit on the highest court in the land for the rest of his life. The fact that he would steer the court hard to the right and rule through his ideological mindset was evident in his words and the support he expected from the Republicans who sit on the committee. The problem for Kavanaugh was that he thought the fix was in. It wasn’t. Not yet.

Last night the Republicans decided to push forward and vote on the Kavanaugh nomination Friday, which they did on a party line vote a few hours ago. The one outlier was Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Flake has been on the fence concerning the Kavanaugh nomination but agreed to vote to pass Kavanaugh on to a vote on the Senate floor if the committee agreed to postpone the final vote for one week so the FBI can look into the allegations against Kavanaugh by Blasey Ford. An hour ago, the Republican led committee agreed to the one week hiatus for the final vote.

So, what does this mean for Kavanaugh? On one hand, the investigation could exonerate him. While the FBI is one of the premiere law enforcement agencies in the world, the attack Blasey Ford claims took place occurred 30 plus years ago. It might be difficult to nail down any definitive conclusion on Kavanaugh’s guilt or innocence. Conversely, considering the secretive manner in which this nomination has been conducted, Kavanaugh might find himself in deep trouble if the FBI gets lucky and taps into a group of his old friends who are willing to talk about those days openly. If they find a collaborating witness who was at the party that night or if Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s high school friend, talks candidly (he has already agreed to being questioned by the FBI) Kavanaugh may find himself in even more trouble.

Best case scenario, the FBI gets lucky and backs Blasey Ford’s accusations. Or Kavanaugh gets off the hook. It isn’t beyond reason to think that Americans may wake up next week and find that Kavanaguh has withdrawn his name for consideration. Why would he do this? If he knows that his past will come to light, he can gracefully back out citing the pressure on his wife and family and claim it just isn’t worth it. Or he may play it out and see what happens. Regardless, with what America knows now about Brett Kavanaugh, he has proven himself to be a respected jurist, but also a secretive, dissembler of the truth who should not be seated on the highest court in the land. Let the FBI find what they will.