From Sens. John Glenn (D-Ohio), John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) in years past, to Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Jared Golden and Ken Harbaugh today, I’ve been privileged to work for combat veterans who not only put country over party, but were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the nation they loved.
Unfortunately, Brett Kavanaugh seems not to be such a man.
With “no influence over either the sword or the purse,” as Alexander Hamilton put it, the Supreme Court, more than the executive or legislative branches, relies on its reputation for independence, impartiality, sobriety and judiciousness for its power. Its influence depends on the unquestioned respect of the public and the other branches.
To cite just one example, Al Gore conceded the 2000 election after winning the popular vote, and almost certainly the electoral vote, because he had ultimate faith in the Supreme Court as the final arbiter. Imagine the crisis had he doubted the justices’ legitimacy.
I sympathize with the anger Kavanaugh must feel if he believes he’s unjustly accused, and the pain he and his family are enduring, regardless of the veracity of the allegations.
I understand why he would declare to the Senate, “You may defeat me … but you’ll never get me to quit. Never.”
But those are the words of a man who puts self over country, who values his personal destiny over the future of our nation.
Subordinating one’s self-interest to the national interest may be unnatural, but whether on the battlefield or in the courts, greatness depends on the willingness of individuals to overcome their natural inclinations.
America’s greatness rests not on the superiority of our bloodlines or our soil, but rather on the institutions our forebearers built.
As Kavanaugh himself pointed out, the events surrounding his nomination have already done great violence to the reputation of our institutions.
Right or wrong, fair or unfair, Kavanaugh does not enjoy the confidence of the American people. Voters oppose his confirmation by a larger margin than they have any other SCOTUS nominee.
Moreover, understandable or not, justifiable or not, Kavanaugh’s vituperative attacks on Democrats made clear that he will be unable to rule impartially on any issue involving the party or progressive claims.
Kavanaugh’s ugly attacks, and the equally outrageous vitriol spewed by the soul that snatched Sen. Lindsay Graham’s (R-S.C.) body, are indelibly engraved on the public mind, bringing disrespect on the Senate and on Judge Kavanaugh.
If Kavanaugh is confirmed, that disrespect will infect the Supreme Court, inflicting lasting damage to its reputation, while Kavanaugh himself will be the subject of endless investigation, if only by the press and public.
Part of the blame for this situation rests squarely on the shoulders of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) whose motto, “party uber ales,” consistently subordinates the nation’s interest to his partisan political goals.
This is a man who declared his top priority after the 2008 election was not doing good for the American people, but rather insuring Barack Obama was a “one term president.”
This is a man who refused to permit a vote on Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination for nearly a year, and then decided that a justice should be confirmed with just 51 Senate votes instead of 60, obviating the need for this, or future, presidents to seek out nominees who can bridge divides, uniting the Senate and the country.
Much wiser than McConnell, the American people prefer a 60-vote threshold by a 61 percent to 33 percent margin.
Kavanaugh’s accession to the high court will infect it with even deeper partisanship, afflict it with disrespect, call into question the legitimacy of its judgments and denigrate a vital institution.
One man’s place in history is simply not worth the price.
Honestly, I don’t expect Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell to put country over party.
However, I still hold out hope that, deep down, Brett Kavanaugh is that kind of American.
Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years and as president of the American Association of Political Consultants.