Supreme test for nation at war with past

Editorial | Mary Ma 4 Oct 2018

US President Donald Trump's nomination of appeal court judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has unexpectedly set off the "#MeToo" bomb. Three women have so far come forward to accuse the nominee of sexual misconduct during his foolish high school and college days.

One of them, Christine Blasey Ford, a respected professor of psychology, was allowed to testify before the Senate judiciary committee. In short, she said under oath, Kavanaugh was drunk and attempted to rape her one summer night in 1982.

Kavanaugh vehemently denied the accusation, and at times, became emotional during the hearing.

Curiously but not surprisingly, the Senate committee didn't let the other accusers testify.

The #MeToo accusations have generated huge interest in America. Cynically, opinion polls showed the US public found the professor more trustworthy than the judge after listening to their accounts at the hearing.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 48 percent oppose Kavanaugh's confirmation, compared to 42 percent in favor.

However, given the Republicans' control of the Senate, the opinions won't prevent the Senate from confirming the 53-year-old's nomination once the FBI finishes - but not necessarily completes - the investigation that Trump had ordered.

Trump has given the FBI just one week. Will it be able to discover something earth-shaking before this weekend? Elementary, my dear Watson, even Sherlock Holmes would ask for more time to complete - rather than just finish - the probe.

Trump must be aware the controversy won't end even if Kavanaugh survives the confirmation vote. He must also know an investigation by the FBI would provide him and Republicans with cover that enables them to argue that even the FBI found nothing to prove the sexual assault claims.

When he agreed to a senator's request for a FBI investigation, Trump was betting it would be inconclusive.

As far as Americans are concerned, what's been happening is more than a continuation of the #MeToo movement, as Kavanaugh - once confirmed - will remain in the Supreme Court for life, making judgments shaping US sociopolitical life and edging the judiciary to the right.

If not for the sudden sexual assault accusations, his confirmation would have been plain sailing.

Both the Republicans and Democrats have been reacting to the fresh controversy with extreme caution, understanding that at stake are thousands of women's votes that can change the outcome of the US mid-term elections on November 6.

While the Republicans are confident white male voters would continue to vote for them regardless of the accusations, they are wary of the likelihood that female voters might turn their back on them. According to the same poll, women opposed Kavanaugh's confirmation by 55 percent to 37 percent, whereas men backed the confirmation by 49 percent to 40 percent.

An inconclusive FBI probe may persuade some women voters to stick with the Republicans.

Unexpectedly, the Senate hearing uncovered that Kavanaugh was a heavy drinker at college. Would that alcoholic past evolve into an issue for the man who is about to shift the balance of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future?

Why not?

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