What's Tony Thinking

The Real Problem with Judge Kavanaugh


The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh continues on a downward spiral.

One would be inclined to think it a matter of time until he withdraws, but for the lurking presence of Clarence Thomas. Thomas proves that you can have a lot of credible accusations of deplorable conduct against you and still end up on the Supreme Court.

Rod Dreher (The Benedict Option) has made the argument that no one should be definitively judged on their conduct as a 17-year-old. I get that. Moreover, Dreher argues that for Christians considering moral failure there needs to also be the possibility of forgiveness and change. Absolutely, I agree with that.

The problem with Dreher’s argument is that Kavanaugh isn’t saying, “I failed and I am sorry.” He has denied all the accusations against him. It would be one thing if he had said, “I have made mistakes. I own them. I hurt people. I am not that person today. I apologize to those I hurt and am prepared to take steps to remedy what happened then.”

Then we can talk about grace and forgiveness. But that’s not what Kavanaugh has said. He has said all the accusations against him are false, “twilight zone stuff.”

In this, Kavanaugh joins a very long and growing line of those who claim that all accusations of sexual abuse or harassment against them are completely false. It was just about 18 months ago now that then Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, was making such a claim. All the accusations against him, asserted Murray, were totally false.

Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church made the same claim for a long time. I guess Bill Cosby is still making that claim. And of courses Donald Trump has also denied all such accusations against him.

Did Kavanaugh do the things he is accused of as a high school and Yale Law School student? And, equally if not more important, is there evidence of any such continuing behavior in his adult life? He does deserve a fair hearing. And I for one hope he gets it. It is too easy to smear someone. And the left-wing is certainly capable of that.

But whether Kavanaugh did the things he is accused of doing or not (and chances are good we will never know with any certainty), what has struck me about his life story as we have slowly got bits and pieces of it is that it is a story of great privilege. The best prep schools, colleges, law school, prestigious clerkships, White House positions.

He comes from a strata of society that is accustomed to getting its way.

So far as I can tell, he has little experience of how the world might look through the eyes of people who have less power, less wealth and fewer connections.

The kind of behaviors of which he is accused kind of go with that social strata. You get what you want. You get away with it. What used to be called the “Big Man on Campus.”

So that is what concerns me about Brett Kavanaugh and about this nomination. He may be very bright and a good legal scholar.

But does he have any real feel for people who don’t come from privilege? Does he have any reason, given his experience, to see the world through the eyes of something other than the powerful and connected?

On more than one occasion President Trump has more or less said that Kavanaugh is destined for the Supreme Court. “This guy has Supreme Court written all over him.” That’s the kind of thing Trump has said.

But that’s the problem with these echelons of privilege and enclaves of power. It is, they think, their due. They are inclined to think themselves entitled to such a position.

I don’t think anyone is entitled to a position on the Supreme Court. And I would much prefer to see someone rise to that position who didn’t expect it or take it as the suitable culmination of their illustrious career.

The good judge, in my view, would have a feel for people who don’t have the deck stacked in their favor.

This, by the way, is what Scripture tells us about Jesus.

That he has known suffering, that he has walked the dusty roads we mortals have walked, that he has been tested as we are. He was not born in a palace or with a silver spoon in his mouth. But it is this one that God has lifted up and made to “judge the quick and the dead.”

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