He was standing right there, to one side of new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and slightly behind the left shoulder of President Donald Trump.
Anthony Kennedy was right in the thick of it. Sacramento’s most notable and accomplished native son, who retired from the high court to make way for Kavanaugh, was saying a great deal on Monday after ducking questions about Kavanaugh’s fraught confirmation process during a trip home to Sacramento in late September.
You can’t support one of the most controversial picks to the Supreme Court much more than Kennedy endorsed Kavanaugh. Kennedy performed the ceremonial swearing-in of the first justice to be confirmed despite a sexual assault allegation levied against him. Kennedy offered his beaming presence as silent validation to a President who mocked Kavanaugh’s accuser and labeled the furor over her allegations “a hoax.”
Just by being there, Kennedy was participating in a victory celebration that was the climax of a process manipulated by a U.S. Senate leader who blocked the nomination of a jurist put forth by former President Barack Obama until Trump could get elected. And then Mitch McConnell rammed Kavanaugh through by hook or by crook to the surprising shock of many Americans.
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What did you think McConnell was going to do? Let his caucus back down to “the Libs” just because Christine Blasey Ford made some very convincing accusations about Kavanaugh assaulting her in 1982?
No way. McConnell and his caucus created an elaborate alibi that greased Kavanaugh’s slime trail all the way to Kennedy’s side at Trump’s White House dog-and pony-show on Monday. The GOP majority would all speak off the same script and cite the same words. Someone assaulted Ford. But it wasn’t Kavanaugh. It was done by someone else at another time, at another place.
In the same breath, these folks would express faux sympathy for Ford while claiming the allegations against Kavanugh were a political hatchet job. Kavanaugh did the same thing in sneering, simpering testimony before the judiciary committee, where he also showed the most disdain female Senators with “D” next to their surnames.
One minute Kavanaugh was choking up while recounting how one of his daughters suggested praying for the “the woman.” The next, he was saying this: “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”.
If Anthony Kennedy had any problem with any of this he wouldn’t have been there for Kavanaugh on Monday. Kennedy’s former colleague on the high court, fellow Republican John Paul Stevens, said Kavanaugh’s oral manifesto to white male privilege had convinced him that he wasn’t fit to sit on the court.
Of Kavanaugh’s hyper political comments, Stevens said: “They suggest that he has demonstrated a potential bias involving enough potential litigants before the court that he would not be able to perform his full responsibilities.”
“For the good of the court,” he said, “it’s not healthy to get a new justice that can only do a part-time job.”
Stevens demonstrated that there are still some who place principle over partisan politics. But Anthony Kennedy is not one of those people. He won’t say anything at all. Or rather, he won’t make any direct comments as Stevens did.
During a late September visit to Sacramento, he avoided all questions about Kavanaugh. But, as Sam Stanton reported in The Bee, Kennedy talked about democracy and how it was at risk in other parts of the globe, such as Africa.
“We can’t let this happen,” Kennedy told the group. “We can’t let this happen because the whole idea of democracy is it protects freedom.”
Who is we? The president that Kennedy stood by while celebrating Kavanaugh has used vulgar names that I won’t repeat to describe some of the very countries that Kennedy purports to be concerned about.
So, a retired justice of the Supreme Court tells high schools in Sacramento in late September that they should be concerned about democracy in countries disdained by the President of the United States?
What does that say about Kennedy? What do Kennedy’s actions that led so directly to Kavanaugh’s confirmation say about Sacramento’s rarefied Native Son? They say Kavanaugh wouldn’t be on the Supreme Court without Anthony Kennedy.
They say Kennedy’s loyalty to the man who clerked for him a quarter century ago ran deeper than any of the expressions of rage at Kavanaugh and how he was confirmed.
The #MeToo support for Ford and her experience? Sorry, Justice Kennedy was on the other side.
The lack of judicial temperament exhibited by Kavanaugh after Ford’s allegations came to light? Justice Kennedy seems to have no problem with that.
The disparaging comments made about Ford by Trump, McConnell and others? Kennedy said nothing. But then he said everything by swearing in Kavanaugh. And by standing with him as Trump apologized to Kavanaugh for how he was treated, even as Ford is unable to return to her home because of death threats.
What was that we saw as Kavanaugh joined the high court? Anthony Kennedy was smiling.