September 30, 2018
Couple of weeks in the Turkish resort town of Bodrum is a wonderful break for those who can’t help being preoccupied with Turkey’s polarized internal politics and continuing regional turbulence. Yes, there was the United Nations General Assembly, uninspiring as usual, the discussion regarding President Trump’s address to the world there, the Idlib conundrum, the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen and more. Sadly, however, all that has somehow become business as usual. But then came the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee hearings capturing an audience of millions not only in the U.S. but across the world (*).
Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh testified last Thursday in front of the Committee about accusations leveled against him by Christine Blasey Ford. His assault on the Democratic Party was striking. He said:
“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.”
On Friday, the Judiciary Committee agreed to a one-week supplemental background check into Judge Kavanaugh by the F.B.I.
Statements by some Senators were riveting.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), for example, stated the following:
“… Judge Kavanaugh has an unpleasant record, both of associations with and rulings for a powerful array of activist Republican special interests whom he gives a 90% win rate. The Supreme Court has an equally unpleasant record of 5-4 partisan rulings for those same big interests. Not three or four times. Not even one or two dozen times. But under Chief Justice Roberts, 70 times. All 5-4 partisan decisions. The Court is flying all warning flags of a captured agency dancing to special tunes and rampaging through precedent and principle to get there. This will be a disaster for the Court and I believe Kavanaugh will contribute to that disaster. His partisan creed yesterday was telling…”
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) said:
“The President has picked a nominee who has the most expansive view of executive power that we have seen. A view of executive power that according to his writings and even the case law, says, in his own words, in an opinion, that a President should be able to declare laws unconstitutional…
“… I would remind my colleagues that the Constitution does not say “we, the ruling party”. The Constitution says “we, the people” …
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) started off with the following:
“We are living in a divided time. This country is divided right down the middle. There is an enormous amount of anger. There’s hatred. We see demonstrators screaming at each other, reflecting that rage, reflecting that anger…”
Yet only nine years ago in Strasbourg, on April 4, 2009, on his first trip abroad as President, in responding to a question as to whether he subscribed to the school of American exceptionalism that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, Mr. Obama had said:
“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world… if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional…”
Regardless of what happens with Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, the Judiciary Committee hearings were indicative of troubled times in Washington. Because, the Senators not only referred to Dr. Ford’s and Judge Kavanaugh’s testimonies but also to the imperatives of the U.S. Constitution, the separation of powers, rule of law, due process and the problems of partisan divide and polarization. The debate was not inspiring for peoples aspiring to democracy, particularly in the Middle East. They may thus be led to believe that we are all on the same boat, the difference being that some of us are in the inside cabins with no view of where the boat is heading, and others are in the balcony or verandah cabins watching the gathering of the clouds.