WASHINGTON -- A surefire ideological Kool-Aid test? Those who think Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was wounded during his hearings have heavily imbibed.
Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee set out to prove that Kavanaugh is a mendacious political hack with the strategy of acting like mendacious political hacks. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., offered to sacrifice his political career in a move obviously calculated to serve his political career -- boldly releasing "confidential" committee documents that had already been released and that did nothing to prove Kavanaugh's unfitness. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., hinted darkly at the malignant influence of the Federalist Society -- though it turned out that every member of the current Supreme Court, and Whitehouse himself, had participated in Federalist Society events. Kavanaugh displayed many skills during his Senate hearings, but one above all: the ability to suffer political fools.
A few Democratic members -- including the consistently thoughtful Sen. Chris Coons -- attempted to discuss the law. But this was largely a distraction from a series of "scandals" that never rose above the level of clarifications. Was Kavanaugh somehow responsible for an enhanced interrogation program that was above his security clearance and that he was never briefed about? Was he somehow responsible for knowing that information from swiped Democratic briefing memos had made their way into material he read? Was Kavanaugh somehow personally responsible for the birth-control views of a plaintiff because the nominee made reference to it? This last charge -- summarized by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as a "dog whistle going after birth control" -- earned "Four Pinocchios" from The Washington Post's Fact Checker. A day later -- the deception having been demonstrated beyond doubt -- Hillary Clinton embraced it in a tweet.
Each political side has chosen to live in a post-truth world. In one case, deceit serves the president's interests and ego. In the other case, deceit serves progressive ideology. But in both instances, loyalty is proved by lies.
And by viciousness. Attempts by progressive interest groups to influence the undecided Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, in her words, "have been laced with threats, with profanity, with vulgar language, completely inappropriate." Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., calls this "unfortunate." Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., calls it "shameful." Tennessee Senate candidate Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, says he is "embarrassed by the circus" that Supreme Court confirmations have become. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., began a round of questions with an apology to Kavanaugh: "I'm sorry about the circumstances, but we'll get through it." And she was later slammed by progressives for this demonstration of disloyal politeness.
Bitterness in this broken process is, of course, nothing new. But there has been a serious decline in the quality of calumny. When the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., went after Judge Bork in 1987, even the deceptions had more gravity. "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions," Kennedy thundered, "blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government."
What are some of the closing charges against Kavanaugh? In Judge Kavanaugh's America, sports fans spend unsustainable amounts on season tickets, judges refuse to shake the hand of a stranger they don't realize is the parent of a shooting victim, and meaningless papers that pass through the hands of a White House staff secretary are withheld at whim. And, by the way, if you don't wear an outfit from "The Handmaid's Tale" and constantly interrupt your enemies, you are a [expletive]-ing [expletive].
I have no doubt that some senators will attempt to channel Kennedy's charges against Kavanaugh during the floor debate. But this nominee has none of Bork's air of menace. He is a careful, thoughtful judge of originalist convictions and moderate temperament. And he is more than qualified for the court. A statement from faculty at Yale University calls him "a true intellectual" and "one of the most learned judges in America."
It is simply not credible to hold Kavanaugh responsible for the offense of replacing the Supreme Court's swing vote. It is not credible to hold Kavanaugh responsible for the shabby treatment that President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, received. And it is not credible to impose a pro-choice litmus test on the nominee of a pro-life president.
Kavanaugh is the best of his judicial peers; he is better than his senatorial accusers; and, if there is any justice, he is headed for confirmation.
Michael Gerson's email address is email@example.com.