There is a classic scene in the movie “A Few Good Men” in which Jack Nicholson’s character, a crusty Marine colonel, goes off the rails and, well, rails at Tom Cruise’s character: “You can’t handle the truth.”
We had such a moment in the Brett Kavanaugh hearing last week, though not from Judge Kavanaugh.
Senator Lindsey Graham, angered to the point of edge-of-the-seat fuming, pointed to Judge Kavanaugh and roared: “You’ve got nothing to apologize for.”
Oh, but that we could all be in such an envious situation. Few if any of us get through even a normal day without having to apologize for something.
Brett Kavanaugh himself wasn’t in the mood for apologizing for much of anything because, as he repeatedly stated, he had done nothing that required an apology (other than being rude towards Senator Amy Klobucher, for which he did subsequently apologize).
It’s hard not see in the Kavanaugh testimony a reflection of President Bill Clinton’s assertion that he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton was defining adult sexual relations in his own mind, and in a markedly restrictive way.
The question can fairly be asked as to whether Judge Kavanaugh was basing his testimony on a personal definition of what constitutes sexual assault, and that what was alleged to the Senate hearing by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – a minor at the time as was Kavanaugh - did not meet that standard.
It should be pointed out, of course, that Judge Kavanaugh denied the encounter altogether.
Regardless, if Judge Kavanaugh is ultimately appointed to the Supreme Court, it is likely that if ever a case involving sexual assault comes before the court there will be calls for him to recuse himself.
Judge Kavanaugh came across as a product of a “what happened in the go-go eighties stays in the go-go eighties” social whirl.
His testimony was less an exercise in presenting exculpatory evidence as a primal scream on behalf of thwarted privilege.
And boy did he scream.
And to a panel of senators that on one side looked like an all-male jury from another century.
Be that as it may, and while Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony was compelling, Judge Kavanaugh is entitled to a presumption of innocence, though not in the face of any formal criminal charge as there isn’t one.
There being no statute of limitations in the state of Maryland with regard to felony assault, Dr. Blasey Ford could, even now, initiate a criminal complaint against Kavanaugh.
This Dr. Blasey Ford has not done. She is a most measured and reluctant accuser.
Judge Kavanaugh, by contrast, is anything but measured.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, if it achieved anything that is conclusive, showed us that Judge Kavanaugh’s temperament is distinctly suspect.
So no surprise that many are now questioning the judicial version of that temperament.
This has been a most sad affair and it has uncovered a good deal more than what we heard in the hearing room last week.
Our politics is in trouble. We know that.
Our Supreme Court is being infected by troubled politics.
And given the light cast on the crisis that is sexual harassment and assault, in recent months and now, to a startling new degree, in recent days, this is a country desperately in need of way more than just a few good men to stand alongside the many good and brave women.
We heard from one of them last week. But was she listened to?