Recent events have conveniently supplied a marvelous, nationally televised display of something fundamentally important: the difference between real strength, real weakness and another, particularly nasty quality that pretends it’s the former but isn’t — and which is pervasively poisoning our society.
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in last week’s bravura defense of his character and reputation before the Senate Judiciary Committee, turned in one of the most effective rhetorical presentations ever. Four minutes into his rousing declamation I knew he’d largely dismantled the Democrats’ unscrupulous smear campaign against him.
Bracing? Doesn’t come close.
Now, juxtapose Kavanaugh’s forty-minute magnificence with the shame-faced spectacle of hangdog Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) later that day. Having voted for the fifty-three-year-old DC Court of Appeals Judge to advance toward a final Senate floor decision, Flake quailed like a sad puppy when a shrieking female activist accosted him over it. At which point, he announced: Hold on! I might not support Kavanaugh in the end, after all! The Grand Canyon State Honorable acted the very soul of befuddlement — precisely the kind of vacillating GOP leader responsible for driving not a few exasperated Americans into the arms of Donald Trump two years ago.
Then there’s alternative number three in the temperament-triad; one metastasizing on practically every front these days: vicious, mean-spirited and bullying attack mode. It’s when advocates aim not at thoughtful and good-hearted argumentation and persuasion, but the “search and destroy” antagonism deplored by Kavanaugh in his testimony.
Katherine Jean Lopez recently wrote, “[R]ighteous anger is in season right now”. While I agree exorbitant numbers of people are angry in 2018, I’m not convinced about that “righteous” part.
But if Brett Kavanaugh’s thunderous but self-controlled response to the Demo-vultures who’d been lip-smackingly circling him means anything, it’s that it’s possible to be angry without being ugly, forceful without being philistine, confrontational without being crude. Nota bene: the Supreme-Court hopeful didn’t call his interrogators “low-IQ”, “failures” or “losers”, he didn’t lampoon their physical appearances or reflexively strike back below the belt.
How classy is Kavanaugh? To cover the bases, he’s acknowledged he may have crossed a stylistic line in his controversial Senate appearance. “I might have been too emotional at times … [M]y tone was sharp,” he writes in today’s Wall Street Journal, “and I said a few things I should not have said.”
You see? Conviction communicated doesn’t have to equal crassness. Yes, there’s a difference between those two options — even though lots of folks seem to have forgotten that recently; including not a few conservatives.
Something else Kavanaugh managed to underscore? That maintaining elementary dignity in every situation is possible; and doesn’t necessarily constitute feebleness or wimpiness. Dignity, after all, can make space for dignified anger, an expression that something is so offensively outrageous that a strong — but never out-of-control — reaction is appropriate.
In contrast, once more, there’s Jeff Flake’s cringe-worthy comportment: First, kudos to the Senator for not slapping the harpy who was berating him; for not screeching back at her to shut her mouth and take a @#$&**! leap off a #!@& bridge. That would have been unproductive.
Boos to him, however, for melting in front of her verbal badgering instead of pronouncing her behavior disgraceful; that she needed to stop howling demands at him immediately — and to kindly get out of his face. The woman might have had George-Soros dollars backing her up; she was still acting like a badly-raised four-year-old who needed a responsible grown-up to tell her as much.
It’s kind of hilarious — and galling — watching Democrats suddenly gasping and twisting their hankies because Kavanaugh pugnaciously stood up for himself in the face of Lefty thuggery. One twitter critic trembled over the “frightening rage” she spied in his counterattack. Senator Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY) suffered a bout of the vapors, questioning the nominee’s “fitness for this office … [H]e does not have the temperament or the character or honesty or integrity to be a Supreme Court justice.” “He was so arrogant in how he spoke to senators, and dismissive,” she griped. “I was really offended by how he behaved at the hearing.”
An individual having the temerity to object to accusations — false ones, he emphatically insists — of sexual assault, attempted rape and gang rape? Perturbed that his name, his family, his history is being dragged through the media cesspool? Oh, the scandal! Whoever heard of such a thing?
Come to think of it, Jesus and the Apostle Paul knew a thing or two about answering phony charges. Both were more than capable of unleashing their own brand of conversation-stopping pique against false witnesses. It’s often termed “righteous indignation” — and the Scriptures occasionally recommend it (Ephesians 4:26). As with Kavanaugh’s enemies, those of the Savior and the Man from Tarsus weren’t happy when it showed up; but the bold disagreements conveyed by this holy duo weren’t out-of-bounds or disrespectful. They were, in fact, just what their specific situations periodically demanded.
Relax – I’m not claiming Kavanaugh is the Son of God or a Church bigfoot. I am clarifying this type of dust-up is nothing new; Kavanaugh’s not in uncharted territory. In previous moments when truth and lies have collided, issues of crimination, recrimination, anger and affront predictably have turned up. Sometimes nobly, more commonly ignobly.
While Republicans are by no means faultless regarding outbursts of tacky, rabid conduct – again, not okay – comparable examples of boorishness abound among the “compassionate and tolerant” Left, as well. See: Hawaii legislator Mazie Hirono who’s suddenly everywhere, trashing Brett Kavanaugh – and, it seems, most males: “I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up.” Or New Jersey’s perpetually, melodramatically sneering, seething, arm-waving Senator Corey Booker who urged an audience earlier this summer to “Get in the faces” of Capital Hill members.
How about a couple oldies but baddies?: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s fuming, “What-difference-does-it-make?!?” dismissal of the Benghazi catastrophe that transpired under her watch. Vice President Joe Biden’s snorting, eye-rolling impersonation of The Joker in his October 2012 debate with Congressman Paul Ryan.
Nope, even passionate, two-fisted politics needn’t be that way. Those who need reassurance of that can take a gander at Brett Kavanugh.
Image: Screen Shot: https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2018/10/04/op-ed-kavanaugh-emotional-hearing/