Sunday Times

Hear me roar

US cir­cus shocks the world

- By TYMON SMITH

By all ac­counts you could hear a prover­bial pin drop in Wash­ing­ton DC on Thurs­day — lob­by­ists, ad­vis­ers, sec­re­taries, clerks, lawyers, sen­a­tors, White House staffers were crowded around screens watch­ing the spe­cial hear­ing con­vened by the Se­nate ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee into al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct against Supreme Court nom­i­nee judge Brett Ka­vanaugh.

Ho­tel lob­bies in the cap­i­tal of the world’s most pow­er­ful coun­try were lined with “Do Not Dis­turb”. Through the cracks in the doors, if you paused and craned your neck to lis­ten, you might have heard the soft, con­trolled and in­tel­li­gent tones of a 51-yearold pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy telling the group of pre­dom­i­nantly old, white men in front of her that she might be in need of some caf­feine. She was there to per­form her civic duty, telling them and the Amer­i­can pub­lic what had hap­pened to her in a bed­room at a party 36 years ago when she was 15 and a drunken 17-year-old Ka­vanaugh forced her onto a bed, held a hand over her mouth and at­tempted to force him­self on her. She also in­tro­duced the world to a few Neu­rol­ogy 101 terms, while ex­plain­ing the sci­ence of mem­ory. There was no chance, as some of her in­ter­roga­tors wanted to be­lieve, that this was a case of mis­taken iden­tity. The word “hip­pocam­pus” was Google’s big­gest query on Fri­day.

In the age of peak TV and the over­sat­u­ra­tion of re­al­ity tele­vi­sion, it was sur­pris­ing to see how this very real ac­count of a meet­ing be­tween real peo­ple and its ef­fects on them was more com­pelling than any staged, hair-pulling, ex­ple­tive-filled fra­cas be­tween the real housewives of New York or Joburg could ever be. By the end of Dr Chris­tine Blasey Ford’s tes­ti­mony, even the ra­bid right-wing, con­spir­acy-the­ory-em­brac­ing pun­dits of Fox News agreed that she was a cred­i­ble wit­ness — coura­geous, hon­est and (worst of all) a real ob­sta­cle to the Repub­li­can dream of ap­point­ing two life­time judges to the Supreme Court in the id­ioc­racy of Don­ald Trump.

That’s all thanks to the ap­point­ment of Neil Gor­such to re­place the de­ceased An­tonin Scalia last year and the res­ig­na­tion of cur­rent Supreme Court judge An­thony Kennedy ear­lier this year. Even the most masochis­tic Repub­li­cans can put up with the Sisyphean ver­bal and men­tal gym­nas­tics nec­es­sary to sur­vive the Trump era for four years if it means they se­cure a Supreme Court with a ma­jor­ity Repub­li­can bench ca­pa­ble of push­ing their agenda long af­ter Trump has left the stage.

Trump will one day be no more than a hor­ri­ble, sweaty night­mare, but that’s fine if it means abor­tion is no longer le­gal — a Repub­li­can wet dream since Roe vs Wade made it le­gal in 1973. With midterm elec­tions around the cor­ner and all the signs point­ing to an up­set for the Repub­li­can con­trol of the Se­nate and Congress, the Ka­vanaugh ap­point­ment is a crit­i­cal ne­ces­sity for the GOP and the Calvin­ist con­ser­va­tive agenda of the Silent Ma­jor­ity.

It hap­pened once be­fore, when Anita Hill was called to tes­tify be­fore the same com­mit­tee to air her al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct against nom­i­nee Clarence Thomas. On that Oc­to­ber day in 1991, all eyes were sim­i­larly cap­ti­vated by events un­fold­ing on the Hill. The world was dif­fer­ent in some ways but, as it turns out, hor­ri­bly sim­i­lar in oth­ers. Thomas played all the cards avail­able to him — race, work­ing-class back­ground, his work ethic — win­ning not only the hearts of the Se­nate but the US at large. Hill was hu­mil­i­ated, in­sulted, dis­be­lieved and ill-treated by a room full of an­gry, in­dig­nant Repub­li­cans hell­bent on en­sur­ing that their man took his seat. Thomas’s ap­point­ment was con­firmed and he still serves on the US’s high­est court. Hill con­tin­ues to be vil­i­fied by the pub­lic and the me­dia.

This time, re­al­is­ing that there is some­thing called #MeToo that’s big on that thing called the in­ter­net that some weird translu­cent kid called Mark Zucker­berg has some­thing to do with, the good ol’ boys of the Se­nate de­cided to step back and let a woman ask Ford ques­tions be­cause that would be bet­ter for the op­tics. By the time the overly po­lite sen­a­tors broke for lunch, it seemed that the idea had worked in the com­mit­tee’s favour — Ford had sur­passed their ex­pec­ta­tions in her per­for­mance of nice, ac­cept­able, well-raised fem­i­nin­ity — no shrills, no hys­ter­i­cal fuss even when re­count­ing an in­ci­dent that was clearly still the source of trauma.

Things were not look­ing good for Ka­vanaugh and even the Oros man him­self kept his tiny hands away from his phone — an ac­knowl­edged sign of re­straint and re­spect­ful­ness for a man who gen­er­ally just spits out his thoughts like a ten­nis-ball ma­chine.

But Repub­li­cans hadn’t counted on the per­for­mance of a cornered Big Bretty K. With their lunchtime KFC buck­ets barely di­gested, they were treated to an all-out, balls-to-the-wall show of sti­fled tears and testos­terone-fu­elled, never-back-down in­dig­na­tion by their great white God­fear­ing hope.

It was as if the nom­i­nee had spent the weeks lead­ing up to the most im­por­tant job in­ter­view of his life spir­i­tu­ally in­gest­ing the “men’s move­ment” phi­los­o­phy of Robert Bly’s 1990s best­selling self-help book Iron John — be tough, be wild, but also don’t for­get and don’t be ashamed to cry when nec­es­sary.

Or maybe he’d just watched footage of Clarence Thomas’s hear­ing and de­cided to take a sim­i­lar ap­proach — at­tack the process, re­mind peo­ple of how hard you had to work to get there, in­voke the pres­sures on your beloved fam­ily and re­mind ev­ery­one that you’re a child who is the in­deli­ble re­sult of lessons in­stilled in you by your an­gelic mother and father.

In Ka­vanaugh’s case, you’re an only child whose mother taught you to use your com­mon sense. Your father — and this re­ally makes you cry like a baby — taught you the power of keep­ing cal­en­dars that dou­ble as diaries of the mun­dane jock-life and oc­ca­sional strug­gles of ev­ery­day mid­dle-class, priv­i­leged Amer­i­can ex­is­tence. It’s some­thing you’ve done since you were a teen and have pre­sented as ev­i­dence to show you couldn’t pos­si­bly have been where your ac­cuser claims you were on that sum­mer night in 1982.

YOU ARE BRETT KA­VANAUGH — AN ALL-AMER­I­CAN, HARD-WORK­ING, WOMEN-RE­SPECT­ING HERO — and boy, did the Se­nate hear YOU ROAR!

Yes, you drank beer in your teens. You still drink beer, you like beer, you may have drunk too much beer but who hasn’t? You never blacked out from beer drink­ing con­tests — what kind of a man would?

You have a list longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls of fe­male friends and women who’ve worked with you that tes­ti­fies to your re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion and as­sis­tance to them. Some of your best friends are white, black, women, LGBTQI … old chest­nuts.

This John Wayne in­dig­na­tion fi­nally gets all those old, white, out-of-touch Repub­li­cans — who ear­lier were bend­ing over back­wards to show how nice they could be to the good doc­tor vic­tim — out of their seats and rais­ing their fists in sup­port of the ob­vi­ous vic­tim of a Demo­crat con­spir­acy or­ches­trated by the satanic Clin­tons and the Left who just won’t ac­cept that we’re liv­ing in a world where Trump is the leader of the free world.

Lind­sey Gra­ham grabs the mike and claims that not vot­ing you into of­fice would be an act of “le­git­imis­ing the most de­spi­ca­ble thing I’ve seen in my time in pol­i­tics”. Re­ally, sen­a­tor? Maybe you should google Don­ald Trump?

Of course, when level-headed Democrats ask you if you’d be will­ing to com­ply with an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ac­cu­sa­tions, you’re un­able to give a straight an­swer. Quite frankly, Brett, that lack of Solomon-style wis­dom one would ex­pect from a po­ten­tial Supreme Court jus­tice is more ter­ri­fy­ing than re­as­sur­ing. But you are, as of this writ­ing, a prob­a­ble fu­ture jus­tice of the Supreme Court.

Long may you reign and en­joy many beers with your friends. While Trump-time may be un­cer­tain, Miller-time at your house will be guar­an­teed for life.

The scari­est thing for the US is not that it may take more than three ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual mis­con­duct to stop a Supreme Court nom­i­nee in his tracks, but rather the ease with which, even in the age of #MeToo and in­creased aware­ness of the un­equal re­la­tion­ships be­tween men and women in the dig­i­tal age, if you’re a po­lite, well­be­haved, clear-headed and thought­ful woman, you don’t stand a chance against the right­eous in­dig­na­tion of a man who knows how and when to cry.

Ka­vanaugh may be in­no­cent, but af­ter his per­for­mance this week, there are few men in po­si­tions of power who are will­ing to make him prove it, and that’s enough for the Supreme Court.

Maybe he’d just watched footage of Clarence Thomas’s hear­ing and de­cided to take a sim­i­lar ap­proach

 ?? Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages/Win McNamee ?? An emo­tional Brett Ka­vanaugh tes­ti­fies at the Se­nate ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee hear­ing, to counter al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault.
Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages/Win McNamee An emo­tional Brett Ka­vanaugh tes­ti­fies at the Se­nate ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee hear­ing, to counter al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault.

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