Our opinion: Kavanaugh should withdraw

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Over the past several weeks, America's body politic has become fully engaged in the ongoing drama surrounding the Senate Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearings of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for the position of associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Ordinarily, such intense public interest would be welcomed by advocates of good government and individual civic responsibility. The proceedings have devolved into a flashpoint for conflicts over the greater ills of American society — specifically the unequal status of women, the institutional bias in favor white males of privileged background and the polarization of the American people as evidenced by the behavior of their elected representatives.

Belief in whether the testimony of Judge Kavanaugh or his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, holds credence falls predictably along partisan and gender lines. Observers argue not only over which of the principals is lying, but also whether Judge Kavanaugh should be held accountable for his behavior as a teenager and young adult. Partisan politics, wherein all sides see something to gain in the upcoming midterm elections, have further poisoned the atmosphere by ginning up as much conflict as possible over what ought to be a solemn, deliberative and objective process focusing purely on the judicial qualifications and philosophy of the nominee.

Lost amid the clamor are two very important points: First, Dr. Ford showed extraordinary courage in coming forward in response to the prodding of her own conscience, particularly in such a highly charged atmosphere. In alleging that she was a victim of sexual assault by a drunken Brett Kavanaugh over a third of a century ago, she placed herself and her family at enormous risk, as well as forcing herself to relive one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. That she was openly mocked at a rally on Tuesday night by none other than the president of the United States is the least of the abuses she has had to endure; she has received death threats and been compelled to move her family to an undisclosed location for their own protection. Unlike so many sham demonstrations the public has been treated to of late, Dr. Ford's appears to be an act of true American patriotism.

Second, attempts to determine the truth of the allegations made against Judge Kavanaugh have been rendered irrelevant by his comportment during the hearing process. Where the American people expected a calm, thoughtful response to the allegations made against him — behavior in tune with the gravity of the position for which he is auditioning — instead they witnessed a display of pique, uncontrolled anger, personal attacks against his inquisitors, a lack of self awareness and unalloyed partisanship unsuitable in a traffic court magistrate, much less a Supreme Court justice. It may be that his sponsor, President Trump, advised him to come out swinging, to admit nothing, and to remain on the attack, but if that is so, then Judge Kavanaugh's decision to follow such benighted advice in this setting is a further mark against his character and suitability to sit as an impartial arbiter of the law.

Rule 1.2 of the American Bar Association's Model Code of Judicial Conduct states: "A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety." Judge Kavanaugh's overheated and defensive performance before the Judiciary Committee should alarm all thinking Americans that such a clearly biased candidate even holds a prestigious federal judgeship, let alone perches on the threshold of attaining a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court — a position that can impact American life for generations.

Moreover, Judge Kavanaugh's partisan rage should disqualify him from a panoply of cases that will almost surely come before the high court during his potentially lengthy tenure. As Lawrence H. Tribe, a distinguished legal authority who is a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, opined: "Judge Kavanaugh's attacks on identifiable groups ... render it inconceivable that he could 'administer justice without respect to persons,' as a Supreme Court justice must swear to do."

All judges are required to recuse themselves when there is a conflict or appearance of conflict. While there are formal codes that apply to lower court judges, there are no such formalities constraining Supreme Court justices, and Americans would have to take it on faith that Judge Kavanaugh's bitter declaration, "What goes around, comes around," would not taint his judicial reasoning or cause him to reject his own recusal when it was clearly called for.

The confirmation process is not a trial. It is an undertaking that is supposed to provide clarity, which it definitely has. The current political climate and rank partisanship of the committee members notwithstanding, Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated before the world that he lacks the essential temperament and character that comprise the most basic qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court. He should do himself, his country and the reputation of the court to which he aspires a favor and withdraw his name from consideration before he wreaks further damage.

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