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Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court Nomination And The Politics Of Rage

Sep 28, 2018
Originally published on September 28, 2018 6:28 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

And let's turn back to our top story today - indeed, all this week - the confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. New Yorker writer Susan Glasser was, like many of us, glued to yesterday's testimony. In her column today, she describes the proceedings as, quote, "a searing, infuriating reminder of what we already knew; there are two Americas getting angrier by the minute, and they are not listening to each other." Susan Glasser joins us via Skype. Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

SUSAN GLASSER: Oh, thank you so much, Mary Louise.

KELLY: You have covered Washington for many years now. And, you know, anybody old enough to remember, to take one example, you know, the Clinton-Lewinsky-Ken-Starr days, knows that bitter partisan warfare is not a new phenomenon on Capitol Hill. As you watched yesterday, as you've watched this week play out, do you really see something that's so different?

GLASSER: My own two cents is that we are in a more divided period of time than ever before in part because our realities have become so different. I really felt like yesterday's hearing was a great example of the post-truth, hyperpartisan-era meeting - a Supreme Court confirmation fight.

KELLY: I wonder how much of that you think is driven by - flows directly from President Trump and the tone he has set in Washington.

GLASSER: Well, I'll tell you a part that seems to me absolutely to flow from President Trump. And that was what we saw yesterday afternoon with the incredibly angry, even strident tone of both the nominee himself, Brett Kavanaugh, who already has broken the mold for a Supreme Court nominee first by giving the first ever, apparently, TV interview to Fox News in the middle of this fight, then by basically sounding like a Republican political operative and a very angry one at that in his testimony. I think that was absolutely aimed at an audience of one President Trump and communicating to him, you know, stick with me. I'm your guy. I'll do the Trump playbook. Lindsey Graham, of course, led the Republican senators also in a display of what I would call naked Trumpism that we've never seen before.

KELLY: We have a little bit of both of their comments that I want to play to illustrate some of the points you're getting at and the amount of rage that was on display yesterday. Here's Kavanaugh himself. This is from his opening statement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRETT KAVANAUGH: I was not at the party described by Dr. Ford. This confirmation process has become a national disgrace.

KELLY: And then here's Republican Senator, as you mentioned, Lindsey Graham.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDSEY GRAHAM: This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics. And if you really wanted to know the truth, you sure as hell wouldn't have done what you've done to this guy.

KELLY: Susan Glasser, what do you make of the fact that those are both men - that the one central figure who wasn't raging visibly was the female protagonist, Christine Blasey Ford?

GLASSER: Well, that's right. And I made that point in my column - that, you know, of everybody who might reasonably claim some entitlement to anger, she was the one who, in no way, came across as angry. It strikes me as inconceivable. Can you imagine a woman senator speaking in those tones? Could you imagine your mother, your sister, your professional colleague - what kind of criticism would rain down upon any woman who dared to perform in the public space in that way? I mean, listening at times to Brett Kavanaugh you had the feeling that if you were standing next to him in a room, he was so angry, you know, this is the kind of person who could hit you.

KELLY: Might Kavanaugh's anger - the anger that was so clearly on display - though, prove effective? I mean, it seems at the very least to have won his - won the endorsement of President Trump.

GLASSER: I think it was effective politically that - remember, at midday, during Dr Ford's testimony, you know, you had Republican sources, even sources in the White House telling journalists it was a disaster for them, talking about whether Trump would pull the nomination.

KELLY: Talking about whether Kavanaugh would even appear after lunch. Yeah.

GLASSER: That's right. This was as dramatic of a political moment as Washington gets. And, you know, literally, by 3:30 in the afternoon, a few minutes into Cavanaugh's testimony, you had a sense that he had heard loud and clear the message from President Trump, I'll stick with you but only if you use my playbook and my rules.

KELLY: And if he gets confirmed, that will have proven an effective playbook.

GLASSER: Correct.

KELLY: Susan Glasser - she writes a weekly column for The New Yorker on life in Trump's Washington. Susan Glasser, thank you.

GLASSER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.