When leaders fail - 2
There have been many comments by Christians on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a judge in the US Supreme Court. So many comments that it seems there is no need to add to them, except I cannot ignore one feature that has not received much attention.
Many have argued about whether he did or did not commit sexual abuse. Related questions of how he views women have been explored. Many fear the Republicans are returning the country to a paternalist, chauvinist view of women.
All these questions matter, but there is a very dangerous trend in politics that lies behind them.
The voting in the Senate was mostly along party lines. The emphasis was on reaffirming the closed world-views of the commentators, rather than exploring openly and honestly whether he is fit for public office at all, and for the highest judicial office in particular. Many Republicans have been so keen to fill the Supreme Court with socially conservative judges that they have not thought about the implications of the particular allegations.
The process of confirming a Presidential nomination is rooted in the Constitution’s principle of checks and balances. The Executive government, the Legislature and the Judiciary must be separate and each must act as a check on any abuses of power by the others.
It is tragic to see the process become a political circus, with each side attacking the other with ever more aggressive and extreme language. The conduct of political debates has become tribal and antagonistic.
Each side has a view of the other that is just a caricature. Democrats assume Republicans think and act in a certain way, regardless of the reality, and vice versa. The more the assumptions are repeated the more ingrained they become. And the more ingrained they become the easier it is to demonise the other side.
But even this is not the real issue for me. In the course of the Senate hearing, Judge Kavanaugh has said things that have been shown to be lies, particularly about his drinking and the meaning of words in his yearbook while at college. In a previous generation this in itself would have led to questions about whether he was fit to practice as a lawyer, let alone serve as a judge.
Yet now the highest court in the USA has a judge who has been shown to have lied to avoid embarrassment. What example of leadership does this give?
As Albert Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”