“Horror Has A Face”: Primordial Politics and the Aftermath of the Kavanaugh Confirmation

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the aftermath of the Kavanaugh confirmation. It is not that there is no winner and loser as much as both Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh are both winners and losers.

It will take time to decide which party will benefit, but there is clearly Brett bump for Republicans going into the midterms.  Yet, the confirmation will also continue to resonate Democratic voters.

“Horror has a face … and you must make a friend of horror.”

When the character Colonel Walter Kurtz spoke those words in the film “Apocalypse Now,” he described the secret to his success, his epiphany that decency and humanity no longer have a place in war. His words could well describe the aftermath of the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. As Kurtz explained, the key is to transcend morality and allow people “to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgment, because it is judgment that defeats us.”

Once the “most deliberative body in the world,” the Senate has finally reached its apocalyptic moment of total political war without judgment. Kavanaugh and his chief accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, are both faces of the horror of a process designed to release people from any consideration of fairness or empathy, to leash the primordial instincts of voters. That, perhaps, will forever change our confirmation process.

For weeks, people enjoyed uninhibited rage on both sides. The original confirmation hearing itself was virtually devoid of substantive discussion of Kavanaugh’s jurisprudential views. Citing the Ginsburg rule, Kavanaugh repeated judicial platitudes about respecting precedent while declining, as did prior nominees, to give direct answers. I have long criticized the Ginsburg rule and the modern confirmation process. These hearings, however, began badly and ended as a nightmare.

Republicans hit a new low on the standard of disclosure by allowing the White House to withhold an unprecedented amount of material from Kavanaugh’s record. Democrats then joined the race to the bottom by withholding Ford’s allegation until the last minute. Both sides then tore into each other and the witnesses. Senators in both parties declared that they believed either Ford or Kavanaugh before any testimony was heard. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) maintained that it really no longer mattered if Kavanaugh was innocent or guilty, while Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said that she would weigh Kavanaugh’s views on the Constitution in deciding whether to believe his denials of being a sexual predator. On the other side, Republicans imposed a five minute rule that made the questioning by a female prosecutor into a national joke.

The biggest winners?

First, Judge Kavanaugh. For those who insisted he was fundamentally damaged, it is worth noting that he is now about to become Justice Kavanaugh and will cast one of nine votes on the highest court in the nation. Confirmation is a vindication of sorts but certainly is not an expungement. Yet, it is an opportunity to create a legacy in decades of decisions, and he is likely to move the court to the right and to reverse some of the legacy of Justice Anthony Kennedy. This controversy may be the start but it will not be the end of his Wikipedia page.

Next, Professor Ford. While she came forward reluctantly and did not appear to seek fame or its benefits, famous she is and benefits will come. While Democrats insisted that she has nothing to gain, she could gain considerably as a result of her taking a stand before the Senate. She is now a celebrity and likely will be buried in book and movie deals. She has more than half a million dollars waiting for her on GoFundMe. (I have raised prior concerns over this new element to litigation, as witnesses receive windfalls after promising to testify for or against national figures, as seen in the cases of Michael Cohen and Andrew McCabe.) Ford has gone from a professor at Palo Alto University to a social icon.

The biggest losers?

First, Judge Kavanaugh. He will remain an asterisk justice. He may bury it with a long line of opinions but he will never entirely erase it. Half of the country is likely to remain firm in its view that he assaulted Ford and committed perjury on the allegations. His was the type of bruising fight that leaves a deep lasting injury. After his own confirmation controversy, Judge Robert Bork retired from the courts. Justice Clarence Thomas is widely viewed as adopting silence during oral arguments in the aftermath of his hearing. Confirmations generally are seen as not just the culmination but the celebration of a career leading to the Supreme Court. This one, however, was a concession to raw and ugly politics, ending on a final vote on party lines, with only one defection on either side.

Next, Professor Ford. She has now entered the realm of personified politics, more of an object than a person for both sides in waging this war. She will remain either the hero or the villain in the eyes of millions, an instantly recognizable face with instantly strong emotions for people on each side of the controversy. The minute someone leaked her letter, against her express wishes, she entered that realm of personalities who are treated like public domain as universally owned objects.

The greatest loser, of course, is clearly our confirmation process, which was reduced to the level of decorum and deliberation one would see in an episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Both sides decided to unleash our primordial instincts, and it will be hard to get people to accept prior standards of order or fairness in the process.

Confirmations have now become politics by other means and, as Kurtz said, “perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure” in their savagery. Of course, most partisans in this controversy saw it as a political opportunity. It is now up to the majority of Americans whether this is what we will accept in the future. We can either demand reform of the confirmation process, or we can live with the horrors of primordial politics.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

262 thoughts on ““Horror Has A Face”: Primordial Politics and the Aftermath of the Kavanaugh Confirmation”

  1. here’s the kind of thing left wing freaks degenerate into in their supposed defense of women’s right to choose: gleefully kicking women for disagreeing with them. how empowering!


    how would Colonel Kurtz deal with this freak? I observe he’s got a pentacle necklace. you know what that means: satanist. Really! And flower in his dyed hair. He talks like a girl, but he’s a male creature. He argues with the prolife activist lady, then, when she disagrees, kicks the lady.

    Nobody is going to “reason” with freaks like that. That’s the foot soldier of the Democrat party, out in the streets using violence to intimidate the opposition. Get a good look at that freak and remember this on election day: he was “fighting” for the Democratic “womens issues”.

    1. Yeah, he’s definitely a freak and a coward. He’s wearing purple with a matching purple flower in his hair. And he violently kicks a woman. He deserves a good beat-down. I read that he has been arrested. I hope the skinny twerp is kept in jail long enough to be on the receiving end of some bullying. “Men” like him don’t do well in prison.

  2. From John Hinderaker:

    “James Kunstler is a liberal who has a site called Clusterf*** Nation. Although a liberal, he casts a cold, intelligent eye on the follies of our time. The linked post begins by questioning why anyone would believe Christine Ford. What follows is an explosive theme:

    “I believe that the Christine Blasey Ford gambit was an extension of the sinister activities underway since early 2016 in the Department of Justice and the FBI to un-do the last presidential election, and that the real and truthful story about these seditious monkeyshines is going to blow wide open.”

    Stunning if true.

    “It turns out that the Deep State is a small world. Did you know that the lawyer sitting next to Dr. Ford in the Senate hearings, one Michael Bromwich, is also an attorney for Andrew McCabe, the former FBI Deputy Director fired for lying to investigators from his own agency and currently singing to a grand jury? What a coincidence. Out of all the lawyers in the most lawyer-infested corner of the USA, she just happened to hook up with him.

    It’s a matter of record that Dr. Ford traveled to Rehobeth Beach Delaware on July 26, where her Best Friend Forever and former room-mate, Monica McLean, lives, and that she spent the next four days there before sending a letter July 30 to Senator Diane Feinstein that kicked off the “sexual assault” circus. Did you know that Monica McClean was a retired FBI special agent, and that she worked in the US Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York under Preet Bharara, who had earlier worked for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer?

    Could Dr. Ford have spent those four days in July helping Christine Blasey Ford compose her letter to Mrs. Feinstein? Did you know that Monica McClean’s lawyer, one David Laufman is a former DOJ top lawyer who assisted former FBI counter-intel chief Peter Strozk on both the Clinton and Russia investigations before resigning in February this year — in fact, he sat in on the notorious “unsworn” interview with Hillary in 2016. Wow! What a really small swamp Washington is!”

    Of all the [gin joints (strike out)} lawyers in all the towns in all the world, she walks in with one from the FBI. Funny coincidence.

    “None of this is trivial and the matter can’t possibly rest there. Too much of it has been unraveled by what remains of the news media. And meanwhile, of course, there is at least one grand jury listening to testimony from the whole cast-of-characters behind the botched Hillary investigation and Robert Mueller’s ever more dubious-looking Russian collusion inquiry: the aforementioned Strozk, Lisa Page, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Bill Priestap, et. al. I have a feeling that these matters are now approaching critical mass with the parallel unraveling of the Christine Blasey Ford “story.”

    The Democratic Party has its fingerprints all over this, as it does with the shenanigans over the Russia investigation. Not only do I not believe Dr. Ford’s story; I also don’t believe she acted on her own in this shady business. What’s happening with all these FBI and DOJ associated lawyers is an obvious circling of the wagons. They’ve generated too much animus in the process and they’re going to get nailed. These matters are far from over and a major battle is looming in the countdown to the midterm elections.

    The Democrats’ Russia hoax and their smearing of Judge Kavanaugh are two of the most appalling episodes in recent political history. Are they, in some fashion, related? I have no idea. Stay tuned.”

Comments are closed.