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A Picture Of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh And A Call From History

October 6, 2018

Some of the best memories of working in a legislative office were the days when a school group from our district would have a planned tour of the statehouse, and the assemblyman (for whatever reason) was not in the building.  It was then that I was called upon to speak to the students seated in the assembly chamber.  I genuinely loved the chance to speak to them about why government matters, and even more importantly, what their role as citizens meant to the whole process.

Sometimes the group would be 4th graders–as that was still when most children had their first course in Wisconsin history.  Other times the students would be in high school and their government class took a trip to Madison.  But regardless of the age my message hit on the theme that the history we make today will be what future generations remember about us, and who we were.  If the kids were younger I would tie this theme into the sale of the land on which they were now seated, and why the actions from the past matter to this day.   If high school kids were present I would link the fight of lowering the voting age to the actions of citizen activists.

But over and over it all came down to how history will write of the time when ‘you live your life in this state and nation’.

Decisions are made everyday in our government which will last forever in the pages of history.  The ones that caused pain seem to forever throb with revulsion.  The words written by Roger Taney still remind us of how far away from perfect our country once was.  The same hills in Vietnam that were fought for and claimed, lost and fought for again, only to be lost again and……underscores how we now look back and excoriate those who walked willingly into their own messes.

Over the past weeks we have all been either on side of the abyss, or the other, when it came to the nomination fight over Brett Kavanuagh for the Supreme Court.  Those who have never cared for history will not know that there are some parallels which we can look to for guidance on how we might have moved forward.

Former Republican Texas Senator John Tower had a world of cloud and doubt surrounding his nomination in a 1989 fight for Secretary of Defense.  He also had Federal agents carrying out a check on his background as senators spoke about the issues that some felt were too buried and private to acknowledge.  President Bush had placed his name before the senate but Tower’s drinking habits and his relationships with women made his elevation most troubling.  And for good reason.  The twice-divorced Tower made no secret of his appreciation for ‘a glass or two of wine’ or for the company of an attractive women.

The needs of the nation, the requirements for a totally engaged Defense Secretary, and the historical call for integrity within a presidential administration proved powerful enough for the bottom line to that story to almost write itself.  His nomination was rejected by the senate.

Tower was not the only person who could have made our defense structure operate at that time.  Likewise, Kavanugh was not the only conservative who could have been nominated by the Trump White House.  Instead of thinking long-term about the needs of a nation so deeply split over politics, or a senate confirmation process that pains anyone willing to let go of tribalism along enough to ponder it, this White House hunkered down and placed pride and power over reason and the call of history.

Conservatives placed their man on the court.

But they also placed an asterisk in the pages of history books which forever will be studied.  Kavanaugh will forever be judged in a way that most justices are not considered.  His character alone would have terminated his nomination at one time in this land. If not for his behavior in his youth, surely for his temperament before the senate.  That is not a liberal or conservative perspective, it is just a plain fact.

But the citizens who now thrust and joust on social media, and can give no quarter to ‘the opposition’, leaned hard on the Republicans who had the power over the nomination.  And in so doing they all will now be a part of what I talked to those students about decades ago.

History will write of the time when ‘you live your life in this state and nation’.  The actions are recorded, the words in print, the votes cast in the record, letters to newspaper editors archived, and diary entries and blog posts offering thoughts and opinions saved so others, long from now, will be able to dive into them for insight.

We have spoken,  History, however, will be the ultimate judge to what we did.

And so it goes.

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