30 September 2018
It’s only this week’s shenanigans that have made me realise the massive advantages of appointing members of the Supreme Court because of their politics rather than because of their legal experience or skills.
In America, Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for a vacancy in the Supreme Court should have been a shoo-in but the Senate judiciary committee heard Dr Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist from California, accuse him of sexual assault. Two other women who didn’t testify had also accused him of misconduct.
His response was to shout at the committee at one point and apparently break down into tears at another. We obviously can’t know what actually happened but what became abundantly clear during the hearing was that Kavanaugh is emotionally unstable and not the sort of dispassionately impartial judge one would want sitting in the highest court in the land.
But then nor are any of the others, who just voted with others of their political party. Only Republican Senator Jeff Flake seems to have listened to the evidence and threatened to vote against the nomination but he was bought off by Trump with the promise of a (short and limited) FBI investigation.
Wouldn’t it save time if the British courts followed the same principles. We could do away with pleas and evidence and representation and all that sort of costly rubbish and just ask the accused about their politics. The judge(s) would then decide people innocent or guilty if their politics were the same as theirs, or different.
I wonder how people would have reacted if Kavanaugh had said “we were all young once, many of us got drunk sometimes and did stupid things, I don’t remember anything like this happening but, if it did, I’m deeply sorry for the obvious pain she has suffered and humbly offer my apologies for any contribution I may have made to this”.
Whether or not Kavanaugh actually does remember anything is irrelevant because it’s been officially OK to lie under oath in America since Trump’s legal adviser made it clear that Trump shouldn’t have to appear before the Mueller enquiry in case “he gets trapped into perjury”, making it clear that Trump would lie under oath rather than tell the truth if it was likely to embarrass him.
So much for the land of the free. Mind you, ‘free’ only ever referred to the white people who had gained independence from Britain, not slaves or Mexicans or immigrants and especially not the indigenous American nations whom they had displaced and slaughtered. I was listening yesterday to the Buffy Sainte Marie song ‘Now that the buffalo’s gone’ which is very moving, and very angry.
What always helps bring me back to earth is how willing some Brits are to be silly. Somebody wrote to The Guardian this week saying
“… can we call a halt to letters that include ‘As a …’? … Often the self-description bears no relation to the subject under discussion. So, as a 70-year-old granny who plays the ukulele badly, I’m asking: please, you Azzers, desist.”
The next day’s paper then published a letter from somebody else saying:
“As an 83-year-old music lover, I am not taking advice from ‘a 70-year-old granny who plays the ukulele badly’.”
I’ve mentioned before my dislike of pomposity and self-importance and I still believe they’re self-defeating: to be self-important, you have to be very good at something and, if you really are very good at something, you don’t need to be self-important. That’s why being silly sometimes is so important.
Years ago, I had an argument with the other directors of a small company about the person who swept the floor (in a flat glass warehouse where sweeping the floor is very important) and said that the cleaner was more important to the company than we were; we could go on holiday and leave our jobs for a week or two but, when the cleaner went on holiday, somebody else had to do his job for him while he was away. I wasn’t arguing that we should all be paid the same, just that, as people, directors were not automatically better (or worse) than cleaners. They weren’t impressed, but I’m practised at being unimpressive.