Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich was in despair as her candidate droned on. Later she said, “It was a question about Dukakis’ values and emotions. … When he answered by talking policy, I knew we had lost the election.” George H.W. Bush won it.
Yesterday, U.S. Senate leaders received an email signed by more than 2,400 law professors stating that Brett Kavanaugh at his second Senate hearing on Sept. 27 had displayed “a lack of judicial temperament. … Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators.”
This was a huge change in elite legal opinion from a month earlier, when the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary told the Senate it had voted unanimously to give Kavanaugh the highest rating possible, based on professional competence, integrity, and judicial temperament. Hmm, did any intervening news suddenly cause Kavanaugh to lose his judicial demeanor and respond heatedly?
Oh, Kavanaugh’s critics were suddenly saying he was a rapist? Why should that have annoyed him? Why couldn’t he have responded emotionlessly, like Michael Dukakis? Of course, if he hadn’t shown any anger, Democrats would have cited that as proof of his guilt, since an innocent man would have been outraged.
Besides, The New York Times dug out additional proof that Kavanaugh lacked judicial temperament. Emily Bazelon, a Times writer who on July 10 had tweeted her opposition to Kavanaugh, reported on Oct. 1 that 33 years ago college junior Kavanaugh in a bar threw ice at another patron. One of Kavanaugh’s friends then threw a glass that hit the man’s ear and drew blood, thus bringing the police, who created the report that extraordinary investigative journalism brought to public attention.
OK, I’m being sarcastic, and I shouldn’t be—but in a society that for centuries has considered persons innocent until proven guilty, and sought the testimony of two or more witnesses, it’s hard to be mellow when mobocracy comes to the fore. That’s what happened for two hours on Oct. 2 on the campus where I taught for 20 years, the University of Texas at Austin. A half-dozen conservative students with “Confirm Kavanaugh” and “Witch Hunt!” signs faced a crowd that at lunchtime swelled to more than 100 students and others, many of whom chanted, “We believe survivors.” Some tore up the conservatives’ signs and contributed obscenities to the discourse.
Yesterday, several thousand protesters in Washington, D.C., offered “Singing, Chanting and Rage on Capitol Hill,” as a Times headline proclaimed. Some yelled “Whose court? Our court!” as they marched to the Supreme Court building. When Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, waved off a female protester as he walked toward a Senate elevator, she shouted, “Don’t you wave your hand at me. I wave my hand at you.” She demanded more talk. Hatch said, “When you grow up, I’ll be glad to.” Hatch is 84.
It could be worse. Yesterday on the other side of the world, Indonesians were mourning the deaths of more than 1,550 persons in the Sept. 28 magnitude 7.5 earthquake that launched waves up to 20 feet high that slammed into the island of Sulawesi at more than 400 miles per hour. Ten years ago Indonesia announced completion of its early warning system for tsunamis. It included seismographic sensors, buoys, tiding gauges, and GPS. The system failed. One reason: None of the buoys worked because of vandalism and lack of maintenance.
And in China, according to the official newspapers, all was calm, all was bright. Here were four of the headlines on the front page of China Daily’s Sept. 29 issue, a typical one: “Good harvest expected to help cope with risks … Chinese companies’ overseas profit grows … ‘Overwhelming victory’ seen in fight against corruption … New combat aircraft for export makes debut flight.”
The largest headline, accompanying a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping, concerned revitalization in northeast China: “Make Northeast a pillar, Xi says.” The final headline, tucked in with a photo, was “Greetings to the world,” as a dozen baby giant pandas made their public debut.