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Why do the nations rage?

Analyzing displays of passion (or lack thereof)

Why do the nations rage?

Protesters opposed to Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh take over the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press [Sipa via AP Images])

Saturday, Oct. 13, is the 30th anniversary of the most controversial questions ever asked at a presidential debate. CNN’s Bernard Shaw asked Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?”

Dukakis replied, “No. … I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life.” Showing no emotion, he spent two minutes on policy analysis: “There are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime. We’ve done so in my own state and it’s one of the reasons why we have had the biggest drop in crime of any industrial state in America. … We have work to do in this nation. … Double the number of drug enforcement agents. … I want to call a hemispheric summit … drug education prevention here at home. …”

Associated Press

Michael Dukakis answers questions during the second presidential debate, Oct. 13, 1988. (Associated Press)

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.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is Reforming Journalism. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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  • MTJanet
    Posted: Fri, 10/05/2018 02:58 pm

    Satan is indeed raging as he sees his stronghold of child sacrifice in our country being jeopardized by one man being confirmed to the SCOTUS.  I am certainly hoping for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, yet I believe that it will merely be returned to the states to either continue or abstain from the bloodshed as they see fit.    

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Sat, 10/06/2018 04:13 am

    Indeed!  Raging only seems to work for one side.  

  • Laneygirl's picture
    Posted: Sat, 10/06/2018 04:02 pm

    Perhaps the only way one half of America can come to its senses is to be slammed with a tsunami or earthquake that puts things of importance in proper perspective. Thank you for reminding me that as I raged over this present political darkness, Indonesians mourned over the real darkness, death.

  • RC
    Posted: Mon, 10/08/2018 10:58 am

    When your words are full of lies, just yell louder with anger, many will believe you. It worker for Hitler.  

  • Janet B
    Posted: Mon, 10/08/2018 02:08 pm

    I am praying that the calmer, quieter side will rise up to combat the rage at the ballot box, by electing more Senators and Representatives that support and defend the due process of law that is the bedrock of our justice system.

    And praying for more journalists like those at WORLD, who do their best to give the truth in their news, wouldn't hurt either!

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Mon, 10/08/2018 10:50 pm

    Ochlocracy (or mobocracy) is mob rule, a mass of people intimidating legitimate authorities to obey the wishes of the crowd rather than the law. The term "mob" comes from the Latin phrase "mobile vulgus" meaning "the fickle crowd".

    The Salem Witch trials were a form of ochlocracy. Unsubstantiated claims of the angry mob overruled the law.  Christ was crucified this way.

    Now we have Democratic leadership inciting the mob in the name of progress.  Like the French Revolution, they pretend to care about liberty and equality while saying no one who opposes their form of progress should eat or sleep in peace.  U.S. Senators will crucify anyone who threatens their power.  This is what America has become.

  • DWBrown
    Posted: Tue, 10/09/2018 10:45 am

    So thankful our Country was founded with people that based our laws and rules on God given wisdom. When asked the form of Government they gave us, Franklin said we gave you a Republic if you can keep it. The democrates and their minions that impose evil on our Country have for years skirted the overall will of the majority of Americans through the Courts. Roe verse wade, obamacare, and many other rulings that we must abide by have gone through the Courts when they can not get their agendas through Congress and Senate, which is the people that represent you and me. President Trump has kept his word as in my life time I have only seen with Ronald Regan. He is appointing all the judges he can that will follow our laws and rules as our Founders laid out for us. Evil does not want to follow laws and rules, to be responsible, never tells the whole truth, word smiths lies, and wants us to be as miserable as they are. The simple lives the roller coaster life of happy and mostly miserable with no understanding of Joy. Our Founders gave us the ability to vote for good people as our leaders, if we don't evil will come back with a vengence to regain it's grip. Please pray for our Country and God to give us good leaders. Understand the importance of your vote and help others to understand as well.