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The sour smell of success

October 1, 2018

Guardian Headline 1 October 2018

Looking from afar at America’s rather odd constitutional settlement, wherein judges in the highest court of the land, supposedly the ultimate arbiters of impartial justice, are chosen for their partisan leanings, I suppose it’s not surprising that the latest appointment has become a vicious political football. After all, these are vicious times.

If Judge Brett Kavanaugh survives an FBI investigation into his behaviour as a teenager, he will most likely be confirmed as a justice of the States Supreme Court. I for one have had enough of his face, screwed up in pouting anger, all over the media.

I’ve read all the arguments. I understand why he should boil over in tearful resentment at being potentially prevented from reaching the peak of his career because of what he views as unproven youthful indiscretions. I also understand why those seeking to stop his confirmation should argue that the character and behaviour of a teenager informs the character of the man.

I only have a few thoughts to add to the conversation. If he is confirmed, in the eyes of a good proportion of the American electorate, he will forever be tainted. In his darker moments he might also reflect that he obtained his prize not because of his abilities but because he was a convenient vehicle for a threatened political juggernaut.

Will he be welcomed by his fellow justices, some of whom might shudder at the thought that there but for the grace of God go I? Will they advise him to keep his head down and do his job, and that sooner or later the American public will forget about his past? We will never know.

I can only imagine how humiliating he would have found the dissection of his past. And I wonder whether, should he achieve his ambition at the cost of his reputation, he will ultimately believe that it was worth it. It would surely be galling if upon his elevation to the Supreme Court he should forever be known as Injustice Kavanaugh. And that every decision he makes will be measured against his yelp of partisan fury at the Senate hearing.

The sad thing about moments of glory – winning a prize, being promoted, being elected, basking in the applause of an audience – is that they’re like a perfume you want to bottle and smell every day thereafter. But the day after, the fragrance is gone. There is only a new reality. Some of us get the opportunity to enjoy the perfume again. And if that’s what motivates us, as seems to be the case with Donald Trump, we seek every opportunity to be admired and applauded.

But if Mr Kavanaugh takes his place among his fellow judges, there will be no more coronations. Only a lifetime of having to prove his worth among colleagues who didn’t have to fight like cornered animals to be appointed.

Whatever the FBI inquiry reveals, he will know in his heart whether he lied to get his job. And if he did, then that knowledge will spoil the perfume of acclamation, and sour the rest of his career.

But then again perhaps he won’t care. The means will justify the end. And as his sponsor Donald Trump might tell him, only losers bother to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  1. Marc Platteuw permalink

    On the button as per…
    Love this

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