The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for September, 2018

Eve of Battle

I can hardly stand to watch the reactions of the powers that be to Kavanaugh’s accusers, who are putting their lives at risk to speak out. It’s excruciating to see these women get slimed — and I’m not even experiencing this as a survivor of sexual assault. They are heroes in my book, even if they’re reluctant ones. After reading about the Yale allegations last night, I was imagining all the preparations these people have to go through before they tell their stories — lawyering up, steeling themselves against an overwhelming public backlash via every means of communication imaginable. It occurred to me that it must feel like preparing for war.

Kavanaugh’s Oath

We know Kavanaugh has lied multiple times under oath. Meanwhile, his accuser has passed an FBI polygraph test, can point to evidence in her therapist’s notes from 2012, and contacted the Washington Post before Kavanaugh was even nominated by Trump (so this is not an “eleventh-hour” accusation). Why should anyone believe him when he accuses her of lying? He’s lost any claim to credibility.

In case anyone is wondering who the woman in the cartoon is, that’s supposed to be Kavanaugh’s wife, since the spouse usually holds the Bible during the oath of office ceremony.

Kavanaugh suddenly possessed by spirit of honesty

In his response to Kamala Harris’s question about whether he thought “both sides” were to blame for the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Kavanaugh demurred, saying “the principle of the independence of the judiciary means I can’t insert myself into politics in either of two ways: commenting on political events or, in my view, commenting on things said by politicians.” This rhetoric is pretty funny coming from a man whose history suggests he’s a quintessential partisan player, apparently perjuring himself twice over stolen Democratic memos and participating in all manner of wingnuttery during the Clinton years.

There’s been a bit of controversy around Kavanaugh’s statement about “abortion-inducing drugs.” Some background: Priests for Life and other Catholic institutions sued to contest the Affordable Care Act rule that employer-provided insurance must cover contraception, or the employer must sign an opt-out form. During the hearings, Ted Cruz asked Kavanaugh for his opinion about the case. Kavanaugh, siding strongly with Priests For Life, stated “they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs.” Various fact-checking organizations are zeroing in on the words “they said” to imply that Kavanaugh is referring only to the beliefs of Priests for Life, and to sneeringly suggest that Kamala Harris and other Democrats are lying when they accuse him of conflating birth control with abortion-inducing drugs.

However, Kavanaugh’s use of the word “the” in the phrase “provision of the abortion-inducing drugs” implies identification on his part with the Priests for Life perspective. A more impartial, less affirmative way to speak about the scientifically-false belief of a religious group would be to use the phrase “their belief that these drugs cause abortion.” Kavanaugh did not distance himself from Priests For Life in this manner. This sort of casual conflation is exactly the sort of thing someone who opposes reproductive rights would say. Not to mention the fact that he sided with an employer who refused to allow their insurance plan cover birth control!

We know from science that birth control does not induce abortion. Yet Kavanaugh uncritically and unquestioningly repeated this falsehood that is commonly used by anti-abortion groups. No one who believes in a woman’s right to choose, in the context of the current American abortion debate, would phrase his or her answer that way. Advocates for reproductive justice and contraceptive coverage have every right to be concerned about Kavanaugh’s response. Ironically enough, the fact-checking organizations focusing just on the words “they said” are the ones stripping the issue of its full context.

For more on this, including further worrisome evidence of Kavanaugh’s opposition to Roe, I recommend this article in the New Yorker.

What are Dems undecided about Kavanaugh thinking?

To be fair, some Dems are trying to stop Kavanaugh. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to postpone the hearings scheduled for today, citing the possibility of criminal wrongdoing on Trump’s part and Kavanaugh’s apparent belief that presidents should not be criminally investigated. But half the Senate Democrats have not announced their opposition, which is not exactly helping in the getting-Republicans-to-flip department. I don’t hold out much hope for that, but it would be outrageous if the Dems couldn’t muster a unified front against a second Trump court pick. It’s remarkable how many politicians still seem to think it’s in their interest to play the “wait and see” game and pretend everything is normal. It’s like Merrick Garland never even happened.

There are many good Democrats, and I’ve long been critical of those who equate the two parties, but Dems really lose a lot of cred when so many of them splutter so spectacularly at such a critical time.

Jen Sorensen is a cartoonist for Daily Kos, The Nation, In These Times, Politico and other publications throughout the US. She received the 2023 Berryman Award for Editorial Cartooning from the National Press Foundation, and is a recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. She is also a Pulitzer Finalist.



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