Empathy

empathy

In Brett Kavanaugh and the moral ugliness of casual lying Greg Sargent recounts some regrettable incidents from his own youth and meditates on the Kavanaugh’s highly problematic claim of having been an innocent youth:

“He’s trying to paint himself as some kind of choir boy,” a Republican woman who recalled encountering a drunken Kavanaugh at a fraternity event told The Post. “You can’t lie your way onto the Supreme Court, and with that statement out, he’s gone too far. It’s about the integrity of that institution.”

John Harwood documents a broader pattern still to Kavanaugh’s misrepresentations and evasions, including on his views of Roe v. Wade and on whether he knew he was trafficking in stolen documents as a partisan hatchetman in past confirmation fights. “The judge’s self-description strains credulity in multiple ways,” Harwood concludes, which “has deepened questions about his present-day credibility — a bedrock requirement for the lifetime job he now seeks.”

Straining for charity and fairness, Sargent concludes,

My guess is that Kavanaugh panicked. All that grooming for this position — Georgetown Prep, Yale, the Federalist Society gatherings and schmoozing, all the slimy, sordid partisan committee grunt work against Democrats, and, in fairness, all the grinding study and hard work — flashed before his eyes.

I don’t know if the content of these seeming misrepresentations about Kavanaugh’s drunkenness and frat-goon treatment of women should be disqualifying. I tend to doubt it. I do think this apparent willingness to casually engage in such trivial dishonesty — about who he once was and where he came from — amounts to an ugly mark on his character that says a lot about who he is now. And that is something one might add to the case against him.

Aardvark’s Additions

Be it said that Sargent’s reluctance to disqualify potential Supreme Court justices for “frat-goon treatment of women” is highly problematic. As is Sargent’s conclusion that current lying is a worse sin that ancient drunken loutishness.

Here’s the thing. Ask yourself this question: If you are a privileged preppy, and the notion strikes you to grab a teenage girl and try to take her clothes off, what stops you?

Just think about that for a minute.

Maybe fear of being punished. But my question stipulates that the hypothetical youthful lout isn’t afraid of being punished, and that said lack of fear is reasonable under the circumstances.

So what else stops you, if anything stops you at all? The answer: empathy stops you.

The ability—indeed, the irresistible compulsion—to put yourself in the place of another human being.

And if you lacked empathy in high school and college, I don’t think you’re going to find it at age 53.

And if you lack empathy, I don’t want you on the United States Supreme Court.

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Greetings to today’s readers in France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. To those of you in other countries, I want to thank your leaders, from the bottom of my heart, for laughing at Donald Trump yesterday. I am sorry that it has come to this. But to have Donald Trump and his enablers know that the whole world is now laughing at us is a liberating and encouraging development.