Judge Brett Kavanaugh during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Photo by Diego Radzinschi

To say the confirmation process for Judge, now Justice, Brett Kavanaugh was grueling is an understatement of gigantic proportions. There may be no one involved in any part of the process who is pleased with the way it was conducted. Even if you are pleased with the result, there can be no pleasure in the process.

The process is over now, and as Sen. Lisa Murkowski stated, it is time for healing. To what extent there can be healing is a difficult question.

For those of us who remember the Justice Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, there is profound disappointment. Those hearings were and remain a huge embarrassment. Even those who were part of that spectacle, such as Sen. Joseph Biden, look back at it with regret. It could not be clearer that the process followed then never was fair, and the truth was never reached. The process was distorted to conceal the facts, and an honorable witness was unfairly discredited. Though the result is that Thomas is on the court, he is there with a perpetual cloud over his name. He deserved better, and so did those accusing him. And so did we.

It appears we have learned nothing in all these years. We are now faced with another justice who will likely serve on the court for many, many years, and will also do so with a cloud over his name. There was an opportunity to do the confirmation job better, and we missed that opportunity. Along the way, another credible, honorable witness testified and was ignored by those making the decisions. Worse than that, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s motives have been impugned, and she has been mocked by the president of the United States. We have not learned from the Thomas hearings. We have magnified the mistakes and hurt.

It does no good to recapitulate the many errors of the Kavanaugh hearings, but some attention should be paid to those protesting them. The prevalence of sexual assault is in the news every day now, ranging from celebrities to ordinary people to victims of predatory priests. Those protesting the Kavanaugh hearings—many of them victims of sexual assault themselves—were angry, loud, disruptive and challenging. Calling them out for that behavior just reinforces their injury and fails to understand their pain. That pain is very real, even if the assault happened years ago, as was evident from the very calm and cogent testimony of Ford.

The anger of victims that spills out into loud, angry confrontation is understandable. Note that Kavanaugh himself, when he said he felt unjustly accused, expressed his anger and pain forcefully and aggressively, yet his demeanor was found by various senators to be understandable and justifiable, even if an alarming display contrary to what is generally accepted judicial temperament.

The hearings we all just witnessed are, at base, a discouraging failure. Politics ruled, truth did not. The procedure could have been handled so much better, so much fairer. If it was to be a fair procedure, where the result would be a fair examination of the applicant, it should have been transparent. All his writings should have been produced for review. The identity of his accusers should have been made known as soon as possible, though their fear of revealing themselves was understandable then and is even more understandable now. But since there were accusers, time should have been devoted to the information they shared. An investigation should have been conducted fairly and without restraint, rather than a superficial sop that proved nothing.

Rather than treat a witness with a veneer of respect while doing everything to denigrate her story, her story should have been given the dignity of a real investigation. And under no circumstances should she or anyone else involved in a fair process be ridiculed by the president. He, in fact, should be censured for his crude and unfair remarks about her.

The result is that we have a new justice on the Supreme Court, but we are all sullied by the process of getting him there, including the court itself. We have learned nothing, unless it is a lesson in how to hold a hearing even less fair and less thorough than the Thomas hearings. Kavanaugh deserved better. His name was not cleared, it was clothed in a smokescreen. He, just like Thomas, will serve with a permanent cloud over his head his whole time on the Supreme Court. And certainly Ford deserved better. Serious harm has been done to her and her family, when all she was trying to do is to contribute to what she could only hope would be a fair process. And we all deserved better. We have, once again, seen some of our senior politicians engage in a sham process in order to achieve a political goal. They have shown themselves to be less than honorable men.