In her letter published Sept. 6, Donna Henderson argued that Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be given an up or down confirmation vote and the "partisan bickering" should be set aside. The basis of her argument was that Kavanaugh is clearly qualified. Henderson is correct on that last point: Kavanaugh has the legal knowledge and credentials demonstrating his elite intellectual qualifications. However, and importantly, these qualifications are necessary but are not sufficient. What has yet to be demonstrated is whether Kavanaugh is ethically fit to hold a lifetime appointment as a Supreme Court justice.
This, too, is a requirement, and one that Kavanaugh has yet to demonstrate he meets.
Indeed, Kavanaugh's ethical fitness has been a main focus of the current questioning. As an example, while working in the George W. Bush administration, Kavanaugh made use of documents stolen from Democratic senators when making recommendations about Supreme Court nominees. This is not in question. Kavanaugh has admitted under oath to using stolen information. What is in question is whether Kavanaugh knew.
Under oath Kavanaugh has pleaded his ignorance, but at the same time email documents show that he knew there were GOP operatives working to illicitly acquire Senate documents as "moles" and "spies." This suggests that Kavanaugh is willing to hedge to an extraordinary degree. He knew documents were being stolen, he knew he had documents which he probably shouldn't have had access to, but he didn't know for certain that those documents in particular were stolen. Any reasonable person would consider this to by lying to oneself, at the very least.
Questions about Kavanaugh's ethical fitness extend beyond his willingness to use stolen documents for political gamesmanship. For example:
• His positions on whether torture is constitutional remain unclear due to the Trump administration's unwillingness to release relevant documents from Kavanaugh's time working for President George W. Bush.
• Emails that the GOP has sought to suppress suggest that Kavanaugh has been lying under oath, or at least hedging via extreme use of legalese, on issues of law.
The list goes on and, in sum, Kavanaugh's ethical fitness is questionable.
Whether you agree with Kavanaugh on issues like limits on executive authority, whether presidents should be immune from investigation, abortion access, campaign finance, etc., is moot. North Dakotans claim to value honesty and forthrightness. If we indeed value honesty, Kavanaugh should concern you regardless of his politics and you should encourage vigorous questioning and encourage the release of currently hidden documents.
Dochtermann lives in Fargo.