The closest Mario Cuomo ever came to running for President was during the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, in October, 1991.
Cuomo was so furious over the timidity of the Democrats, who controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time—Chaired by Senator Joe Biden—and their failure to leap to Anita Hill’s defense, that it almost pushed him into the 1992 Presidential race. Cuomo was outraged over how terribly he believed women—personified by the dignified Professor Hill—were being mistreated by Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee, how the Democrats failed to stop the GOP bullying of her, and how they didn’t make Professor Hill’s war into their own.
I thought of Cuomo’s visceral reaction to the Thomas Hearings while I was watching the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on the Supreme Court Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. I carefully listened to the wrenching testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, sometimes choking back tears at the pain she had endured as a 15-year old girl, and the trauma that haunted her for the next 36 years. I intuitively understood Dr. Ford’s years of repressing a bad memory, since I had done the same thing for more than three decades concerning a gun-related incident in my own family, that did not involve sexual abuse, only uncontrolled anger.
So when Judge Kavanaugh descended into raw aggression and a toddler-like tantrum from the beginning of his testimony, I again thought of my father’s out-of-control temper as his way of trying to bull himself through any bad news. Only, my father wasn’t a federal judge, nor a nominee for the highest court in the nation. He was a working stiff, a maintenance man, with a drinking problem, and all of his children bore scars from his explosive anger.
Instead, here was Kavanaugh, a spoiled, Prep School rich boy, who lived a gilded-life like the President who nominated him, and chose to answer an allegation of sexual abuse and attempted rape with the kind of aggressiveness and uncontrolled behavior some of his high school and college peers remembered about him. Only this time, he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol, which made his ugly un-judgelike behavior even more bizarre.
Kavanaugh’s outburst also stripped bare his inherent partisan hatchet-man role, and his fealty to conspiracy theories. He channeled Donald Trump when he screamed at Democratic Senators for never getting over Trump’s election, and went after the Clinton’s for a “revenge-grudge” against him. Odd, since it was Kavanaugh, as an assistant to Special Prosecutor Kenneth Star, who spent two years and three million dollars pursuing a nut-case conspiracy theory that the Clintons were behind the suicide of Vince Foster.
But Kavanaugh’s crazed carrying-on was not the only distressing part of the Senate Judiciary Committee showdown between Dr. Ford and Trump’s mini-me. The failure of Senate Democrats to get equally emotional and hard edged was just as disturbing. I could hear Mario Cuomo’s voice in the back of my head, raising the following questions:
- Why the hell didn’t at least one Democratic Senator put the bullying Kavanaugh in his place, and tell him that HE was under investigation, NOT them?
- Why didn’t the Democratic Senators have a cross-examination strategy? Why didn’t all the Democrats cede their time to the two female Prosecutor Senators among them, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar—the Senators who made Kavanaugh most uncomfortable—to have a consistent, continuous and coordinated cross-examination?
- ·Why didn’t the Ranking Minority Member on the Committee, Senator Diane Feinstein, object on Personal Points of Privilege EVERY time any GOP Senator referred to or disparaged her. Feinstein, my own Senator whom I am supporting for re-election, should have insisted on speaking and correcting GOP lies each time they misrepresented what she did with Dr. Ford’s letter, and should have dared Grassley to shut her up.
- Why didn’t Richard Blumenthal use his great quote on “credibility” to bring up Kavanaugh’s lack of credibility in his past testimony and his lying, under oath, about stolen Democratic documents, and the Bush Administration’s torture policy?
- Why did Democratic Senators quietly sit by and not scream Points of Order, when Senator Lindsey Graham unilaterally took another 5 minutes—after ceding his 5 minutes to Phoenix Sex Crimes Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell?
- Why did Senator Mazie Hirono not scream out “Point of Order,” at Judiciary Committee Grassley when the GOP abandoned the use of Prosecutor Mitchell despite Senator Grassley’s commitment to Hirono and all Senators that ALL GOP Senators had ceded their time to Prosecutor Mitchell to cross-examine Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh?
- Why didn’t one single Democrat leap to Senator Klobuchar’s defense when the overly aggressive, nasty Kavanaugh sneered at her and asked if SHE ever became “black out” drunk?
- And why did not one Democratic Senator raise the issue of how Kavanaugh’s aggressive, out-of-control manner, behavior and histrionics were exactly like the aggressive behavior of every out-of-control alcohol driven sexual predator?
I remembered Mario Cuomo’s white-hot anger at injustice on this historic day of testimony by Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh. I could see Anita Hill’s quiet dignity in the face of a cascade of insults from crapulent white men, satisfied in their own self-righteousness. I thought of all of that, and of the bright, hopeful eyes of my three young granddaughters, and resolved even more to fight with my last breath to repair the world for them.