First the absurd: During the confirmation hearings earlier this month on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) compared himself to Spartacus, characterizing, in heroic terms, his proposed release of 12 pages of classified documents containing emails from Kavanaugh’s service as an aide in George W. Bush’s White House.
Booker was most likely referencing the cable television series named after the historic rebel. The characterization is so grandiose, and so beyond the pale, that it seems unlikely that the reference was based on the 1960 film “Spartacus,” starring Kirk Douglas and directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, written by Dalton Trumbo and based on the novel by Howard Fast.
The senator’s ersatz bravery would seem more likely to be based on the ersatz hero, the more contemporary Spartacus of Starz cable TV, who, much like the senator himself, has much bluster and little depth.
The real Spartacus, a Thracian (perhaps Jewish) escaped gladiator-slave, led a revolt of fellow slaves against the Romans in the first century B.C. Demonstrating extraordinary courage and exposing himself to great danger, he sacrificed all in a desperate effort to obtain freedom for his people, dying in battle in 71 B.C.
Booker, on the other hand, faces no greater risk than perhaps a paper cut as he waves a sheaf of documents to emphasize a point concerning Kavanaugh’s stance on racial profiling—a baseless point, as a close reading of the now-public documents reveals.
It seems more than mildly absurd for Booker to compare his proposed release of papers to the act of Spartacus, who routinely risked his life fighting against heavily armed soldiers, while greatly outnumbered. The very fact that the senator would equate his proposed release of a handful of documents, regardless of the content, to the Herculean feats of one of history’s great rebel-warriors demonstrates the senator’s lack of comprehension as to what true heroism encompasses.
The self-aggrandizement is rendered all the more ridiculous by reports that his office had previously been informed that the documents were to be declassified—and had, in fact, been made public prior to Booker’s ascension to valor, having been released the night before by Bill Burck, the George W. Bush attorney charged with reviewing Bush-era White House emails for declassification and dissemination.
Booker’s self-admitted groping of a young woman, which he wrote about in a Stanford University newspaper in 1992, provides an appropriate segue for the next act in the theater of the absurd into which the confirmation process has evolved: the Kafkaesque, unverifiable allegations made against the Supreme Court nominee.
As described by Deanna Paul in the Washington Post, “[Christine Blasey] Ford has alleged that Kavanaugh pinned her down and clumsily groped her during a prep school party when Ford, 15, was a sophomore and Kavanaugh, 17, a junior.” Allegations weren’t contemporaneously communicated by the complainant, and, intentionally or not, she’s now been transformed into a political pawn, with a “legal team” no less, whose financing it would be interesting to know.
It seems unlikely that Ford is footing the bill for a passel of lawyers working long hours. And to what end? To rehabilitate her reputation? To raise awareness of all teenaged women of their rights to confront sexual abuse? Or, as is more likely, to accomplish by circuitous methods what couldn’t be executed directly: the character assassination of a politically undesirable nominee?
Lost in the painstaking efforts by Republican lawmakers to avoid even the remotest possibility of appearing to not accord the alleged acts an appropriate level of gravitas, is a critical question regarding adolescence and responsibility. Taking Ford’s accusations as true in their entirety, should such an incident disqualify Kavanaugh from appointment to the Supreme Court?
Does an isolated “clumsy groping”—or worse, depending on which version of the allegations one is relying on—by a teenager truly inform a mature adult’s persona and exercise of judgment? Does anyone over the age of 30 truly believe that it does? Or, as is the case with the groping by the senator from New Jersey, should such episodes, when true, be categorized as bad acts from which good people can still evolve? There are no facile answers, but the issues are worthy of examination and calm debate.
What this entire episode has demonstrated, from Spartacus to Ford, is the devolution of the confirmation process, of the Senate’s role of advice and consent regarding executive and judicial nominees. A circus atmosphere prevails, and reasoned exchange of opinions is now a quaint notion of the past.
If the Kavanaugh appointment is derailed, the result will be that, henceforth, no one can be confirmed to any position. I suggest that anyone and everyone will be vulnerable to attacks similar to the one being perpetrated by the Ford team, as evidenced by the emergence of Deborah Ramirez, whose singularly uncorroborated and belated accusation—filtered by a self-admitted alcoholic haze—has been deemed worthy of print by a hitherto respected journalistic outlet.
Phantoms formed from the past, real or imagined, can and will be used to haunt any and all.
Epoch Times contributor Marc Ruskin is a 27-year veteran of the FBI, an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the author of “The Pretender: My Life Undercover for the FBI.” He served on the legislative staff of U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.