I’m watching the US Senate hearings considering the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a seat on the United States Supreme Court. I’ve got other things I’m trying to do so my attention is not totally consumed by them. The battle lines are pretty clear.
One thing that seems a little out-of-place are the constant interruptions by people who suddenly burst out yelling unintelligible words who have to be escorted out of the room. The Chairman of the committee holding the hearing Chuck Grassley has said they are exercising their First Amendment Rights. Are they? That amendment talks about free speech. Speech is defined in Mirriam-Webster as “the communication or expression of thoughts in spoken words.” Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “the expression of or the ability to express thoughts and feelings by articulate sounds.” Articulate is defined as “having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently.”
How does unintelligible screaming come under that definition? And, even when one considers its purpose, which is merely to interrupt a hearing to show the yeller’s unhappiness, it still is far from speech. It’s more like breaking chairs.
Yes, there were the interruptions but the highlight from yesterday’s hearing was the Kavanaugh- Gutenberg encounter which seems to have gathered much attention in the news media. A video is here.
You see Kavanaugh sitting and listening to a senator speaking. He starts to get up. Off to the left of the screen a man who is Gutenberg is approaching him from what appears to be from the front of the room. He says excuse me holding out his left arm. Kavanaugh does not respond. He then taps him on the back and Kavanaugh turns around. He then puts his right hand out and starts to introduce himself as the father of a victim of the Parkland School shootings. Kavanaugh turns away and Gutenberg keeps talking at him. Much of the commentary has been critical of Kavanaugh for not talking to him.
Is the criticism justified? Should Kavanaugh have stopped and engaged in a discussion with him? Was Gutenberg justified in walking up to him, tapping him in the back, and expecting him to shake hands with him?
I don’t know whether Kavanaugh recognized him or not. Senator Feinstein did state in her opening statement that he was at the hearing. She had invited him to come. She also suggested in her statement that Kavanaugh’s stance on guns perhaps is the type of position that caused shootings like the one at Parkland to happen.
Gutenberg had tweeted at 8:03 a.m. on September 3, 1918, “I will be at Kavanaugh hearings and I hope to play a role in ensuring that this man does not become the next Supreme Court Justice.”
I assume Kavanaugh was briefed on this email. If not, he certainly knew that Senator Feinstein had him there not as one of his supporters. Put yourself in his shoes. You have a guy come up to you in the middle of a hearing as the television cameras are rolling who you know is opposed to your nomination. If he knew of the email, I’m sure he thought he was up to no good and was going to cause some type of ruckus. If he didn’t know of it, when he heard him say who he was he knew no good could come from the encounter.
I feel bad for Gutenberg. He lost a wonderful daughter. No parent should have to go through the ordeal of losing a child especially in a school shooting. He will always suffer this loss grievously. But I suggest he was way out of line in approaching Kavanaugh.
He was asked why he did it. He said: “I wanted to talk to him about what his potential new job would mean on this issue. [guns]”
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 -8 tells us: “There is a time for everything,. . . a time to be silent and a time to speak,” That forum and that moment was not the time for speaking. Kavanaugh did what he should have done.