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Activist: The energy, the passion, the fierce activism on display right here, reflects the fury that voters, especially women, but so many of us together across this country are feeling.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m Mehdi Hasan, welcome to the show, which is a special “Oh my God they actually just went and confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court” edition of Deconstructed.
Crowd: Sham! Sham! Sham! Sham!
MH: That was the scene outside the Capitol today, as inside the Senate horrific history was being made.
Vice President Mike Pence: On this vote the yeas are 50, the nays are 48. The nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh of Maryland to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmed.
MH: Are you angry? You should be because I’m angry. I’m fucking furious. Excuse my language. What a day. What a week. What a month this has been. This afternoon, Saturday the 6th of October, 2018, Brett Michael Kavanaugh, U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the District of Columbia circuit, former staff secretary to George W Bush, former member of Kenneth Starr’s investigation into Bill Clinton and former student of Georgetown Prep and Yale University where he was accused of sexual assault by not one, not two, but by three different women. That Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed today as the 114th Supreme Court Justice of the United States, despite opposition and criticism from two and a half thousand law professors, the American Bar Association, hundreds of alumni of Georgetown Prep, his former roommate at Yale, the former Republican Supreme Court Justice and a former supporter of his, John Paul Stevens.
John Paul Stevens: At that time, I thought he had definitely the qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court. His performance during the hearings caused me to change my mind.
MH: Despite opposition from three of his closest friends from Yale who wrote a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday headlined “We Were Brett Kavanaugh’s Drinking Buddies. We Don’t Think He Should Be Confirmed”.
Despite opposition from thousands of people marching in the streets here in Washington D.C., hundreds of women occupying Senate office buildings day after day, many of them survivors of rape or sexual assault, and speaking in the offices of supposedly undecided senators, telling their own horrific stories… despite all of that, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, today, to the highest court in the land, for a lifetime position with one Republican, Lisa Murkoswki of Alaska voting against and one Democrat, the shameless, disgraceful, right-wing enabler Joe Manchin of West Virginia voting in favor. And please don’t give me this crap about Manchin being a conservative Democrat in a red state, so he has to vote like this or he’ll lose his re-election race, because what is the point of electing Democrats to Republican states if they’re going to vote like Republicans anyways? Seriously, what is the point? And how does Manchin even get to be called a Democrat after this vote of his today?
But it wasn’t just Manchin who helped get Kavanaugh across the line. There were the so-called swing voters, Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, who pretended to be moderate Republicans, pretended to be non-ideological and interested in bipartisan compromise, but tend to vote with their party, with Donald Trump, on nearly every major occasion. They’re not swing voters, they’re not moderates; they’re frauds, plain and simple.
Lest we forget, the newest member of the Supreme Court was credibly accused of sexual assault by three different named women.
Dick Durbin: Dr. Ford with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?
Christine Blasey Ford: 100%.
MH: He also seems to have perjured himself in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee just nine days ago, lying under oath about everything from his drinking to the sexual references in his yearbook; he also exposed himself to be not a sober, impartial jurist but, rather, an angry and partisan Republican hack.
Brett Kavanaugh: This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election… revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.
MH: And yet they still confirmed him. The message of today’s vote is crystal clear: If you’re a rich white man in America, a rich white conservative man in America, you do not have to face the consequences of your actions, you do not have to have to be held accountable for your lies, you never have to apologize for your behavior. There is an old boys club and there is a culture of impunity. And no, this country is not a meritocracy.
The gravity of today’s vote, today’s confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh cannot be overstated. Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court and entrenching a hard-right, conservative, Trumpian majority will have consequences not just for you, not just today, tomorrow, or even next year, but for your kids, your grandkids, maybe even your great grandkids.
Brett Kavanaugh is 53 years old. He’s got maybe 30 years ahead of him on the Supreme Court. Three decades in which to rule against action on climate change, against Medicare for All, against Roe versus Wade, against protections for workers, against campaign finance reform, against affirmative action, and in favor of gerrymandering, voter suppression, corporate power and yes, corrupt presidents. Hell, maybe he’ll even help the Supreme Court deliver the Republican Party another illegitimate presidency a la Bush vs Gore in December 2000.
So, the questions I want to ask today are about where we go from here. What does the resistance to Kavanaugh do now? What can Democrats do, if anything, to try and stop a Supreme Court dominated by the hard right from rolling back everything progressives hold near and dear to their hearts? And where does the Kavanaugh confirmation leave women in this country, where does it leave the MeToo movement?
So, on this week’s Deconstructed, the Republicans may have won the battle over Kavanaugh, but how do the rest of us win the war?
MH: My first guest today is my good friend Ryan Grim, head of The Intercept’s DC Bureau and one of the reporters who helped break the Christine Blasey Ford story back in early September.
He was on Deconstructed a couple of weeks ago talking Brett Kavanaugh and he’s back again now on this historic and deeply depressing day. Ryan, first off, what’s your reaction to today’s vote? Is this what you thought would happen all along?
Ryan Grim: No, not exactly. I continue to underestimate the Republican party’s willingness to kind of plow through norms and plow through opposition and just take the slings and arrows to get the result that they want. And I think part of that comes from the fact that I cover the Democratic party and liberal and progressive movements much more so than I cover the Republican party and the difference there on that question is just so stark. The Republican party is a very much means justify the ends. They’re going to get the result they want whatever they have to do.
Whereas, you know, liberals are much more beholden to the process and beholden to how things look. So, no, I thought that there was a decent chance that he would withdraw.
MH: That he would withdraw, not just that Flake or Collins might grow a spine or get a conscience?
RG: No, I didn’t necessarily think that Flake or Collins were the ones that you would rely on but in politics you get a certain amount of public pressure and then nominees withdraw. That’s kind of how it works and the Republicans are saying here is “No, we’re not actually going to follow that script.”
MH: But hasn’t Trump – Trump’s changed that script.
MH: Because the moment that tape came out where he bragged about sexual assault, everyone assumed normal politics in any country in the world, he would have pulled out or been forced to pull out by his party. When he plowed through that, to use Mitch McConnell’s phrase. Then Roy Moore was able to plow through and stay on as a candidate and Brett Kavanaugh can turn up and shout at the Senate and say I’m not going anywhere.
RG: Right, so Trump changed it for Trump. And he was immune to gravity but gravity still applied to every other object and it even brought Roy Moore down in the ballot at the end. This is kind of the first case of Trump’s immunity to gravity extending to another object and it being Kavanaugh just saying “You will not intimidate me. I will not drop out. I’m going to push through,” and doing it.
MH: And push through and gets this narrow vote and one of the narrowest votes ever for Supreme Court Justice. What do you think Brett Kavanaugh’s thinking right now? How is he celebrating this evening? Is he thinking “Yes screw the Clintons, screw George Soros.”
MH: He likes beer, I’ve heard. I don’t know if I can confirm this but he may like beer.
RG: Yes. I think skis, skis are being had at Tobin’s, Timmy’s.
MH: I don’t know whether to laugh or cry right now.
RG: The real question is less how Kavanaugh is responding. I think that’s not quite knowable yet. The other question is, how is John Roberts going to respond to this? Believe it or not, John Roberts is now the swing vote.
MH: And of course, he famously gave that vote to save Obamacare back in, what is it? 2012. Swing vote is this ultra-conservative chief justice, but that’s only if it’s five-four. The really depressing prospect is it could go 6-3.
MH: It could go 7-2. I mean Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in her 80s. Breyer, 80. Trump could get two more justices, especially if he wins re-election in 2020. I mean, it’s a nightmare scenario, but it is a realistic scenario. It’s not impossible.
RG: Right and if Republicans hold the Senate in November as looks possible. It looks more likely than not. Democrats have a chance they’d have to hit every single one. So, it’s not impossible. And you know now people are out saying – well now, people are angry about the way that old Brett was treated and so they’re going to come out and vote.
MH: One of the things they’re doing to try and rev up their base, I thought Donald Trump Jr., that great political analyst and scholar tweeting earlier about how they’re going to try and impeach Kavanaugh. Make sure you protect the Senate turn out and vote. But the irony is that even if the Democrats were to win the Senate and as you say it’s highly improbable, they’re not going to get the two-thirds majority that you would need in the Senate to impeach.
You can impeach him in the House with a simple majority and the Democrats in the House may do that. But in the Senate, you’re not going to get those that two-thirds majority which is why I wrote a piece if you remember about a week, 10 days ago saying it’s time to pack the court. It’s time for Democrats to talk about expanding the number of justices on the court. A lot of traditional centrist folks say “Hold on, you can’t do that. It’s a pipe dream. It’s a fantasy. It’s never going to happen.”
I suspect after today more and more people are going to be coming around to my way of thinking and saying, you know what the only way to balance this hugely imbalanced court in which a crazy right-wing John Roberts is a swing voter is to add some liberal justices when there’s another liberal President.
RG: Right. Democrats are very reluctant to break norms on their own. And you know, if you look at the way that when they finally got rid of the judicial filibuster, it was only after several years of McConnell just flat out basically refusing to allow Obama to put executive branch or judicial branch nominees in place. So finally, they responded by getting rid of the filibuster for most judges.
And so right, in other words now that Republicans have now gone and done, you know struck two blows against the Supreme Court: one holding open the Merrick Garland seat throughout the entire election and then two ramming through this guy without full public disclosure about his background.
They’re still sitting on tens of thousands of documents and putting it through on this very narrow vote. Now you’ve pushed the norm ferry back a little bit. So that gives Democrats more room to say “Okay, look, here’s what we’re going to do to respond to that” because Democrats very rarely make the first move, but often they’re willing to respond.
And so, the response isn’t necessarily – the response is to publicly call for impeachment, but if they do get power to then add justices to the court to balance them out.
MH: I suspect they won’t do that but I think the more we have this conversation the more likely it is to happen. Ryan, thanks so much for taking time out to speak to me.
RG: Thank you for having me here.
MH: That was Ryan Grim, our D.C. bureau chief who’s been out front on this Kavanaugh story for several weeks now. Joining me to carry on the discussion about where we go from here, what activists can do now and how screwed up the US political and legal system now is are my Intercept colleague Briahna Joy Gray, our senior politics editor who wrote a much-discussed piece last week headlined ‘The Unbearable Dishonesty of Brett Kavanaugh, and Winnie Wong, senior adviser to the Women’s March, co-founder of People for Bernie and one of the organizers of the big protest at the Capitol this week.
Winnie Wong, Briahna Joy, thank you both for joining me on Deconstructed. Winnie, a lot of us are feeling a combination of depression and anger today. I would assume that you’re feeling it more than a lot of us. You’ve spent the past few days protesting at the Senate outside the offices of Republican senators, getting arrested, shouting in the gallery of the Senate at Susan Collins as she gave her absurd apology for Brett Kavanaugh yesterday. How do you feel today?
Winnie Wong: I’m definitely not depressed. I am enraged, but that’s like a normal sort of state for me and has been for some time now. I feel, candidly, a little shell-shocked because I expected that we would win. These series of protests have been rolling for the last month and I think you know, if you were paying attention, if you’ve been paying attention this nomination received very, very little mainstream news coverage and he was supposed to sail through this confirmation process.
None of what we have seen over the past month should have happened. And we turned the tide on that, really. We kind of we co-opted their narrative and made it ours. And so, I think what we have done is like we’ve created momentum to continue the real resistance work that needs to be done. And I think that’s good. And so, I guess like, you know, for me, like as an activist and as an organizer, defeat is not really something that I dwell on. It’s just not how that works.
MH: That’s a good position to be in.
MH: Briahna, despite all the protests from folks like Winnie and others on the capital – amazing scenes in recent days – despite journalists, like yourself, documenting cataloguing, clearly laying out Brett Kavanaugh’s clear lies, numerous lies under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he still made it onto the Supreme Court today. He still made history. What does that tell us? What does that tell you about the state of modern America?
Briahna Joy Gray: There has been a lot of conversation over the course of Trump’s presidency and during you know, 2016 about whether there’s a crisis of democracy and whether there has just been too much political balkanization for us to really communicate with each other across the aisle in any meaningful way. And I’ve resisted a lot of that characterization. I’ve resisted it partly because I think that what people are seeing as new has been there for a long time and that Trump has simply made it in-civil enough for people who are generally complacent to notice. I did start to feel though over the course of the past week, I have to confess, a kind of despondency that felt new because there was just so much evidence. For me particularly as a lawyer, I think I was just so overwhelmed by how clear a standard there was that he didn’t meet.
MH: He didn’t meet it for like a low-level court judge let alone the Supreme Court.
BJG: He’s not qualified for the job he has in my opinion and the ABA had questions about him when he was being chosen for the Appellate Court. He had no experience as a judge prior to that so this idea that he’s a super qualified person from Yale – yada, yada, yada. It’s beyond the pale –
MH: Top of his class at Yale, which is a lie. Another lie.
BJG: Highly skeptical, you know, but I do think that what was interesting was listening to Murkowski’s statement last night, which I think most people had tuned out of by that point, because what she announced was a standard that is very different from this “beyond a reasonable doubt” criminal law standard that we’ve heard people go on and on about and her standard, very sensibly, was a standard laid out by the Judicial Code of Conduct, which is supposed to set forth the standard for all federal judges and what that says is very simply, what is common sense, which is that judges should behave with a level of decorum that inspires faith in the institution of the Supreme Court.
MH: Not rant and rave on live T.V.
MH: Not lie a number of times about things that are demonstrably untrue.
BJG: Exactly and that’s how we like – when she said that, when it came so close, like using that standard requires you to come to the conclusion that she came to. And her speech actually exposed why there’s such a commitment to that reasonable doubt standard because that’s the only way. Setting a criminal standard that’s set that high –
MH: He wasn’t on trial. You’ve made this point on Twitter, you made this point in your articles. This ludicrous argument that Susan Collins advanced again to say that “this is so unfair to him because -” and I think Lindsey Graham said well “- the Maryland police would never have even investigated this. He’s not – he wasn’t on trial for assaulting Christine Blasey Ford.
BJG: He wasn’t on trial. Even a civil trial –
MH: It was a job interview, last time I checked and most people don’t get the job when they perform like that at the interview.
BJG: Exactly and even this, like a preponderance of evidence standard, which is what Collins said that she used to come to this decision, more reasonable than that, even that is too high because there’s again, not even a civil deprivation here. There’s not even the possibility that anything material is going to be taken away from him. Nothing was going to be taken away from him. He was being offered an opportunity and he didn’t meet the measure that that opportunity required.
MH: Winnie, Winnie, activists on the left have spent a lot of time rightly focusing in recent years on corporate power, the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, Fox News. Bernie Sanders who you’re close to has talked a lot about the media’s role in pushing this right-wing reactionary agenda that we’ve seen in the United States in recent years – is it time now finally, past time, to add the Supreme Court to the list of organizations and institutions which are basically barriers to progressive politics in this country? Does the left now have to recognize the Supreme Court as something that needs tackling, reforming?
WW: Yes. I think you know, there is a movement right now to talk about packing the courts. So we first have to understand that this process is a sham. This whole process has been an absolute sham and candidly embarrassing for anybody participating in the Democratic process, which I guess is all of us.
MH: Can I say as on behalf of the rest of the world is the foreigner here? Yes, everyone’s laughing at you.
WW: It’s embarrassing but we now find ourselves having to do a couple of things right? We have to win the Senate, we have to win the House. Then we have to talk about packing the courts, you know, which is not going to be a two-year process likely. It could be a four-year process. But we are going to to do that. We are going to have to do that because you know, these two judges are young, you know. They’re going to be there for –
MH: Thirty, forty years.
WW: Thirty, forty years. And that could also change. We don’t know what that look will look like. But I mean I think that we’re in a period of like real transformation. We’re about to experience like some systemic transformation perhaps.
MH: And I don’t think – my worry is that because the Supreme Court has been held as this kind of separate institution above the fray, I worry that progressives don’t recognize how much influence and power that court led by John Roberts and with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh and Co. can do. How much damage they can do to any – Bernie Sanders, let’s say, gets elected as the first Socialist President of the United States in 2020. A lot of his agenda could be very easily blocked by this court. This is a court that almost got rid of Obamacare. It was one vote away from getting rid of the very moderate, very conservative Obamacare. The idea you could have medicare for all with this Supreme Court seems to be a pipe dream.
WW: Well, this this court is about bolstering the concentration of power, right? That’s what it’s about. It’s about making sure that corporations who have so much influence on our politics can remain influential in our political systems. That’s really what it’s about. It’s about a lot of things. It’s about the Chevron deference. It’s about dismantling the administrative state. We could go on and on. We don’t have a lot of time to do that.
MH: But there’s unfortunately a long list.
WW: A long list.
MH: In the short term Briahna in the short term given all those kind of structural impediments and factors, what do you think the Democrats should be doing now, this week like Monday?
BJG: So two things: I actually do they should pursue impeachment. I think that the perjury case is good and that the goal shouldn’t be necessarily whether or not it’s going to work in terms of getting Kavanaugh off the bench. I think what it does, especially going into midterms, is establish that we are in this for principled reasons, not just for strategic reasons. Because that’s the claim the Republicans always have back to us, right? “You’re not really in this. You don’t really care about sexual assault. What you care about is keeping him off the bench.” But there’s a greater – there’s another great principle in addition to sexual assault here, which is that this is a man who very clearly to most Americans, a majority of Americans, lied before the Senate and that, arguably, is a kind of a like a deeper more central corrosive presence to have on the Supreme Court and there’s a very strong argument for that.
Bernie Sanders has been one of the few senators that’s really been pretty consistent about this and he mentioned it again in his remarks last night and kind of, went through the list of what he felt were the most significant moments of perjury. And I also think it’s important to keep this up over the next month or so because we’re about to get all of the documents that were not disclosed about Kavanaugh prior to the hearing process. And if the Democrats have basically let this argument go by the time those documents come up, if they try to reinvigorate this argument, they’re going to seem like johnny-come-lately’s and that it’s pretextual and of the moment’s past.
MH: So they don’t let go of this, in your view?
BJG: I don’t think they should let go at this.
WW: I totally agree if we win the House, the House Judiciary can open an investigation if they get the gavel. So if we are in a moment where we believe that we’re likely to take the House in November, then we absolutely on the outside should be pushing to create the narrative that demands that the House Judiciary open an investigation into perjury because what do you have to lose? You either do nothing or you do something and if you’re going to do something then you better be strategic about it.
MH: And that’s one of the issues that the Democrats have had, I guess, what the narrative is because rightly sexual assault has been at the center of the case against Kavanaugh. Some of the other cases against Kavanaugh which are equally disqualifying if not equally strong, the perjury case in particular, have kind of been lost along the way and bringing that back front and center is very important. Winnie, on the Democrats themselves, the Democrats in the Senate tried and failed to stop Kavanaugh from getting confirmed –
WW: Did they try?
MH: Well, that’s – you beat me to my question. Did they try? Because some people say they didn’t try hard enough or they didn’t try. Others say come on, they’re the minority party. You cannot blame a minority party for what the majority party was going to do anyways. Where do you stand?
WW: Chuck Schumer showed an absolute lack of leadership in this moment. It’s a crisis. Actually, it is a crisis in our democracy and he showed an utter lack of leadership. He rushed to confirm lots of conservative judges in the lower courts because he had to go away for a holiday which I find –
WW: Unconscionable, really. So he throughout this whole process, and I’ve been really – there is an inside-outside strategy right? Like this is not – the protests that you see wall-to-wall coverage on cable news, the photos that you see above the fold on every major paper across the country, these are organized protests. We have friends on the inside in the House and in the Senate who have been helpful, but they are not getting leadership. They’re taking instruction from people like Linda Sarsour and I and that is, that’s fine.
I mean, I’m fine with that. But when I look at who they should be taking direction from, it’s not from people like Chuck Schumer and they should be – he should be organizing his caucus inside. And that’s actually not happening.
MH: But if you look at, just to be fair, if you look at Senators like Harris, Booker, Hirono, they’ve done good work in recent weeks.
WW: Sure, yeah, they’ve been hanging out with us. Harris has opened her office to us and she’s like come on in and have a Cliff bar. You know, Senator Sanders has allowed us to use his interior conference room to you know, send out emails –
MH: What could or should the Democrats have done that they didn’t do? One thing for the listener who’s not aware of the kind of inside-outside strategy.
WW: I think that Chuck Schumer should have actually had a much more forward-facing narrative about why this nominee is bad and he really didn’t do that. He didn’t actually do that until we said he’s bad and that started on September 3rd and 4th when we first went in and did these –
MH: But just to be devil’s advocate I agree with you, you know, I think the Democrats are always weak on these issues, but just to be devil’s advocate – even if he had done that even, if he had been, you know, he’d been the most ardent opponent of Kavanaugh from the get-go and led his caucus much more strongly would that have stopped Joe Manchin from voting in favor of Kavanaugh? Would that have stopped Susan Collins from doing what she was always going to do?
WW: Well, Susan Collins, I think was always going to vote with Kavanaugh because she is cozy with the Bush family, right? She’s you know, she’s – Brett Kavanaugh, let’s call him who he is. He’s an operative. He’s a republican operative and a conservative ideologue. That’s who he is and he’s aligned with conservatives and she is the same. So she was always going to vote for him. Murkowski had an out and she probably negotiated that out and we don’t have to get into that. But Manchin, I think if he had been whipped by Schumer could have voted with us and then we would have some more time.
MH: For those of you who are not political anoraks Winnie’s not calling for the literal physical whipping. Though some of us today may actually feel that way towards Joe Manchin.
WW: If you live in West Virginia, you know where to go. No but –
MH: No but, he’s a disgrace. I read yesterday that he’s even been on the record saying he would consider voting for Trump in 2020. I’m not sure how he gets to keep the Democrat label after this latest vote. Briahna, just before we finish when you look at the villains of this piece, the villains of the piece, who do you think, looking back over, the last few weeks is the number one villain? I know there’s so many to choose from. I mean, I look at Grassley. I look at McConnell. There’s obviously Collins and Flake, the fake moderates, who I wrote about for The Intercept today. Who do you think is the big villain of this piece?
BJG: You know, I get a lot of flack for never – for punching center more than I punch right and I’m going to do it again right now because I don’t have high standards for the people who are supposed to be doing what they’re doing which are not follow my interest, you know. They’re following their own. What my concern is, is that we knew that we were going to have a hearing, we knew that we’re going to have questioning opportunities of five-minute intervals, and there wasn’t – of all the prosecutors that we have in our bench nobody said, “let’s put together a questioning strategy where we all pick up the mantle where the last person went down, where we don’t let Kavanaugh off the hook as he can equivocate for five minutes and never be pressed in any of these questions. We didn’t set him up for opportunities for impeachment down the line. We didn’t use his testimony and get other facts their due before this that we can impeach him with during the testimony.” I’m concerned that we didn’t make the case in advance that was going to put pressure on him and put pressure on Manchin and set up a moral argument to make them feel constrained in their choices.
And I’m concerned now as I’ve been tweeting about recently that knowing that the FBI investigation was going to be inadequate and knowing how many people have spoken out to newspapers, et cetera, that they have information that wasn’t questioned at all or wasn’t looked into it at all, that the Democrats didn’t take that opportunity to do their own investigation and make that information available to the American people.
They could have had a press conference that basically laid out for hours and hours and hours yesterday what the unheard narrative is, what all the facts are that we weren’t able to see, whatever it was in that secret room, whatever the FBI report was that could have been contrasted starkly with the transparent Democratic investigation and that could have put a different kind of pressure on these Senators to do the right thing because a moral case had been made and they would not be able to fall on these arguments that “Well, I couldn’t prove conclusively that he did it so there must be nothing there.” We could have shown that there was something there if there was that kind of political will but we haven’t seen this kind of forward thinking or innovation from the Democratic party.
MH: So last question to you both: given all of that do you think we’re now going to see a change in the “resistance” to the Republicans? We’ve seen how ruthless the Republicans are. We know how ruthless they can be. They’re not going to get any less ruthless. Are you optimistic about the Democrats getting a bit more of a backbone?
WW: Well, I’m a registered independent and I’m pretty ruthless and so I have every intention of continuing to scale what we’re doing now. We have a lot of plans that are going to be unveiled in the next days.
MH: And Susan Collins is on your radar?
WW: Susan Collins is on my radar. Yeah, we’ve raised you know, I think we’ve hit the three-million-dollar mark. The new goal is four million. There are matching funds. We are, you know, in a moment now where we understand that like we can actually like raise money from small-dollar donors and from ordinary people in the country to actually challenge these Republicans. We’re not in any way feeling defeated. We’re feeling more emboldened than ever before and that’s really because we do have this inside-outside strategy now and I don’t want to name all the Senators, Senator Sanders, who have been you know, who have been such great allies to the social forces on the outside led by people like myself and Linda Sarsour and others.
We are leading the Democratic institutions to become better actors. Like they’re learning from us. They’re saying this is a teachable moment. This is instruction that we want to take.
MH: I hope you’re right. Winnie Wong, Briahna Joy Gray, thank you both for joining me on Deconstructed.
WW: Thank you.
BJG: Thank you for having us.
MH: That was Briahna Joy Gray and Winnie Wong. Joining me now to talk about how women are reacting to this Brett Kavanaugh appointment and what his confirmation means for the MeToo movement in particular, is the world famous feminist writer and activist Naomi Wolf, author of the books The Beauty Myth and The End of America, among others, and CEO of The Daily Clout website.
Naomi, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.
Naomi Wolf: It’s a pleasure always to talk to you, Mehdi.
MH: Naomi, I wish we weren’t talking under these circumstances. first off. What was your reaction yesterday when you saw Susan Collins announce her yes vote on the senate floor and at that moment you knew like the rest of us that Kavanaugh had made it, he was heading to the Supreme Court. How did you feel?
NW: It’s hard to put that into words. I think, like a lot of people, I’m feeling a sense of you know, it’s actually not shock. It’s like – it’s very much like Stockholm Syndrome where you know, you’ve been held captive, held captive, held captive and then you finally think justice is going to be done. And I don’t mean like a preordained outcome, I mean just like a real FBI investigation, a real hearing from witnesses, a taking seriously of claims of sexual assault against women and your heart just starts to lift that little bit and you think you know where I’m going to move with the rest of the country into a place where the horrible past is behind us.
And then it’s like the lid gets slammed right down on you and you’re back in your prison cell and nothing’s going to change. That’s sort of how I feel.
MH: Yeah, and you preempted – my next question was going to be what message does the Kavanaugh confirmation send to women in America? And it’s that, isn’t it? That nothing’s going to change. It’s almost a year to the day, I think, yesterday was at the one-year anniversary of the New York Times story on Harvey Weinstein, which kicked off the whole MeToo phenomenon. And it’s so depressing to mark the first anniversary with this vote.
NW: Yeah, I mean, I mean, words – I’m sorry. I keep stammering because like words almost fail what a gigantic confrontation with kind of the third rail of patriarchy this is. You know, I was just thinking where is Weinstein? He’s not in prison. It’s been a year and there’s been no trial. He’s a free man. Like if there’s – there have been so many eye witnesses coming forward and the guy’s not even in custody. So you know, in this in this particular case, I guess what’s incredibly depressing is and I speak as a rape survivor, sadly, but you know, there are so many millions and millions and billions of us around the world, what was so depressing about this is that the spectacle came into kind of the center, like ground zero of power in our system and ground zero of the law, right? And the Bar Association like – what I try always to remind people Mehdi is that rape and sexual assault should not be dragged as they so often are into the realm of culture or you know gender misunderstandings.
NW: Yeah, these are crimes. They’re violent crimes and the law actually understands better than culture does that when someone touches someone else sexually against their will, that is sexual assault in most states, right? There doesn’t have to be bruises. There doesn’t have to be like, you know blood shed. That’s sexual assault as the law defines it in most states.
And so here’s you know, these accounts coming into the realm of law. And here’s – the thing that worries me most – is here’s an FBI investigation. This is you know, this is law enforcement. This is not a political agency. It’s police right? It’s domestic law enforcement. And at the end of it the three eyewitnesses who were claimed to have been in the room were not interviewed as far as we know, right? The two principles were not interviewed as I understand it and I’m not aware that Mark Judge was interviewed.
MH: Judge was interview, I believe. But Ford and Kavanaugh were not, bizarrely. Kavanaugh wasn’t re-interviewed, which is a very, very odd move. You mentioned the third rail of patriarchy, has there ever been a better ad for the existence of patriarchy, of white male privilege, of a culture of impunity here in the U.S. than these confirmation hearings?
I mean if Christine Blasey Ford had gotten as emotional, as angry, as rude as Kavanaugh did in his testimony, can you imagine the response? I mean, she would have been destroyed wouldn’t she by politicians and the press?
NW: Yeah, I think that’s pretty clear and the same kind of double standard applies to race, you know, if an African American man or women actually not backed by the Republicans because Thomas – Justice Clarence Thomas actually did get quite emotional but he was on the script. Yeah, we’re not allowed to have that kind of rage without being called hysterical but I don’t think that’s news.
MH: You have women being arrested outside Senate offices this week. We have a spike in the number of women calling rape crisis hotlines to report their assault. Has this whole Kavanaugh episode not only angered a lot of American women but radicalized them too in a good way? I’m using radicalized in a good way, that say “You know what? We’re not going to tolerate this anymore.”
NW: I mean, that’s great. You know, I tweeted that I really like, a part of me really likes seeing, you know, women screaming at people defending alleged abusers in public. It’s like six millennia overdue. I’ve no problem with that and as a survivor, I think that it’s you know, really healthy for this not to be a dirty little secret anymore. And for women and men – because 17 percent of sexual abuse survivors are men – to be out in the streets, you know, screaming and shouting about this violent, violent crime and the impunity of rapists, the impunity of molesters and harassers and gang rapists.
And you know, when I heard Susan Collins, there’s a part of you that kind of goes numb or goes dead. You know, it’s a very, I mean, trauma lasts forever, right? And when your abuser is, or you know, the crime itself is held up by the most powerful people in your society and they basically say “nothing you do will make this, make this change, you know, we’re going to defend the abusers. We’re going to say that your truth is a smear campaign, you know, nothing is going to move the dial. No one’s going to protect you. Right? No one’s going to protect your daughters and sons.”
I guess what I’m saying is in addition to the kind of rage and protest and God bless people are getting arrested. You know, it’s the right thing to get arrested for. I don’t want to downplay the grief and despair and sense of hopelessness, you know, that a lot of survivors are feeling right now. You know I can say that from personal experience it’s very hard to move ahead or even like get out of, you know, want to do anything if your whole culture says you’re not safe and the injury done to you doesn’t matter.
MH: I’m so sorry to hear you say that and it’s painful to hear.
NW: Thank you.
MH: Where do the Democrats go from here, Naomi? What can they do now to try and give hope to those of us, and especially survivors of assault, who are feeling so dejected today?
NW: I think what’s very sad, but predictable about this is that the Democrats always misunderstand that you know, Trump is speaking to his base and his base, you know – It’s a win like for Trump to be mocking the accuser just like it’s a win, you know, dog whistle politics or wolf whistle politics, you know. We have to look at who we’ve become. A chunk of America is deeply racist, deeply homophobic, deeply misogynist and they’re just fine. And so basically, the Democrats always make the same mistake over and over – well, they make many of the same mistakes over and over but one of them is they think everyone thinks like them and that everyone can be persuaded by the same kind of reason that they think is right.
MH: And you were an adviser to Bill Clinton and Al Gore back in the mid-1990s. Do you think the Democrats lost the moral high ground by never really owning the fact that one of their own Presidents had a pretty shoddy record when it came to sexual misconduct, to abuse of power in terms of sexual relations with employees, even the alleged rape case, Juanita Broaddrick. The fact that Trump tried to weaponize those accusers against Hillary in 2016 doesn’t change the fact that Democrats never really had a reckoning over Bill’s pretty dodgy record with women. Did they, Naomi?
NW: Yeah I’m really glad you said that. You’re exactly right. I mean the Democrats have no credibility at all on so many issues because of their partisanship, right? The same is true of surveillance, you know, privacy issues, police brutality issues. When Obama was in power all the violations, terrible whistleblower abuses, you know around civil liberties got worse, but Democrats didn’t care because their guy was in power. And now we reap what we’ve sown. There were like six voices in America on the left, you know, Glenn Greenwald. I’m proud to say I think I was one of them, you know, like but very vanishingly few – Amy Goodman – who were critical of those violations, you know, when “our guy” was in power and yeah, the same is true with with Clinton. I was one of like – I was the only feminist I know in the 90s and 2000s who was you know, not going to downplay the accusations against Bill Clinton by so many women. And I guess what people need to understand about politics is that something can be real and weaponized at the same time. In other words just because Juanita Broaddrick was backed and supported and maybe housed in hotels and you know, given talking points by Republican operatives doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have had her claims investigated.
Of course, we’re never going to gain the – I shouldn’t say “we” because I’m an independent by now because I’m so disgusted with both sides, but the Democrats will never gain what they desperately need, which is swing voters to win anything unless they’re willing to show some moral consistency across party lines.
MH: On that note, Naomi, we will have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining me.
NW: Thank you so much Medhi. I appreciate your call.
MH: That was the best-selling author, writer and activist Naomi Wolf. Talking about Brett Kavanaugh. It’s all we’ve been talking about for weeks now. And I suspect we’re not going to stop talking about it anytime soon. Nor should we. As Ryan, Briahna, Winnie and Naomi all agreed, there’s no longer even a pretense anymore: the Supreme Court is clearly a barrier, an obstacle to the left, to the Democrats, to progressive politics, to democracy itself, and it has to now be treated as such. Brett Kavanaugh is not an impartial disinterested judge, he’s a Republican political operative wearing black robes. Ready to strike down and roll back every major progressive law or policy that you can think of. And if that doesn’t make you mad, if that doesn’t make you start thinking long and hard about court packing, or term limits, about fighting fire with fire, and above all else, about going out to vote in November, so that a progressive-led House and Senate can stand up to future Brett Kavanaughs, and maybe even impeach this one, then I don’t know what will.
That’s our show on a day that history was made. For all the wrong reasons. We’ll be back next week with another special edition of Deconstructed: a panel discussion taped in front of a live audience in D.C. on the future of the left with Senator Jeff Merkley Congressman Ro Khanna, Our Revolution’s Nina Turner and former Bernie press secretary Symone Sanders. There’s still a few audience tickets left if you want to buy some, you can go to The Intercept Facebook page and grab some.
Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept, and is distributed by Panoply. Our producer is Zach Young. Dina Sayedahmed is our production assistant. Leital Molad is our executive producer. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.
I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please do subscribe to the show so you can hear it every Thursday. Go to theintercept.com/deconstructed to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review – it helps people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at [email protected]. Thanks so much!
See you next week.