In Depth with Brad Byrd

In-Depth with Brad Byrd: Dr. Robert Dion

Brad Byrd was joined by Dr. Robert Dion to talk about the controversy surrounding Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his Supreme Court nomination hearings.



Brad- And welcome to In depth tonight. This may be remembered as one of the most pivotal weeks in recent years in Washington D.C, yes this is more than just a national worldwide story its a story with much local impact. Tomorrow the U.S Senate judiciary committee is set to hear testimony from one of the women who alleged supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. It is a critical point in the Trump administrations bid to ensure a conservative high court for the next generation or two. Im joined tonight by our long time guest analyst Dr. Robert Dion associate professor of political science, he is the chair of the department of law, politics, and society at the University of Evansville. Dr. Dion good to see you tonight, we need about an hour to cover the ground we got so we'll get right to it. The historic aspects of whats going on in Washington,it indeed is going to have an impact on our future.

Dr. Dion- Absolutely, what we're seeing tomorrow are things that we haven't seen in a very long time. The closest parallel is probably to the Clarence Thomas confirmation which was 27 years ago.


Brad - But it was much different. In many ways.


Dr. Dion - Different in many ways but again a nagging reminder that we haven't come very far in questions of sexual assault and the behavior we have towards women. But you're right it also has long lasting consequences because the decisions that will be made this week and next week could very well last an entire generation. If you secure and cement a conservative majority on this court, we may not see another opportunity to change that for a quite a long time.


Brad- Polarization in this country is really on display in the capital building this week, the three accusers, a third one and possibly a fourth one that was revealed tonight. The democrats want an outside investigation republican senators say no, Mitch McConnel is really fighting to get this vote in. Why is that?


Dr. Dion- Well he's determined to get this over with. They've got a candidate he's highly qualified. They may have the votes to narrowly secure his confirmation and he doesn't want to risk it by waiting any longer. The more they delay, the more the confirmation is in danger. This really is the crown jewel for the Senate Majority Leader. Hes built his long political career trying to build up his reputation and put himself in a position to make lasting changes. I know he's looking at one more term in the Senate, but if he were to retire after getting Kavanaugh on the court, he can just say, look what I've done, I've put in place a conservation majority for a generation to come.


Brad - And the NPR and PBS poll that has been released suggests that this is not really a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is a gender based  gap. Most men in that poll say move on, get the vote, we don't need an investigation. But a totally different take by women in this country.

Dr. Dion - Absolutely. The gender gap has been around in polling since 1980. There are some years where it gets bigger, it gets exaggerated or amplified for a variety of reasons. And you had better believe that what's happening tomorrow in the Senate Judiciary Committee arouses all sorts of unpleasant memories and feelings among woman voters, Republicans and Democrats. This is very risky terrain. You know, if you want tot alk about that NPR PBS poll, there was a stunning, jaw dropping finding sort of buried underneath the top line. And that was a majority of Republican respondents in that survey said that even if all the charges against Kavanaugh were true, they still want him to serve on the Supreme Court for the rest of his life. That just tells you the sort of sad, highly polarized condition we're in, that even a known sexual assault perpetrator is somebody who's acceptable to one party.

Brad - And Republican Senators have indicated that they do not want to ask questions. And they have gone to the extent of actually selecting a female sex crimes prosecutor that will question Dr. Ford and presumably Judge Kavanaugh. What do you make of that? That's never been done that I know of.

Dr. Dion - It's never been done, no. It's the job of the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold it's own confirmation hearings. There's some qualified people. Look at John Cornyn from Texas. He's a former attorney general. He knows his way around. He knows how to ask questions. A very highly  capable lawyer. But they know exactly how risky it is to see an older white man browbeat a woman who claims to be the victim of sexual assault. That's risky politically so they've taken this really unprecedented step to abdicated their own authority and place it in the hands of a woman who presumably will be less risky because she not a senator, she's not accountable to the voters.

Brad - And Judge Kavanaugh going on TV this week. Now, that brings back memories of Richard Nixon's Checkers speech. That's decades ago. Bill and Hillary Clinton on the 60 Minutes interview after the Gennifer Flowers scandal erupted. But this is different, this is a Supreme Court nominee going on television voluntarily, in this case with Fox News, stating his case really on the offensive on that.

Dr. Dion - This is uncharted territory, but I think it's another indication of the kind of politicization of the judiciary. Clearly, that's the case in the Senate side when it comes to confirming or not confirming. You know, I'm old enough to remember when Bork was the subject of a vicious paid advertising campaign, and the same with Clarence Thomas, and others. But this idea of him presenting himself with his wife on a national television audience to portray his own side of things  puts him in the position of somebody who's almost like a political candidate, and that's really not where we want to go. I mean, the Supreme Court lives and dies basically on it's own moral authority. It's meant to be removed from the political branches and we've seen just this generation long dissent into a heavy duty polarization that's not edifying for the country.

Brad - We have other talking points but I'm getting the wrap so we'll have plenty of opportunities in the near future. Dr. Robert Dion, thank you so much.

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