Herald-Whig View

Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing marred by protests

Posted: Sep. 5, 2018 11:25 am

PROTESTERS who disrupted the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Tuesday for Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court have had their 15 minutes of fame.

Now that the committee has seen that protesters have a strategy of venting, repeatedly and loudly, there is one reasonable means of halting the disruptions: All audience members should be ushered out after the first outburst occurs.

Senators from both parties made their frustration clear after the shouting started.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, and he wanted to see order restored.

"Mr. Chairman, I do not intend, at any point, to continue what I have to say with such interruptions. I don't care whose side they are on," Leahy said.

Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, said anyone who can't follow the rules of order "shouldn't even be allowed in the doggone room."

We agree.

These hearings are televised. Barring an audience would not eliminate transparency. It also wouldn't deny any of the protesters their 1st Amendment rights. Protesters could still picket outside the Capitol building, or call the offices of Senate members, or pursue any of the hundreds of other options available to them.

What they must not be allowed to do is bring a hearing to a halt. If they do, this tactic will become a favored weapon regardless of which party, or which splinter group, wants to disrupt the government.

Opposition to Kavanaugh's confirmation was expressed, within the rules of the Senate, by several of the committee members. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said she was concerned whether Kavanaugh would treat every American equally and whether he would feel a loyalty to party or president more than the U.S. Constitution.

Others, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pointed out that President Bill Clinton was under investigation when he nominated Justice Stephen Breyer and did not have to postpone confirmation until the outcome was known.

History shows how the pendulum of U.S. politics swings. The power shifts from one party to another. Republicans and Democrats might not agree on many things, but they must ensure that rules of order are followed at all times.

Nobody wins if the loudest protesters at any given moment can shout down a meeting.

Clearing the chamber of spectators is the surest way to end this sorry shouting match.