Kavana and Kavanaugh

“Kavanuagh” is not derived from Hebrew, but nevertheless, with this Supreme Court nomination process running as emotionally high as it did, the joke still elicits either a smile or a scowl.

October 9, 2018 20:27
3 minute read.
Brett Kavanaugh

JUDGE BRETT Kavanaugh preparing to speak to the US Senate Judiciary committee. . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A joke making its way around Orthodox Jewish synagogues these past few days is that US President Donald Trump had serious kavana. The obvious play on words makes use of the Hebrew word kavana (meaning intention, especially during prayer) and newly confirmed US Supreme Court Justice Brett Michael Kavanaugh.

“Kavanuagh” is not derived from Hebrew, but nevertheless, with this Supreme Court nomination process running as emotionally high as it did, the joke still elicits either a smile or a scowl. The name Kavanuagh is Irish, it comes from the Gaelic. The original name was Caomhanch and over centuries it became anglicized to Kavanaugh or various other spellings of the same name.

The first mention of Kavanuagh as a surname is around the 1100s. The name belonged to the oldest son of the Irish King of Leinster. His most notable namesake today, Brett Michael Kavanaugh, is indeed both Irish and Catholic.

The process by which Kavanaugh was confirmed by the US Senate to sit on the highest court in the land was an extremely painful process for Americans. Was – and still is. The pain is still stinging and will continue to sting for some time.

It all but consumed the media and wove its way through almost every conversation between friends and colleagues and even between strangers waiting at a bakery. A combination of the macabre and the surreal, it was impossible to escape. The process was freakishly similar to rubbernecking at the site of a horrific car accident on a highway. People have a need to slow down and see it for themselves and then recount the gore to those not present.

The kavana-versus-Kavanaugh joke was an attempt to inject some levity into a very serious, salacious, situation.

How did the situation spiral so out of control?

Article III of the Constitution of the United States establishes the judicial branch and the Supreme Court. It authorizes the Supreme Court, but not much more than that; it does not delineate its powers. Article III also establishes lower courts. In essence, it created the federal court system.

In Article II Section 2 Clause 2 of the Constitution, the US Senate is charged with the responsibility of approving presidential appointments and that includes approval over Supreme Court justices. The exact words are “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court.” The advise and consent concept dates back to the British monarchy. The parliament advised the crown when passing a law in parliament.

According to the constitution, it’s a pretty straightforward process. The Senate is supposed to either approve the president’s nominations or reject the nominations. Nowhere does it say that the Senate is to put the nominees on trial. There is no foundation for the advise and consent process to have morphed into the partisan frenzy Americans have been witness to and contributed to over these past few weeks.

Ever since Trump announced his choice for Supreme Court justice, advise and consent in the United States has devolved into a melee. It has ripped the United States to shreds. It has become a political weapon – not a tool but an ugly, destructive, potent, lethal weapon. It may be that those politicians and aides who have been responsible for the political strategy of bloodletting have made a big mistake.

The entire advise and consent process as it relates to newly-minted Justice Brett Kavanaugh is a visceral reaction to some very bitter frustrations. Much of that frustration stems from the election of Trump and his comments, while still a candidate, about appointing judges who would reverse the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision on abortion known as Roe v. Wade. It is that hot-button decision that decriminalized abortion and gave women freedom of choice when it came to abortion. As an interesting sidebar, very little of the Senate committee’s hearings centered on this issue. That was left to vocal protesters positioned outside Senate offices and everywhere the media’s cameras could find them. Senate debates revolved around character issues, devolved around issues of sexual harassment and truth-telling and had politicians playing identity politics, a game average Americans are becoming less and less tolerant of.

With midterm elections a month away, average Americans repulsed by the behavior of their politicians, will almost certainly use the ballot box to make sure that their voices are heard.

The writer is a columnist and a social and political commentator.

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