The silly season is upon us again

After Edward Bennett Williams fired Baltimore Orioles manager Joe Altobelli, word got out that he had referred to his ex-manager, behind his back, as a “meathead.” Williams denied having used the word but added, “it is not inconsistent with my thinking.”

Fifteen years ago, David Brock alleged that Brett Kavanaugh, now under consideration for the Supreme Court, saw Hillary Clinton on television during a party in 1997, and mouthed the word “bitch.” I don’t know whether to believe Brock, but the word might not have been inconsistent with Kananaugh’s thinking — if not two decades ago then one decade, when Hillary tried mightily to keep him from being confirmed as a federal appellate judge.

The word also might not be inconsistent with the thinking of a large number of Senators from both parties.

I mention Brock’s allegation because it has been revived — a sure sign that the silly, albeit deadly serious, season of another judicial confirmation struggle is upon us. Off-hand comments a candidate may (or may not) have made at a party more than 20 years ago become fair game. Associates who were mentored by a candidate and who followed him from one job to another can allege, years after the fact, that the candidate engaged in sexual harassment. The allegation will enter, and very likely dominate, the debate over the nominee.

Fortunately, there are enough Republican Senators to confirm a nominee. But there is no margin for error. And one Republican Senator, Susan Collins, says she won’t vote for a nominee who has “demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade.”

What counts as such a demonstration? Obviously, a judicial decision could demonstrate hostility to Roe. So too, a law review article or speech. But can it be “demonstrated” by allegations from a law school classmate or a judicial clerk?

Only Susan Collins knows for sure. I suspect the rest of us are going to find out.

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