The art of differing

07-10-2018 09:30 AM

Youssef Sidhom

Youssef Sidhom

Problems on hold

Granted, it is impossible for the world to separate itself from US politics. I do not mean here US foreign policy which normally affects everyone in the world; I speak of local American issues which more often than not gain international interest.
President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States has dominated the news. The post to which Judge Kavanaugh was nominated is a prestigious, lifelong one, which enjoys immunity against dismissal. As soon as the nomination was announced, news circulated that Christine Ford, a psychology professor, accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her forty years ago.
At first, I was not really interested in the matter. It seemed like one more episode among so many that have been circulated throughout the last few years, including those in which several women accused President Trump of sexual assault, in attempts to create scandal and blackmail him during his presidential elections campaign. At the time it was said that Trump’s lawyers bought the silence of these women. If such behaviour appeared tainted with bribery or misconduct, it was not against the law. But the court convicted the use of campaign money for that purpose.
The Kavanaugh / Ford case is different, however. Both individuals are reputable American citizens. Ford did not go to the media but addressed her message to the relevant authority as soon as Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced to prevent him from earning the post which she said he did not deserve and did not have the honour or dignity to qualify for.
It is not my intention to analyse the Kavanaugh / Ford issue nor to sound a personal opinion on whether Kavanaugh may be innocent or guilty; rather, I wish to highlight how the US Congress dealt with the matter. Congress, the US legislative authority, is assigned with endorsing or rejecting nominations by the US President for all political and judicial posts related to State institutions. For this purpose, Congress holds hearing sessions during which it meets candidates and discusses with them everything related to their capacity to shoulder the responsibilities they are nominated for. In the case of Brett Kavanaugh, however, the hearing committee’s role was not restricted to ensuring the candidate’s professional qualifications for the post, but extended to investigating Ford’s complaint and exploring the history of each, in order to either endorse Kavanaugh’s nomination or reject it.
Since the Kavanaugh / Ford conflict had become a public opinion issue, it was imperative to establish the truth in order to assure Americans of the integrity and honour of the judiciary on one side, and to defend women’s rights on the other; both being highly serious and sensitive issues. I closely and eagerly followed the hearing sessions by the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary, which were televised live. I must own that I was impressed by the fine traditions that governed the sessions, also the speech ethics and the culture of tolerating differences and respecting the opinion of the other. I could not help comparing between these sessions and what we witness inside our parliament in Egypt. And I wished we would mature in political and parliamentary practice and in dealing with our differences to the level I witnessed in the Kavanaugh hearings. Let me point out a few points that particularly captured my attention:
Although the subject of the discussions was thorny and its details possibly scandalous or immoral, all the facts were respectfully laid out, taking into consideration the sentiments and reputation of those concerned and their respective families. Members of the committee: the Republicans who supported Kavanaugh’s nomination, and the Democrats who were against it, were keen to establish the truth and not jump to hasty conclusions. Different views were handled with courtesy and mutual respect, even as the gravest accusations were being hurled, such as when one party accused the other of exploiting the case towards political ends, or when the other alleged that women’s plights were being understated in order to endorse the President’s nomination. All this occurred without hysterics, and none of the parties involved accused the other of corruption. Quite the opposite, there was a prevailing keenness to promote the interests of the American people which some described as ‘wounded’ and ‘divided’ over the issue.
The absolute commitment to the principles of the American Constitution and law, drew my attention and admiration, also the keenness to separate the legislative authority represented by Congress and the authority of the US President; the distance between the two authorities was maintained without any offense to the President. Moreover, the capacity of the committee members to rise above party loyalty and strive to work together despite of political rivalry and opposing interests was most remarkable. This faithful collaboration was probably behind the decision by the Committee on the Judiciary to postpone the voting for a week during which the President of the US asks the FBI to conduct an investigation and provide the Senate with the data and evidence that would allow a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
I cannot conceal my admiration of how the hearings were carried out, and my aspiration that such parliamentary traditions, ethics and culture of difference should find their way into our parliament and political life.

Watani International
7 October 2018

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