Two events from the last two days stand out. The first came Monday night with President Trump’s forceful yet compassionate speech at the swearing in of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
The president opened with an extraordinary apology on behalf of the country to Kavanaugh and his family “for the terrible pain and suffering” they endured during the historically brutal confirmation process. He said the unfounded allegations violated fairness and “the presumption of innocence.”
Trump also tenderly addressed Kavanaugh’s young daughters, telling them “your father is a great man, a man of decency, character, kindness and courage.”
The event was something of a spike-the-football moment in front of a cheering White House audience and as such was a clever piece of stagecraft, where Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell, Charles Grassley, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins were saluted.
But the ceremony was much more than mere boosterism. With the eight other Supremes sitting in the front row, Trump aimed to restore dignity to the judiciary at a time when the dirtiest tricks of politics have buried the court in a mountain of mud.
The president is right to worry that the character-assassination attempt on Kavanaugh may turn out to be a seminal moment in American political and cultural history. The ideas that the court is just another political branch and that the presumption of innocence no longer applies if you are on the other team represent a seismic shift in how we look at each other and the nation as a whole.
If those ideas stick, we are in more trouble than we can imagine.