On Spartacus and Crucifixion, Democrats and Kavanaugh, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

I rarely publish political or social commentary during the Jewish Holy Season. I just do not have the time. Not only do I have a law practice of twenty-plus years, a second simultaneous career of fifteen years as an adjunct professor of law, a family and friends, and a Yankees team to sweat over while team stars Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman nurse debilitating injuries, but I also am congregational rav (Orthodox rabbi) of an Orthodox synagogue, Young Israel of Orange County, now in our eleventh year and in my twenty-seventh year as a rav. This is perhaps the busiest season of the year for a congregational rabbi. We teach more intensely. We prepare sermons that entail our deepest focus on the unique messages we will deliver to our largest congregational assemblages of the year.

(At least — thank G-d — my time no longer is diverted by the NFL. I stopped following professional football last year. I promised in a published article in The American Spectator early last season that I would stop following the NFL if Roger Goodell did not rectify the kneeling mess promptly, and I kept true to my promise. Let Kaepernick kneel all he likes when my national anthem is played, and let all the rest of those overpaid, under-educated, and under-disciplined louts disrespect my flag by kneeling or remaining in the locker room while stars and stripes are honored. I am through with professional football. I really am. A promise made. A promise kept.)

Despite time demands, I find myself so upset now over the viciousness of the Democrats these past several weeks, trying in every imaginable way to character-assassinate Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, that I have to write. The Prophet Isaiah wrote: “For Zion’s sake I cannot hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I cannot remain silent until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a flaming torch.” I know that feeling. I feel that way for Zion and Jerusalem every waking moment of my life.

And now I feel some of that same inner compulsion to speak out against the character assassination of Brett Kavanaugh. I cannot hold my peace, and I cannot remain silent.

This man is a good man. Beyond being a great legal scholar, a published author of profound legal consequence, a graduate of Yale Law School, a law professor at Harvard Law School invited at the behest of then-dean Elena Kagan, he clerked in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, then clerked in the Ninth Circuit, and thereafter for Justice Anthony Kennedy in the United States Supreme Court. He has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, often regarded as the second most important court in the land. From that bench others have risen to the United States Supreme Court, including but not limited to present-day Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Chief Justice Roberts.

From the moment that this fine man — an honored husband, devoted father, children’s basketball coach, church lector who has tutored inner-city children and personally has served meals to the homeless — was nominated to the seat held by retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, Brett Kavanaugh has been subjected to nonstop oral brutality and vicious verbal assault. In contrast to the way that Republicans have encountered and even opposed Democrat Supreme Court nominees like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, this man has been “Borked” from the moment he was named. It is back to the character assassination at which Democrats shamelessly excel. It is a return to the high-tech lynching of Clarence Thomas.

I never believed Anita Hill. A few years later, when I served as Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, I received a manuscript submission from her, a law article for our editorial consideration. Our entire articles editorial team unanimously agreed that it was so sub-par that it was not publishable. But well before I had come to see the quality of her academic scholarship for what it was, I agreed with Clarence Thomas as he condemned Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, charging that they were politically lynching a Black man. In the world of Democrat liberalism and diversity, there is no room for an African American who is conservative. It is the Progressive Credo of Diversity: Black conservatives must be destroyed. They must be politically lynched. Destroy Herman Cain. Try to destroy Dr. Ben Carson. I personally heard a graduation speech denouncing Condoleezza Rice, attacking her in part for being a Black woman in the Bush White House. At the Barnard College graduation of one of my daughters, the keynote speaker laid into Rice, leveling that attack among others. Disgusted, I finally stood up in the middle of the speech, centered amid a crowd of many hundred parents at graduation, and I turned my back to that woman. I stood that way, with my back to her, for the last ten minutes of her speech. She saw only my yarmulka, the back of my head. Democrat liberals have no room in their world for Black conservatives. I never went to another Barnard graduation for either of my other two daughters. I never again donated another penny to Barnard nor to my undergraduate alma mater, Columbia University. I will not support those who support the political lynchings and character assassinations of good people.

The Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy, lynched Bork in an era when there was no conservative talk radio, nor online conservative media, nor Fox News to defend him. So that good and decent man went down in flames, assassinated by the one political Kennedy brother who had not been assassinated. It hardly seems sufficient to note that Judge Bork continued the rest of his life to live and teach and write with dignity and honor, while his character assassin ultimately would leave his own name and reputation drenched by the waters of Chappaquiddick.

And now these same “Progressives” would character-assassinate Judge Kavanaugh.

Cory Booker, while making a fool of himself for national view, described his “‘I am Spartacus’ moment” when, with false bravado, he stated that he defiantly would release embargoed documents that in fact already had been cleared for release. It happens to be that the Stanley Kubrick movie Spartacus was the most impactful movie in my youth. When I began clerking for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit — who puts all his judicial clerkship applicants through one heck of a challenging questionnaire that is known, far and wide, both lovingly and fearfully, as “The Quiz” — I identified Spartacus to him as the movie that had changed my life. Indeed, my wife, on the eve of our marriage, presented me with a home video of that movie. Kirk Douglas’s portrayal of the defiant gladiator who stood up to Rome inspired me for a lifetime. And I particularly was overwhelmed by that scene as a young boy. The Roman dictator, Marcus Licinius Crassus, had just subdued the mighty gladiator army whom he had prevented from escaping Italy, and now he wanted to crucify the leader of their revolt, Spartacus. Facing his thousands of prisoners, Crassus offered the captured gladiators life, albeit a return to slavery, if they only would hand over Spartacus, their leader. If they would not, then they all would face crucifixion. And yet, one by one, each gladiator arose and said “I am Spartacus!” They all submitted themselves to crucifixion rather than hand over their leader. As the move ends, we see thousands of gladiators along Appian Way, all crucified.

But in our modern context, it is not Cory Booker who is the “I am Spartacus” hero and martyr. Rather, he found himself instead in the wrong movie, playing Navin R. Johnson The Jerk. Instead, the hero facing crucifixion turns out to be Brett Kavanaugh. And now, the Democrat attempt unfolds to crucify this wonderful and decent man.

First they went after him for buying baseball tickets for groups of friends, putting the charges on his credit card, then passing along the tickets and getting reimbursed — something we all do when we want a group to be seated together, whether for a ball game or a theatrical performance. Then they mocked his first name in an era when we dare not comment on other first names like, say, Barack. And now 85-year-old Dianne Feinstein of California — who is in the political battle of her life, facing a much younger opponent to her left in left-dominated California — desperately has emerged to submit a letter from a woman purporting to depict this fine and refined, righteous and restrained, dignified and kind man as having been a teenage Bill Clinton. Only Bill Clinton would proceed to live the unrepentant life of a rapist and serial sexual predator.

First, I do not believe the letter writer. She now has submitted her name publicly. She therefore now may expect to enjoy the “Omarosa Fifteen Minutes of Fame” treatment at CNN, MSNBC, and the rest of those slime-slingers. Perhaps she will get a book contract. But I do not believe her. Rather, I believe the 65 women who have signed their names to a letter affirming that they knew Brett Kavanaugh during that very same time frame as a gentleman who treated women with respect. I absolutely believe them.

Second, even if what Feinstein’s correspondent says is true — and, for those who missed my statement, I do not believe her a whit — I do not care what may have happened (which — did I say it yet? — I do not believe ever happened) in one instance 35 or 40 years ago. This is the Democrat/Liberal/Progressive playbook: If you cannot destroy Mitt Romney’s character because his character is beyond reproach, then just go back forty years to when he was in high school. It likewise is the Democrats’ “Roy Moore Game”: Try to find the dirtiest piece of dirt possible, and then sit on it for months but do not disclose it until the last weeks, when there will be no time to overcome the allegations.

That is what is happening here — and it is disgusting. I cannot hold my peace. I cannot be silent. I stand with Kavanaugh.

During the period that we Orthodox Jews know as “The Ten Days of Repentance” that begin with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and that end with Yom HaKippurim (The Day of Atonement, aka “Yom Kippur”), we believe that we and all people can ask G-d for forgiveness. We focus on the full litany of possible character flaws — some reflected by wrongdoing between a person and another, some by wrongdoing in not living by G-d’s laws — and we intensely pray to G-d for forgiveness and for the strength to change, to improve. We regret our prior action, internally abandon that aspect of what we once may have been, and confess directly to G-d our failings. When someone says to me, as in couples counseling: “Rabbi, there is no point to this counseling: my spouse never will change — because people never change,” I reject that statement adamantly. It is a lie that people cannot change, do not change. People do change. I have seen it all my life. No, not all people. And some people opt to change in some ways but not in others. But through a lifetime I have seen so many people make so many personal changes when they undertook to atone, to fix character flaws, to deal with their anger, to seek treatment for their addictions, to overcome their narcissism, to develop humility, to accept blame, to seek forgiveness.

It is fundamental to our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage that people can and do grow, change, evolve, improve. That is why the Congress begins each day with a prayer from a religious figure. And — for the social humanists who reject religion — do they not advocate prison rehabilitation, drug or alcohol treatment, therapy and counseling? Of course people can and do change. And when a society creates a perverse social order that says, “If you did wrong at age 15, then you are branded for life as someone who never outgrew 15,” that society denies its population any motivation to improve.

So if Mitt Romney rough-housed in high school, I do not care — other than to honor him even more for having grown even more dignified and refined as he matured. When I think back to my own teens, I did some stuff that I have outgrown. Four decades of Yom Kippurs played a role in that. I worked on character flaws. I improved my adherence to Torah laws on eating kosher, observing Shabbat, and making time each and every day of my life to learn some Torah. By the time I had become a litigator, there were certain behaviors in which I would not engage — and I still have won or settled advantageously every case that came my way. A decade ago, when I encountered certain unspeakable challenges for two years at one unspeakably nightmarish place of employment, I had evolved to a place in my life that I reacted and dealt with it very differently from how I would have done twenty years earlier. It would be a crime to condemn me today for something I would not even remember dating back forty years ago.

So, even though I really have no time to write this (but at least have the benefit of not consuming three hours watching football), I have even less time not to write this because the attempted character assassination of Brett Kavanaugh has dominated all my thoughts these past ten days. For the sake of justice I cannot hold my peace, and for the sake of the future Justice I cannot remain silent. There has to come a point in time when Americans of all stripes band together and say, “Enough of the character assassination and social crucifixion! We do not want America to go any farther down this road. It has to stop — here and now.”

If Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins needs any further reason to vote in favor of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court, this is the nail on which they can hang their coats: Beyond the extraordinary comportment and judicial temperament that Judge Kavanaugh manifested during several days of the Senate Judiciary Committee circus — the Cory Booker Comedy Hour, the despicable disrupters whose screaming and ranting stood juxtaposed against the calm demeanor and elegant dignity of Judge Kavanaugh, the abominable statement by Dick Durbin that the insane disruptions and efforts at mob rule were the sound of democracy — if that was not enough reason to vote for Judge Kavanaugh, then here is yet another compelling reason:

Vote for Judge Kavanaugh as a statement that, when legitimate political concerns and respectable differences of opinion get replaced by unbridled attempts at personal character assassination and public social crucifixion, it is time for senators in the United States of America to cast their votes against the destroyers and the assassins by letting them know that they have overstepped a line so critical to the American social order that there is no choice but to vote in favor of Judge Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court. There are plenty of more positive reasons to vote for Judge Kavanaugh. But this is the last straw.

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Author: Dov Fischer