COMMENT:

A hospital emergency room is not the ideal place to watch one of the most important events of our time. Most of the people around you have more pressing personal concerns. But at least the TV in the waiting area at Vancouver was tuned to the Senate committee room in Washington where Donald Trump's nominee for the US Supreme Court was flaming out.

All across North America that day, early hours of Friday in New Zealand, people were watching. I was glad of the distraction. It was our last stop in Canada. I'd woken with stroke symptoms which included defective right-field vision. (Yes, I know, but it wasn't funny at the time). Waiting for the ambulance, I had started to watch Judge Brett Kavanaugh's appalling performance before the Senate judiciary committee.

Until that moment, I confess, I'd had some sympathy for Kavanaugh. I believed everything Christine Blasey Ford could remember of her terrifying encounter with him but the guy had been 17. Was it fair to judge a 53-year-old man by foolishness at that age?

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I felt sure that when given the opportunity a jurist with his credentials would deliver a profound expression of regret that a boy of that time was capable of such behaviour, desensitised by drink to the girl's terror in the moments before she managed to get out of the room.

But he didn't say anything like that. He went on the offensive. While he did not doubt Dr Ford had been assaulted it must have been by somebody else. And now she was being shamefully used by the Democratic Party, the "Clintons", who could not accept the 2016 election result...

It has all been well reported, the whole high-fevered, self-pitying, politically insulting, partisan performance. Anyone less like a judge I could not imagine. This was a Trump judge.

Trump is fast polluting some of America's finest institutions. Waiting at the hospital for brain scan reports that day (clear fortunately) I caught quite a lot of the questioning of Kavanaugh by the committee.

The US Senate is possibly the world's most dignified political forum. It has a culture of mutual respect across party lines. It attracts candidates who stand for public service without the rancour and animosity heard in most debating chambers where, unlike the Senate, an opponent's motives can be questioned.

The Senate culture was evident on the judiciary committee's Democrat side and from some of the Republican majority. That made it all the sadder to see respected Republicans such as Senator Lindsey Graham, not normally a Trump loyalist, defending the indefensible.

Graham actually praised Kavanaugh's performance in terms that could only have been written before he saw it. And his South Carolina seat is not even one of those in the mid-term elections next month.

Republican senators were in such a desperate hurry to confirm Kavanaugh's nomination before the mid-terms that they have to be in real fear of losing their two-seat majority. They accused Democrats of using Ford to try to delay the Senate vote until after the mid-terms, which is no doubt true. But they could not have predicted how badly Kavanaugh would behave at the age he is now.

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He was aggressive, evasive, insulting, including to the Democrat women on the committee who were being very fair to him. One of them acknowledged that just about every nomination to a high office attracts accusations of some kind, often nuts, that have to be investigated by the FBI. If the accusations cannot be corroborated, the public never hears of them.

If they can be corroborated, the President and the nominee are informed and the nomination is withdrawn. The privacy of the individual and his family are supposed to be preserved for good reason. The FBI investigation is merely a character check, not a quest for proof of a criminal standard.

Yet the Republican senators took refuge in the fact that without corroboration Ford's testimony, credible as they'd clearly found it, was not enough to bring a prosecution, let alone a conviction. All Kavanaugh had to do was deny it.

But the way he did so, displaying no "judicial temperament" was clearly a shock to all on the committee. The Republicans tried to excuse it as the emotions of a man fighting for his career, which only made it a mystery how his career had come this far.

As one of the Democrat senators said, Kavanagh was caught in a great culture change now under way. Women are speaking out against treatment they suffered long ago. Is it fair to judge behaviour long ago by the lights of today?

I didn't think so but I do now. Watching Kavanaugh, it was easy to see the boy in that frat house. His indifference to the testimony he had just heard was disgusting. Creeps don't change.