What kind of a person refuses to shake hands with the grieving father of a murdered high school student, a girl so full of life that a glance at her photograph evokes fresh pain?
A callous person.
A self-centered snob.
A person who, faced with the choice of showing at least a glimmer of polite compassion, instead chooses to rudely walk away from the victim of a most heinous crime.
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That person is Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee — a man who, if confirmed, is poised to saddle the country for a generation with questionable values, and most likely, right-wing, politically charged rulings.
By extending his hand to Kavanaugh at the end of the morning session of the Senate confirmation hearings Tuesday, Parkland father Fred Guttenberg shined a spotlight on these troubling aspects of the nominee’s character.
The Associated Press photo of the denied handshake is worth more than the 100,000 documents on Kavanaugh’s career that the White House is withholding from public view and discussion, citing executive privilege.
The C-SPAN video is even worse for Kavanaugh. It catches him in full dismissal of the handshake after hearing Guttenberg introduce himself. The moment adds another layer of concern to the lack of transparency of this nomination — and the last-minute dump Monday night of tens of thousands of documents about something as important as Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House.
Gutttenberg didn’t deserve the offensive treatment.
He’s guilty only of losing a child, 17-year-old Jamie, at the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County — and of pledging that he’ll devote his life to ensuring that this doesn’t happen to any of us as well.
For the last seven months, Guttenberg has relentlessly walked the talk, delivering his message — that it shouldn’t be back to business as usual after Parkland — on national forums where his voice needs to be heard. And it’s the reason the lawyer was in Washington D.C. and attended the Senate hearing. He won’t go away to grieve in silence.
“Just walked up to Judge Kavanaugh as morning session ended,” Guttenberg tweeted. “Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg’s dad. He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence.”
Republican or Democrat it matters not; had Kavanaugh been another kind of person, he would have handled Guttenberg with more tact and humanity.
“I’m sorry for your loss, sir,” Kavanaugh could have simply said as he shook the man’s hand. He could have chosen to hear the father out, or not, and excused himself to continue on his way out of the chamber with a tiny bit more dignity.
But, instead, he chose to turn his back on a father who, in the aftermath of the most horrible thing that can happen to a parent, has found purpose by championing common sense gun-safety legislation.
Shaking Guttenberg’s hand and acknowledging his grief isn’t taking a stand on anything. It’s basic human decency — and judges aren’t exempt from the practice of it. But the arrogance is very Trumpian; the president, indeed, has nominated his kind of man.
It’s the nation’s loss.
Once more, we’re exposed to uncivilized acts of pure infamy — large ones, like ripping children from parents, and petty ones, like Kavanaugh’s on Tuesday. The lowest of moral standards have become a cornerstone of mainstream national politics — and not even the Supreme Court seems to be sacred ground anymore.
In this defining moment, Kavanaugh had an unscripted opportunity to show Americans what kind of man he is — and he blew it.
The paper trail the White House is trying to hide from public review would probably only confirm it.
Follow Santiago on Twitter, @fabiolasantiago