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A psychiatrist’s view: Kavanaugh’s behavior at Senate hearing “appalling”

Republican senators say the Judiciary Committee plans to vote Friday morning on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 27, 2018. | Win McNamee/Pool Photo via AP

In my final year of medical school, I interviewed for psychiatry residency programs. This process ultimately led to “Match Day,” which determined where I’d complete my medical internship and specialty training. Unfortunately, my school had given me no preparation for the interviews. In essence, I winged it.

I often found the process pleasant and informative. However, on occasion, I encountered a stress interview, in which a professor of psychiatry attempts to push a candidate to the brink to determine if he or she can withstand the rigors of residency.

My first experience with this was at Northwestern Memorial, where a psychiatrist, whose name I quickly forgot, questioned my grades, asked probing questions about my childhood, criticized my parents, demeaned my childhood and critiqued me mercilessly. I did my best to maintain some degree of composure, even dignity, and avoid any display of anger or retribution. As I left the room, somewhat demolished, and politely thanked the interviewer, I saw a classmate of mine waiting for his interview. He quickly asked for my take on the experience, was waved in, smiled, and said, “Wish me luck.” Thirty-five minutes later, he exited with the psychiatrist’s hand on his shoulder, the two of them laughing. He described the process as having started out much as mine had, but shared that he’d successfully used humor to defend himself.

I learned much from this experience and improved my performance in future stress interviews. In none of my interviews, however, did I behave like Brett Kavanaugh during his Senate hearing. Whether Judge Kavanaugh lied, whether he did or currently does suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, whether he is or isn’t guilty of sexual abuse in the past, his interview behavior alone was, in my opinion, appalling and disqualifying. Despite extraordinary coaching in preparation for his testimony, he behaved with hostility and belligerence. He was, at times, demonstrably abusive.

If we view that Senate hearing as a stress interview, Judge Kavanaugh failed. In fact, I cannot imagine any employer, for any company, interviewing Mr. Kavanaugh and determining his presentation to have been even minimally acceptable. Certainly, if he were a candidate for a psychiatry residency and I had been stress-interviewing him, I’d have urged him to seek psychiatric or psychological care, given his disturbed mental status.

As a candidate for the Supreme Court, he failed the interview and should no longer be considered.

Brad K. Greenspan, MD, Bannockburn

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Mocking sexual assault

The President of the United States has just reached a new low as a human being.

He just mocked a possible sexual abuse survivor. I use the word “possible” because no one knows exactly what went on between Mr. Kavanaugh and Ms. Ford except the two of them. But let’s assume Ms. Ford is telling the truth — not a huge assumption. The President publicly made fun of her experience, which, if it happened, was the most horrific experience any woman could go through. And his base, the people who are his strongest supporters, laughed and applauded his actions. I can completely understand their reaction, because they  are the lowest common denominators of what is wrong with this country. But for the President of the United States to act in this manner is appalling beyond belief.

Jim Niemiec, Orland Hills

J.B.’s toilets

If J.B. Pritzker isn’t punished for removing toilets in order to reduce property taxes because he says he’ll repay the county, then a bank robber shouldn’t be punished because he says he’ll repay the money he stole from the bank.

Neil Boot, Crete

World Animal Day

Thursday, October 4 marks World Animal Day, an opportunity for us all to consider the progress that has been made in recent years toward advancing greater compassion, respect and justice for animals.

A growing number of states are requiring that healthy research dogs and cats be made available for adoption, instead of euthanized. We are also seeing legislative momentum aimed at protecting dogs from painful experiments and disreputable dealers. And the U.S. is considering passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act, which would add us to the growing list of nations that have banned the use of animals for testing the safety of cosmetics.

Perhaps most importantly, however, society’s attitude toward animal experimentation is shifting. A recent Pew survey revealed that a majority of Americans now oppose the use of animals in scientific research.

The tide is turning, and many of those who once accepted the use of animals as the best way to advance science are finding themselves increasingly left to defend cruel, archaic, unethical practices. Meanwhile, people are making their voices heard on behalf of the animals, and modern science is developing smarter solutions that are better for both people and animals.

Kenneth Kandaras
Executive Director, National Anti-Vivisection Society