Although we were out of the country on vacation, we still managed to see the majority of this week’s judiciary committee meeting regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against him.
In addition to the absolute tsunami of commentary from people in my social media feed and the volcanic eruptions of remarks from the talking heads on television, I’ve also subjected myself to a veritable hurricane of opinions from podcast hosts from across the political spectrum.
I won’t avoid adding another opinion to the internet, but I will at least spare you a recapping of the obvious and, at this point, cliched opinions I’ve heard.
One thing I keep hearing people on both sides talk about is the truth. As if the senate committee hearings were an earnest effort to arrive at some truth or understanding of the actual facts about what happened to Dr. Ford. I wish we could all agree that it wasn’t that and there is absolutely no way it could have been that.
It does seem like everyone seems to agree that when it comes to any level of certainty about what did or did not happen, it is Mr. Kavanaugh’s word against Dr. Ford’s. She says he did something. He says he didn’t. There are reasons to believe both of them, but actual proof that we can all count on does not exist.
So, to everyone who keeps talking about “reasonable doubt” and other standards of proof that apply in criminal trials, let’s please stop. It wasn’t a criminal trial and we know that no matter who holds power in Congress, judicial appointments are not reviewed with an eye toward that standard.
To their credit, I do appreciate people on the Left for insisting on framing this as a job interview, which would permit a much lighter — not burden of proof — but assessment of risk. But I think some folks have it backwards and it hurts their case to get it wrong like that.
I saw someone on Twitter or something like that say something to the effect of, “If someone you were considering for a babysitting job were accused of this, you wouldn’t hire them, so why would we consider someone accused of these things for the job of associate justice?” The reasoning goes that babysitting is a relatively low level of responsibility compared to that of Supreme Court Justice; therefore, we should hold SCOTUS nominees to a even higher standard.
This is backwards because the higher standard in question is a standard of review and consideration, not a standard of disqualifying proof. It makes no sense to hold babysitters and SCOTUS nominees to the same standard of disqualifying proof. If something doesn’t matter much, then you’re not going to spend much time thinking about it. It’s easy to pass on a babysitter. People qualified for SCOTUS, though, are a rarer breed and it’s more important that the Senate spend more time considering whatever accusations are made against such candidates.
I really hated the testimonies. Dr. Ford’s was a punch in the gut. Mr. Kavanaugh’s was a punch in the face.
I believe with my whole heart that something terrible happened to Dr. Ford and that it has affected her to this day. I believe she is certain that Mr. Kavanaugh did it. There wasn’t anything in her testimony that made me think she was lying. She recounted events and facts to the best of her recollection and knowledge.
And it is an absolute disgrace that we still live in a society where terrible things like this happen to people and they don’t have any way to tell anyone or get help right away. I hope my children are never, ever in a situation like that.
But I am not willing to call Mr. Kavanaugh a rapist or attempted rapist based on what she said. It’s not that I disbelieve her, but the standard of evidence that I require for myself to publicly identify someone else in that way is higher than that. But it is a black mark on his name in my mind.
Morally, as a matter of justice in the broad sense, I think that’s how one should approach this. It wouldn’t be just to treat him like a proven rapist on Dr. Ford’s testimony alone. Instead, you should treat him as a person against whom a plausible attempted rape allegation has been made.
Would I hire him to be a babysitter based on her testimony? No, I would not. I wouldn’t even accept his Facebook friend request. And without explaining exactly why, I’d probably tell my female friends to steer clear of him. This isn’t because I think he actually is a rapist, but that there’s enough of a question in my mind for those low level, inconsequential decisions.
I actually did part company with a real-life friend once based on allegations like these. A woman I know and trust implicitly came to me and told me that he had attempted to rape a close friend of hers. That story combined with some other information I had about him made it all plausible enough that I am not willing to associate with him any more. But according to Facebook, I have about 25 other friends who are. I doubt they know the stories and I’m not willing to repeat them outside of very specific circumstances. I also would not testify in court about it. But I point this out as a citation of how I’ve put this mindset into actual practice in my real life.
Which is why I find it so confusing that so many people seem opposed to further investigation into these allegations. If this is such a serious decision and we believe Dr. Ford is earnest in her accusations, then it seems like a bit more digging to see if anything can be found to corroborate or mitigate what she said is a minimal expectation. If this is such a serious decision and a serious accusation, we should give it the highest level of review and consideration. We cannot allow our emotions to rule such serious decisions including the feeling Mr. Kavanaugh says he has that this is merely some partisan hit job.
I understand the Republicans don’t want to delay and the Democrats want to delay and everyone in Congress is looking for some means of using this to their political advantage. But that does not mean that whatever either party is proposing is wrong, irrational, or unreasonable. On its merits and the seriousness with which I would like the Senate to approach their approval of SCOTUS nominees, I do think further probing into Dr. Ford’s allegations is warranted.
I believe with my whole heart that Mr. Kavanaugh lied to the Senate in his testimony on several points. I think he lied about never having had enough to drink that it affected his memory. And I think he lied about the meaning of some of the references in his calendar. I think he lied because his claims just aren’t plausible.
I also found the raging opening statement he gave off-putting, emotional, and unproductive. I’m surprised his outbursts and unprofessionalism in his part of the hearing did not by themselves disqualify him in more people’s minds. Not Lindsay Graham’s mind, of course, because he clearly lost his as well.
Dr. Ford has leveled some very serious accusations at Mr. Kavanaugh, though. So, I can completely understand why he might feel very angry and emotional about this situation. I can understand why, if he had had any other reaction to the situation, some would say he’s guilty because he didn’t act in some way that they imagine an innocent man would act. But I think those people have already decided that he did it.
I think he could have taken a different tack and it would have changed the whole line of discussion. I posted something like this to Facebook the other day, but imagine if he had started his testimony with something like this:
Hello, Senators. Thank you so much for giving me this time to talk to you.
First, I would like to address the question at hand: did I sexually assault Dr. Ford in high school or anyone else at any other time? Emphatically, no. I did not. There is absolutely nothing in my memory or experience that gives me even the slightest pause in considering that question. I am happy to deny these allegations as many times as the committee deems necessary.
But I would also like to say that I think asking me to reiterate my denials would be a waste of time when we have an incredible opportunity in front of us to raise awareness of sexual violence and how it affects people’s lives. My heart hurts for Dr. Ford and I am deeply saddened by what she has experienced. But I am also awed and grateful for her strength in coming here and sharing her story with us today.
I think it would be a better use of this committee’s time to talk about what members of the judiciary can do to ensure that men and women are given equal protection under the law, to build public confidence in not only our ability but eagerness to hear them out and protect them.
And so on.
The difference in tone and shifting the focus away from opposing Dr. Ford to supporting her while still denying the accusation would, I think, have put things on a different foot. And I think we’d be having a much different conversation about next steps for his confirmation right now.
Instead, he made it all about him and carried on in such a way that made it sound like he was entitled to a seat on the Supreme Court. Not a good look, bro.
But, just as with Dr. Ford’s testimony, we can’t let emotions rule how we respond to this situation. My dislike of Mr. Kavanaugh is not a sufficient argument to say he should not be placed on the Court. I’m not even completely certain that my belief that he lied about alcohol never having affected his memory is sufficient to justify voting against him for the Court, but maybe someone should look into that.
I also said on Facebook that I think the Republicans should vote against Kavanaugh and Trump should choose a new nominee. They won’t because at this point too many people think either of those actions mean they think Kavanaugh actually did try to rape Dr. Ford.
All it actually means if they vote against him is that they don’t think it would be good idea to put him on the Court. That’s it. And there are other reasons including the expense and difficulty of the current situation that would justify that course of action.
That’s logically all it means, but I understand how appearances work and a lot of people will say that it means they think he’s a rapist. Similarly dire conclusions will be drawn from his confirmation as well, though.
If they vote to support him, all it means is that they think he is qualified for the role and they don’t have sufficient reason to oppose him. Logically, that’s all it means.
But if Kavanaugh is confirmed — and especially if done without a good faith review of the allegations made against him — many will conclude that the Senate simply does not care about the allegations and they find their various political motivations to be of greater importance than whatever injury Dr. Ford has suffered.
My prediction is that Kavanaugh is going to get confirmed to the Court. It’s going to be ugly and there will be a lot of resentment about it. But I think that’s where we’re going to end up.