For the past two weeks I have followed intently the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh. I read nearly every breaking article, every major hot take, and I have now listened to essentially the entire testimony by both parties. Skip to the end if you don’t want to read the rest.
Before today, I refused to adopt a position, and I have chastised nearly everyone in my social circles who immediately retreated to partisanship, whether they’re on the Left or Right. The initial accusation by Dr. Ford, by my judgment, was not automatically conclusive, but credible enough to warrant further investigation. This allegation was serious; it deserved non-partisan consideration, and, more importantly, a fair and open process of questioning and factual examination. And it was a mistake to say that Ford was just lying, or that she was a party operative, or that she was playing any kind of game.
On the other hand, it was also a mistake to simply shift the burden to the accused. It was a mistake for people to sit in distant pre-judgment of the man, a man most of you never knew, and to impute upon him the guilt of others similarly accused. Again – what we needed in this case was a process that would actually explain events, people, relationships, and behaviors that would help us determine his guilt. And make no mistake, if he is guilty, and if he did indeed do what Ford accused him of, then he deserves this and worse. However, to “believe women” has never meant that we afford them irrebuttable deference or presume an accused man guilty beyond any shadow of doubt. It means, and has always meant, whether we faithfully followed this or not, that we do not treat an accuser poorly. It means that we do not ignore what may be a potential injustice that is revealed with inconvenient timing. To “believe women” means to treat an accuser with respect and dignity – to assume that her accusation and allegation are, until proven otherwise, coming from a place of good faith, and not just concocted with sinister motives. It is, in other words, to afford them the same benefit we give to prosecutors whose defendants are acquitted.
If Brett Kavanaugh indeed did the things Ford or anyone else has alleged that he did, this IS disqualifying, even if it happened 35 years ago.
Allegations of the kind Dr. Ford has brought into the light need not be absolutely perfect or airtight. If you have an “ideal” accuser in mind, she doesn’t exist, and it is unfair to expect that they all meet an insurmountable criminal-tribunal standard. There is absolutely no reason to doubt her sincerity today. But Ford’s testimony had problems she could not overcome, no matter how credible or convincing she appeared today. She still has no corroboration for her account of events. Her own named witnesses, in sworn statements made under penalties of criminal perjury, do not support her testimony. The details she offered are sparse and inconclusive. She has not produced evidence that narrows down a date or a definite point in time. These are understandably difficult things to expect of someone who is making an accusation 36 years after the alleged incident, but her allegation does not stand sufficiently on its own to be certain that it was Kavanaugh specifically who violated her so. The truth demands more, and she has not met it.
Meanwhile, Judge Kavanaugh, though he answered questions oftentimes in ways I did not approve of, presented himself in a way that was as compelling a portrait of sincerity and humanity as Dr. Ford’s testimony earlier today. Much has been made about his display of emotion and anger, with many concluding that his indignity before the Committee is itself either proof of his guilt or unbefitting a judge. All I can think of is Gillian Flynn’s observation in her novel “Gone Girl” about how the real sociopath is the one behaving exactly as he’s “supposed to” when thrust into the spotlight over something horrible. Human beings are allowed to make social mistakes, to act irrationally, to behave in occasionally inappropriate ways because of the sudden and likely unexpected pressure of being put under the public microscope in such a way. These are not things that us normal people actually prepare for. If he is indeed innocent of this act, then his name, his family, and his lifelong reputation are on the line. How can we expect a man to not fight for them? So his tone and ostensible aggression, his accusation of bad faith by the Democrats, and his audacity to raise his voice in an ordered chamber, under these circumstances, do not weigh against him. They just don’t help him either.
Two things can be true at once – Dr. Ford likely was sexually assaulted, and she could even sincerely have believed that it was Kavanaugh… and she also simply could have merely been mistaken that it really was him. I leave that to you, and I make no judgment on it. This is not like Bill Cosby, who had repeated allegations of the exact same kind coming from one woman after another, all laying out a clear pattern of degenerate, predatory behavior. This is not like O.J. Simpson, who is conventionally believed to have committed the crime he was acquitted of, in large part because of the sham trial and borderline legal malpractice by the prosecution and judges that is now well documented. But here’s what else is true – this allegation was handled in a manner that should disgrace all who took part in bringing it to light on the Senate Judiciary Committee, chiefly Ranking Member Diane Feinstein. She was given the story months ago; she did nothing. She had a chance to bring it up in their private meeting, the public hearing, the post-hearing committee conferences, and she could have introduced the allegation into the record at any time. Instead she waited until Kavanaugh’s committee confirmation was all but certain before dropping it to the FBI and breaking the story. Many of her cohorts have since echoed her bad faith, and followed in lock step, using time they could have spent questioning Ford or Kavanaugh to grandstand and stump for their future election bids, and asking brazenly improper questions (“do you believe Anita Hill?”) with the vitriol of demagogues they otherwise denounce.
These are not the tactics of a coalition acting with any desire to seek the truth about an event or about the character of a person before them.
But the truth is the only thing that actually matters here, which is why this process, painful and juvenile as it was handled by nearly every political and even non-political participant with the sole exceptions of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh themselves, was so necessary. There were many, especially on the Right, who wanted Judge Kavanaugh to withdraw his nomination once Ford’s allegation came to light. Others on the Right, meanwhile, didn’t want a hearing at all. Both positions were sheer cowardice. The truth needed to have its day in the Senate. Once this allegation credibly surfaced, the question of whether Judge Kavanaugh should’ve been the President’s nominee, as opposed to Judges Kethledge, Barrett, or Hardiman, ceased to be relevant. We had to let this play out, we had to let his credible accuser make the effort, we had to question it, and we had to let him respond with equal scrutiny.
And now that the process is done, it is my emphatic, and absolutely certain position that Dr. Ford, though sympathetic and cooperative as she was, has ultimately failed to establish with any certainty that the man she accuses of sexually assaulting her was culpable. This was a heavy, perhaps impossible burden in this case, but it was hers to meet, and she has not met it. This allegation, therefore, along with the other two which have already fizzled, should not play into how we determine if Judge Kavanaugh deserves the advice and consent of the Senate.
It is also my emphatic position that we have just been witness to some of the most atrocious, disgusting partisanship in the country’s history, not just by U.S. Senators – whose deliberative cordiality was supposed to be an example to the nation, but by nearly everyone. Every single one of you has yourselves to blame for your own contributions to the reality TV antics that has destroyed the lives of these two people and their families, for your conclusion jumping and hysteria. Continue down this path at your own peril. If you live, you’ll live only to regret it.
But for now? The decision is clear, and anything less is weakness and capitulation…