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It is easy to hate politics
Posted at: Oct/16/2018 : Posted by: Mel
Related Category: Politics & Gov, Watching America,
I used to think there was nothing I hated more than the childhood memory of my mother’s terrible attempts as serving liver at our Wednesday dinner. With age and a broader experiences in life and people I have come to accept that politics and all its related drama tops my list of hates. Nothing exemplifies the worst of American politics more than the recent Supreme Court nomination hearing for Brett Kavanaugh.
Politics has evolved from serving a constituency to simple theater. There is posturing, voracious egos, a whole lot of compassion, and occasionally some intelligence. The only thing missing to really make performance worth watching in primetime is a “laugh track.” It becomes all too easy to ignore the facts in favor of an impassioned speech. Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt likens the dilemma of politics to that of “little man (reason) strapped to the back of an elephant (emotion) and trying to control the pachyderm with a stick.” As we all know, the elephant nearly always goes where it wants despite reason slapping it with a stick.
On June 27th of 2018, Justice Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy is considered my most Supreme Court watchers as a “moderate conservative” making him periodically the swing vote through his 30 year tenure. On July 9th President Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh to the open seat on the high court. Judge Kavanaugh is a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Additionally, Kavanaugh is a former clerk of Justice Kennedy. With a lengthy career on the bench Judge Kavanaugh has written hundreds of judicial opinions making his stance on issues very clear. Yet handshakes and personal assurances is how politics works so Judge Kavanaugh began an extended series of meetings with various senators.
On July 30th Senator Dianne Feinstein (the ranking Democrat) receives a letter from Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor in California. In the letter Professor Ford outlines sexual allegations against Kavanaugh from roughly 36 years earlier. She states that when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, she said Kavanaugh and a friend, both “stumbling drunk,” forced her into a bedroom during a gathering of six teenagers at a private home. While his friend watched, she said, “Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.” She eventually escaped from the room when the friend, identified as Mark Judge, jumped on them and then tumbled on the floor. She said she did not tell anyone about the attack at the time.
There have been no witnesses found to corroborate her allegations. There are third-hand statements from immediate family and a therapist whom she apparently told the story to roughly 20 years after the fact. When investigated, people who had been at the same party had no recollection of any such attack or Brett Kavanaugh being at the specified gathering.
If Senator Feinstein’s motives were about having a complete vetting of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) nominee, she could have shared the accusation early on with fellow Senators on the Judiciary Committee for a complete and timely investigation by the FBI. Instead, showing that good theatre is about timing, she held onto the letter for weeks, ultimately leaking it late in the hearing process.
Following the leak of the letter more accusations began to surface, each one successively more outrageous. Julie Swetnick in a sworn declaration claims that she observed Kavanaugh drinking excessively at house parties and engaging “in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls.” She claimed Kavanaugh and others would get girls inebriated so they could be “gang raped” in side rooms at the house parties by a “train” of numerous boys. “I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room. These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh.” She added that in 1982, she was a victim of a “gang rape” at which Kavanaugh was present. But she did not say he participated and provided no details about where the alleged rape took place. There were no witnesses identified to corroborate the story. Still more confusing is why, if these “gang-rapes” were really taking place, how come Ms. Swetnick repeatedly returned to these parties.
The sexual claims that were made against former President Bill Clinton, especially those of Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddric and Monica Lewinsky have credibility precisely because so many people attest to them in real-time and there is credible evidence. In deference to fairness, the sexual allegations against President Trump by Natasha Stoynoff also carries significant credibility because of witness statements.
The central charge against Kavanaugh — that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford while intoxicated during a party lacks this element of credibility. Ford said she kept quiet about the incident until recent years. But she has provided witnesses who say she told them about the allegation before Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court. Telling people years later that something happened is not corroborating evidence. Beyond the accusations from many decades past is a statement by Dianne Feinstein that really concerns me. She intimated there would be more school shootings if Kavanaugh were confirmed, chiefly because of the continued legality of “assault weapons.” Feinstein claimed there have been 273 school shootings since the heinous December 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, and that such shootings would actually grow with Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court of the United States. Specifically Feinstein said: “If the Supreme Court were to adopt your reasoning I fear the number of victims would continue to grow and citizens would be rendered powerless in enacting sensible gun laws.” Additionally, Feinstein is pointing to AR-15s and other commonly owned semiautomatic rifles as causal in the continuation of attacks on gun-free schools. But on May 30, 2018, Breitbart News showed that mass attackers use handguns over “assault weapons” by a 3 to 1 margin. A little bit of research also shows that there have been 155 mass shooting in America from 1966 – 2018, 90 of them as schools. Is it a politician’s privilege to exaggerate 155 into 273?
Clearly, the Kavanaugh hearings were not about the truth, instead, this was an all too common case of political theatre intended to sway the outcome by playing on emotions.
Fortunately, at least one Senator realized that after the credibility of Professor Ford’s statement was debunked with a lack of real evidence or witnesses, it would be overly political to drill into the other accusations. Ultimately, the lack of real evidence or witnesses for the Ford case backfired and the Democratic Committee members decided not to publically pursue the other accusations.
It is really a shame, the #METOO movement is an important milestone in dealing with sexual predators and those who abuse their position and power over others for sex. But this is clearly not the #METOO movement.
I don’t generally watch Congressional Committee hearings, making 20 minute speeches before ever asking a question is not about finding the truth…it is about posturing. Nevertheless members of my household and many of my neighbors took the time to watch, thinking we would see something special or hear a critical piece of evidence. Instead, what we saw was our elected Senators slandering someone with no credible evidence for the sake of an agenda and not a search for the truth.
At the end of the hearing I had come to 4 distinct conclusions:
The first is that I believe Christine Blasey Ford honestly believes someone fondled or molested her 36 years ago. I think it is doubtful that the perpetrator was Brett Kavanaugh. Old memories can be like little white lies, when we tell them to ourselves often enough and for a long enough period of time, they become true. For this same reason a polygraph, especially for an incident 36 years past cannot be considered a valid reference.
The second observation I have is that Dianne Feinstein demonstrated the absolute worst possible conduct in a Congressional hearing reinforcing all our worst images of politics and political behavior. She had innuendo and supposed evidence that she sat on for nearly two months. Her motive was clearly not to seek the truth, but how to best time the release to disrupt the appointment process. The result is that Senator Feinstein defamed someone with no credible evidence to support her claims and with no ultimate apology afterwards. To further exaggerate her cause she proposed that his appointment to SCOTUS would directly relate to increased deaths due to mass shooting. This is not behavior that the rest of us living in the real world are allowed to do without legal consequence.
The third key point is that the satisfaction that I got from watching Brett Kavanaugh’s rebuttal to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the afternoon of September 27th. Judge Kavanaugh in an emotional statement tore into key Committee members for their handling of the sexual misconduct allegation and how they released them. He pulled no punches in sharing how defaming the accusations were to him and his family, especially considering there was no corroborating evidence brought forward to support the accusations’.
The last key observation is about demeanor. While I enjoyed Judge Kavanaugh’s rebuke of the committee’s behavior, it was a slap that was long overdue; I still somehow expect a justice of Supreme Court to be somehow above such outburst. During the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, accusations were made by Anita Hill of sexual misconduct by Judge Thomas. The FBI investigated the case over 3 days before submitting a report to the committee. Ultimately Judge Thomas was approved by a vote of 52-48. During the time that the accusations surfaced, Judge Thomas remained calm and avoided a heated battle with committee members. Maybe in our 21st century, such calm under fire is no longer in style and I am just being idealist.
With the dust beginning to settle, there was really only one new revelation out of the Judiciary Committee hearing for vetting Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court: OMG…young men drink beer.
It’s a shame, but that appears to be all we learned, and at least a few of us already knew that.