The Fallout from the Ford/Kavanaugh Hearings

by John English

Some takeaways from a very difficult week in Washington DC yesterday regarding Dr. Christine Blasley-Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

1. There has never been a greater argument for getting rid of the 17th Amendment than what we’ve seen the past few weeks. The body of 100 Senators is supposed to be a legislative body. It is now a body of about 20 who wants to do the people’s business and 80 people who see themselves as future presidents who need to dance for their base of donors. The majority of them do not care what the truth is. How many synonyms can we come up with for “disingenuous” and “hypocritical”? At the very least, can we pass a compromise where we have one populist senator and one selected by their state legislature?

2. I found it just a bit rich how Senate Democrats were shocked Kavanaugh would be angry at them after they treated him worse than Bork before these allegations came out. The Senate has radicalized the Supreme Court process over the years. Will we ever get a moderate Justice again? No.

3. This has been a case where no one knows what really happened so people go back to their own experiences. Women who’ve been victims of assault see similarities in Dr. Ford’s story to their own, especially decades-old assault where people just did not report these things. I’ve been a little surprised at how partisan the reactions have been, by which I mean my social media timelines were full of liberal men who believe Ford and conservative women who believe Kavanaugh.

4. The problems with Ford’s testimony. All of the people she’s named were there have denied it. When asked about her friend Leland Keyser saying she had no memory of it and didn’t know Kavanaugh, Ford blamed it on a health problem she has.

5. The problems with Kavanaugh’s testimony. His awkward defenses of his beer-drinking felt like he was hiding something, and when he kept flipping the questions back to the senators if they liked beer, got drunk, etc., it felt something someone with a drinking problem would do. Kind of like how child abusers go “Oh yeah, how do you raise your kids?” And he just took the Trump tact of deny, deny, deny, even when some of his answers were obviously untrue. I don’t believe him when he says he never had any memory loss from too much drinking, or that his puking was from a weak stomach and not excessive drinking.

6. So what do we do with this? We have a one-week FBI investigation now. There are at best six Senate votes up in the air based on this investigation. This entire process has been about tribalism. In a way, Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh have been made irrelevant by the Senate based on what’s been going on the past few weeks. Republicans don’t want to reward dirty tricks, and Democrats who opposed Kavanaugh before really have reasons to oppose him now. (You want to know why Lindsey Graham was so angry? He showed similar passion when Joe Biden’s grilling of Samuel Alito got so personal that Alito’s wife burst into tears.)

Personally, at the very least, I would have voted for the delay for an investigation. Also personally, I’m glad I never got drunk in high school and never went to a party with drinking. I’ll never have to worry about the FBI asking me about it in the future.

What do I think happened? My hunch is that it happened, that he was sloppy drunk and in his hazed mind he was just trying to make out with this girl and ultimately she left, while from her POV he was trying to rape her. Views on consent and no-means-no and teen drunkenness and sexuality were different in 1982. (I turned nine in 1982, but I’ve watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Zapped!, etc, so I’m ready to be a talking-head expert pundit about it on cable news now). He might not remember any of it, or at the time it wasn’t a big deal to him. I’m inclined to believe the blackout theory that Sarah Hepola wrote about in the New York Times this week. A pertinent section:

There are other equally-qualified conservative justices out there Trump could nominate, ones with better views on, say, the 4th Amendment and executive power. Ones who aren’t accused of pinning a girl in high school to a bed and covering her mouth so she can’t make noise while he fumbles with her clothes. I fear that this process has been so nasty, so primal in its divisiveness that to pull Kavanaugh’s nomination would be seen as a sign of weakness.

I can’t imagine this approach to the highest court in the land is what the Founders had in mind.

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