Truth or Politics

Truth or Politics September 29, 2018

Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2356) [1]

Christine Blasey Ford says that Supreme Court nominee Brett Michael Kavanaugh tried to do that to her in the early 1980s. She’s not saying he was politically incorrect. She’s not saying he was inappropriate. She’s not saying he was being a misogynist. She’s saying that he attempted to victimize her with one of the most heinous criminal acts that human beings commit. In fact, as defined by the Catechism, her accusation amounts to a completion of the act, because the conduct she describes would surely violate her sexual intimacy even if it didn’t amount to a rape in the criminal law.

It may seem that I’m stating the obvious, but it really seems that I am not, because the seriousness of the accusation has somehow been submerged into politics. Who would have thought that anyone’s view of the accusation would turn on whether one was a Democrat or a Republican? But that seems to be exactly what has happened.

Now how likely is it that almost all Democrats would view such evidence as there is one way, and almost all Republicans would view it another way? How is it possible that one’s view of foreign policy or the social safety net would honestly affect how one perceives the guilt or innocence of Brett Kavanaugh in this matter? Is politics a demon that has so successfully possessed our society that we really can’t make an honest assessment of evidence in a case this serious? Future historians will rightly adjudge our society insane if we cannot.

Whether one supports or opposes Kavanaugh’s apparent judicial philosophy is, or ought to be, irrelevant. If he did this thing, he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court. In fact, if he did this thing, he doesn’t belong on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals where he is now. And the only way we have to decide whether he did it or not is to gather all of the evidence available.

For a moment it looked as though this minimal requirement wouldn’t be met at all. But this man cannot be seated on the Supreme Court if there is a realistic possibility that he attempted to rape Christine Ford. The Supreme Court, as an institution, cannot withstand such an assault on its credibility. Moreover, if we are willing to brazenly let this accusation pass without doing a proper and thorough investigation, we cannot withstand such an assault on our own credibility, regardless of how good a justice we think he might be.

Thus, Kavanaugh should not be confirmed without such an investigation. As it stands now, the floor vote on his confirmation will be delayed a week so that the FBI can do a supplementary investigation on this issue and on the accusations by Kavanaugh’s two other accusers. Apparently, they’re not to investigate anything else, even if it jumps out at them. And they only get the week, whether that turns out to be enough time or not.

Artificial restrictions like that are not indications of seriousness. But this is an extremely serious matter. Politics should not blind us to what is at stake.

As Catholics, no matter what side of the political divide we most identify with, we should have a decided partiality for the truth. And finding the truth in this matter should take precedence over every other consideration. It seems undeniable, therefore, that we should support every effort that is humanly possible to find it.


The icon of St. Joseph the Worker is by Daniel Nichols.

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  • JonathanJennings

    Investigate (n.) : carry out a systematic or formal inquiry to discover and examine
    the facts of (an incident, allegation, etc.) so as to establish the

    Unfortunately, there are very few facts to examine here. She has made an allegation, he has denied that allegation. There is no physical evidence and no corroborative contemporaneous evidence (for instance, an eyewitness or a diary entry from that time period). The little circumstantial evidence (a polygraph and therapists notes) are not much to go on. In other words… what can the FBI investigate? What, exactly, are they to discover and examine?

    I listened to the opening statements in full for both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. In the end, my conclusion was the neither of them *believe* they are lying, but only one of them is really telling the truth. Sadly, I do think Dr. Ford was assaulted by *someone*, but not Kavanaugh. I think she is a truly hurting person who is also confused and trying to reconstruct something from deep in her past, and inserting Kavanaugh into the narrative gives it more purpose and structure. I also think her pain is being used for political purposes and that’s awful.

  • Bemused

    I have to say that I think it’s more likely that she’s telling the truth than not, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the emotionality of either of the two people. When looking at truthfulness, one of the things we can look at is whether their story fits the other known factors. Ford’s story places him as a partier who drank a lot. Kavanaugh’s places him as a non-partier who had a drink or two. Kavanaugh’s own calendar puts him as attending a lot of parties and the yearbook makes several heavy drinking references. There are several people who also reference him as a hard drinker. Kavanaugh seems to be maintaining that he and Judge were part of the same crowd but not really that close of friends, but we know from Kavanaugh’s calendar that Judge is one of the specifically named people that Kavanaugh hung out (and drank) with and Judge names him as a close friend in the book he wrote 20 years ago.

    Ford’s story fits more with the facts, while Kavanaugh’s doesn’t, which indicates to me that her story is more likely to be true. That isn’t enough for a court conviction, obviously, but it is enough for me to say that he shouldn’t get to hold an extremely honored, respected, and influential position on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court isn’t a position you get because you “deserve” it, it’s a position that we award to the most competent, responsible, grounded, and experienced (and often intelligent and honorable) people we can find. Kavanaugh can go back to being a well paid appeals court judge. There are other pro-life judges that Trump could nominate.

  • JonathanJennings

    I think the key facts fit more with Kavanaugh’s story than Ford’s. She named several individuals (men and women) whom she claims were at a party. All of them have either said that no such party ever occurred, or that they don’t recall one way or the other. This should be considered the key piece of evidence. When everyone else either has no recollection or flatly contradicts Ford’s story, that has huge implications for her memory.

    Additionally, Kavanaugh did not call himself a choir boy – did you listen to his opening statement? – he admits to drinking and sometimes drinking too much. I don’t think your news sources are being truthful with you.

    I don’t know anything about this idea of ‘deserving’ the supreme court position, but this whole process does have massive implications for whether or not the rule of law should be respected. I recommend this short piece which sums up my thoughts on the matter better than I could:

  • Bemused

    Mostly they just said they didn’t remember, and why would they, nothing special happened to them and it’s pretty clear from Kavanaugh’s calendar that there were a LOT of parties. I watched the Fox interview as well as the testimony. There were, um, some differences between the two. My news source on Kavanaugh is pretty much Kavanaugh :P. A beer or two or occasionally one or two too many that he admitted to in his testimony doesn’t match either his implications during his fox interview or what others around him have described of his behavior, in two entirely different directions. Had he come out from the beginning and said, “yeah, like a lot of other idiot teenagers I spent too much time partying and sometimes I drank way too much and we made stupid, crass jokes about sex and drinking, but I never would touch a woman against her will, even when I was drunk off my butt.” But that isn’t what he did. Instead he pretended to be far more innocent that he clearly was and then he lied about a number of things, including what a bunch of slang even meant, for the love of Pete. He’s not that old and the slang didn’t go away that quickly.

    The article you linked doesn’t actually say anything about the rule of law. It mostly says the author found the process icky. And it has been. Difi should have put through her concerns earlier, Grassley should have ordered a full review of Kavanaugh once they came in. Politician will politic. But that doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not Ford is testifying truthfully or if there are concerns regarding Kavanaugh’s behavior as a young many and current his response to those behaviors.

  • JonathanJennings

    I got a completely different read from him and from Ford. He chose not to give straight answers about drinking, and why would he? Even if he just said “I drank in high school and sometimes we drank a lot” people are going to immediately jump to conclusions. He did end up saying almost exactly this in his testimony, and it just became smear ammunition for Democrats. The leap from crass jokes to sexual assault is like saying, “Well, Bemused, you just said that him being at a lot of parties means he was a heavy drinker. Therefore, you must be the kind of person who would slander other people for money. Maybe you’re a Soros operative!” See how making leaping inferences about character gets crazy fast?

    Also, I was just plain creeped out by Ford. She also has changed her story details multiple times, has lied about her fear of flying, etc. Not exactly a great witness to her own character or memory. Her testimony rang false; Kavanaugh’s rang true. I’d encourage you to watch both and take some time to ponder them.

  • Bemused

    Given that the crass jokes were already available for us to see, it would have been better to have been upfront about them. Given that the drinking was in evidence from his own calendar where he notes meeting his friends for beer and that he didn’t attend school in some kind of bubble where no one knew him, so he had to know someone that he’d met at some point in his life might have mentioned it, it would have been better not to try to avoid the issue.

    I watched her testimony. I watched his. I watched his interview with Fox. I looked at the calendar. I read the excerpts from Judge’s book. I read the interview with the college roommate. I read the polygraph statement. I am not uninformed, I just disagree with you.

    You are free to believe he is more likely to be telling the truth about the assault, even though he was not truthful about almost everything else from that time of his life, and because of other available information. I am free to believe that Ford is more likely to be telling the truth, in part because Kavanaugh was not truthful about almost everything else from that time of his life, and because of the other available information.

    In my assessment, I’m looking at the facts available and comparing them with the stories told. Whether Ford might or might not have been creepy or Kavanaugh might or might not have been overly defensive and avoidant is not particularly important in my analysis. We have objective confirmation that Kavanaugh lied in parts of his story. We don’t for Ford. Therefore my conclusion is that Kavanaugh is more likely to be less truthful than Ford, because that’s what the evidence says.

  • JonathanJennings

    Nah, that’s just not what the evidence says. Judging him to be a potential rapist on crass jokes and drinking beer would mean almost every guys (and a fair numbers of girls) from my high school was a potential rapist. Let’s agree to disagree on the meaning of those data points.

    I don’t think either one of them think they are saying something false, but Dr. Ford is not telling the truth. She either lied or misremembered the details of the claimed event, about her fear of flying, and even about how memory and cognition work. Not a good look for her.

  • Bemused

    I’m judging him to be untruthful because he was deliberately untruthful about the jokes and the drinking (and several other data points). This leads me to think he may be untruthful about other things.

    How exactly could Kavanaugh think he’s not saying false things about his drinking and what slang terms mean? Of course it’s also possible that he doesn’t remember what kind of interactions he might have had with Ford. She describes him as having been very drunk.

    Do you not know people who are afraid to fly but can sometimes make themselves do it anyway? Because I certainly do. Her descriptions of memory and cognition were simplified for the audience. There are a bunch of studies out there if you are interested.

  • Andy

    Perhaps you should read about memories and the impact trauma has on them. I am one of those people who is afraid to fly, but I can make myself fly when I have, sweaty palm, heart palpatations and all. As far as Kavanaugh – he stated he worked hard to get into Yale, had no connection to Yale. Yea he had good grades, but he was a legacy acceptance. So he misremembered, his grandfather?
    Yes there will be An”investigation” but trump has put a limit in who they, the FBI can talk to,and what they can ask about. So what are people who support Kananaugh afraid of? More lies, misremembering, little and Margie coming out?

  • JonathanJennings

    Funny you should mention that, since I’m an actual, graduate level neuroscientist with a degree from a top-25 school. I’ve got the memory and trauma thing covered.

    The FBI investigation is just a stall tactic. Literally nothing to investigate 30 years later. It’s not about ‘finding the truth,’ but rather ‘we really hope that either this stalls his nomination past an election we hope the liberals win, or puts enough slander on his name to pressure squishy republicans to vote no.’ Seriously, please look at the history of the confirmation process and how utterly different this is from everyone else ever confirmed to the high court. This whole thing is a miscarriage of justice of the highest order, all in the name of angry liberals playing politics with a good man’s life.

  • JonathanJennings

    Also, be careful with the subtle us-vs-them nature of your last few sentences: ascribing fear to a position you don’t agree with isn’t helpful. You drive away potential allies. I read through some of your other comments on other topics, especially the Vigano revelations and there is a lot we agree on; this just isn’t going to be one of them.

  • Andy

    I was not being subtle or push people away- I find the rush to confirm problematic. It is not as if I am liberal, though I probably fall a tad left of center. I think that a complete investigation/vetting of a person being considered for a life-time appointment to anything is in order. As it stand I was opposed to Kavanaugh from his niomination because I view his writings to be a problem – his ideas about executive power truly scare me.

  • Andy

    I am a graduate level psychologist – so we can compare vita. I slso have the trauma-memory thing covered. My comment was more to do with the dismisdiveness I see directed at Dr. Ford not recalling details of an event. So please tell me why an investigation is problematic – I feel like a broken record – if Kavanaugh is “innocent” as he claims then wonderful, he is exonerated. If there us “guilt” in his testimony should he be on the SCOTUS?

  • JonathanJennings

    He’s a constructionist on the constitution, which is both good and in line with Catholic Social teaching. What’s not to like there?

  • Andy

    Yet the constitution does not put the president above the constitution, so there is lots not to like. No one though had answered why waiting I’d a problem, why?