Bob fu ‘21
It all started this summer, when former Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement. In his thirty years of serving that position, he embraced liberal views such as gay rights while also helping the Republicans block gun control legislation. He maintained a median position on the political spectrum in the Supreme Court for 18 years, the longest record since 1937.
On July 9, President Trump announced his decision for the next Supreme Court justice, Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was a federal judge for the District of Columbia. President Trump described him as "a man with impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications" and "a judge's judge, a true thought leader among his peers."
Dr. Chirstine Balsey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, wrote a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein with the allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were at a high school party decades ago. Sen. Feinstein did not release the letter at Dr. Ford's request.
From September 4 to 7, Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearings. The accusation from Dr. Ford was not brought up when witnesses were called to testify for his nominations.
On September 12th, Sen. Feinstein sent the letter to the FBI when rumors started to surface about the letter.
Two days later Dr. Ford's letter was made public in The New York Times, Kavanaugh issued a statement denying her allegations. In an interview with The Washington Post, Dr. Ford claimed that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed then tried to remove her clothes forcibly.
The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing and scheduled a panel on the 24th (it was later changed to the 27th) to hear from both Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh. Around that time two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, came forward with accusations to Kavanaugh's inappropriate sexual conducts.
During the committee hearing on the 27th, Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford both appeared to be emotional during their testimony. Dr. Ford remained relatively under restraint, though visually distraught, while Kavanaugh appeared a bit more unstable, with occasional outbursts. The next day the committee voted to send Kavanaugh's nomination to the whole Senate for the confirmation vote, but Republican Senator Jeff Flakes wanted a one week delay for the FBI to do more investigation only within the scope of Dr. Ford's accusations(blocks by women).
On October the 4th, FBI's probe ended, nine witnesses were interviewed. Two days later, Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate, 50-48.
These accusations were likely inspired by the #MeToo movement and Anita Hill if not a scheme by the Democratic party. The #MeToo movement has been an inspirational movement for women around the world. It is nothing new. In 2006, Tarana Burke founded the "me too" movement to "help survivors of sexual violence," "find pathways to healing" and “empowerment through empathy.” It was created to help survivors of sexual assault know they are not alone in their journey. The effect of the #MeToo movement not only reflects in the empowerment of women but also in the waves of accusations against men with high status, like politicians and celebrities, to the average Joes.
Now that I have laid out a general timeline and the context, here's my take on the issue of Kavanaugh.
I will start with the exploration of the multifacetedness of humans. To Kavanaugh, it seems that these accusations ruined his life, career, and family forever, as he put it: "... and as I predicted my family and my name had been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations." Or is it? According to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, people's attitude towards Kavanaugh was largely decided along the party line, so, throughout the development of this issue, these attitudes have largely remained static. People have debated how much weight should be given to an event that happened 36 years ago. Legally speaking, it shouldn’t have any. In the state of Maryland, the statue of limitation for attempted rape at that time was only one year (it was removed in 1996, and attempted rape was included as a felony). It can be said that Kavanaugh's alleged wrongdoings only reflect the 17-year-old Kavanaugh, and people should understand that he has grown and matured over time; thus the accusations should not be taken into serious consideration. It can also be said that Kavanaugh showed signs of a high functioning alcoholic, as Democrats within the Judiciary committee suggested past evidence of other inappropriate behavior. Either way, it seems that people's attitudes were still dictated by the party they identify with, which is problematic because there are more than two sides to it.
Regardless of what happened thirty years ago, the fact he might have done something wrong 36 years ago in a suburban D.C. house is more than troubling to him. The emotional reactions he had during the hearing highlighted him as a desperate man. Desperate for what? Clarity or his career? When tribalism prominent in D.C escalated things, the truth is no longer important, it seems that few still cares about it. It is always pathetically amusing to see actors on stage forsake their roles and instead vie for attention and popularity, like a school play by amateur third graders. "The first casualty when war comes is the truth," said late Senator Hiram Johnson. In my opinion, those who would bend the truth to serve their agenda should be condemned, no matter what side of the ideological spectrum they are on.
If the accusations towards Kavanaugh are founded, to what extent do we let it damage his image? The complexity of humans should be understood as common sense; even we would not know everything about ourselves. When molding a person into a figure, like what the Republicans were doing with Kavanaugh, presenting him as a Mr. Right with a perfect record. Some will take it with a grain of salt while others don’t because that is what some people want to believe. Is he really like that? We do not know because Kavanaugh's background check was classified. Only the senators within the Judiciary Committee had access to it. Sure enough, each side brought what they could to the social media, contradicting each others' statement and waged a war among the people using partisan bias. No one can never be so simple, that they can be described accurately in a few words. Kavanaugh took it seriously because he had to, bounded by his figure and partisan interest he had to defend for his reputation. The reasons behind his actions could very well be a result of him defending his innocence like any other any other man would, or he could be guilty of his actions, but in consideration of his career and reputation, was forced to defend himself.
If everything Dr. Ford testified in the Senate hearing is considered to be true, his career may be significantly jeopardized. If the committee did not consider Dr. Ford credible, a man potentially unsuitable for the position got away without what he deserved. The thing is, whatever happens, the public opinion will mostly stay the same, as is referenced in the previously discussed poll. If Kavanaugh’s nomination failed to be passed in the Senate, Republican supporters would stick with their view of the accusations are just Democrat smearing campaign, in revenge of their loss in the 2016 Presidential Election. Another candidate would be put forward by Trump and Kavanaugh would be tossed away, just like "another brick in the wall." This will be seen as a milestone victory for women around the world, Dr. Ford carried on what Anita Hill started.
In the case of a win for Kavanaugh and the Republican party? The Republicans celebrate the Democrats failed in their smearing campaign and their effort in further dividing the country. While Democrats and feminists rants on about the toxicity within our current political atmosphere. A good turn out for the midterm election is expected for both the Democrats and Republicans, Kavanagh's nomination has seemed to enrage the Republicans, so the Democrats may have more trouble than previously expected.
However the nomination of Kavanaugh developed, as the country becomes further divided while there is a less of moderate presence that isn't willing to conform with the popular. I think that is the most needed figure in US politics today: a strong moderate presence to check both sides of the spectrum, a voice that can be relied on generally by the masses. John McCain was truly a respectable man and a politician in this sense. But what am I thinking? Gone are the moderates, and come with the radicals who would do anything in the name of ideas. In situations like this, it seems natural to pick a side and stick with it, but we need to confront what lies beyond the simple "dualism" on our own. A common way, but often the only way we choose to make a decision is to assess credibility through observations. When taking into account sympathy, party interests, what others say and our own identification of our position on the spectrum of ideas, and the possibility of us standing on the wrong side, things easy like this become much murkier and more difficult to decide. When doing your math homework, have you ever had the feeling of your brain capacity being pushed to the limit and feeling like it is going to explode? Although it may be difficult, you know you have to push through it. The same logic applies to this as well, except you will never get to the bottom of it, however hard you struggle. You must struggle for the truth to the best of your ability. I know that working on a math problem that has no end to it may sound hellish, but you must examine certain things in that way and in that way only. Democracy relies on it.
Anyway, the reality is not the place to discuss things removed from the context and then conclude with an abstract statement telling you what to do. The real world needs decisions—you may not do the right thing retrospectively, but you always need to try. I would like to end this article with a quote from George F. Kennan, an American diplomat.
"But I also suspect that what purports to be public opinion in most countries that consider themselves to have popular government is often not really the consensus of the feelings of the mass of the people at all, but rather the expression of the interests of special highly vocal minorities — politicians, commentators, and publicity-seekers of all sorts: people who live by their ability to draw attention to themselves and die, like fish out of water, if they are compelled to remain silent. These people take refuge in the pat and chauvinistic slogans because they are incapable of understanding any others, because these slogans are safer from the standpoint of short-term gain because the truth is sometimes a poor competitor in the marketplace of ideas — complicated, unsatisfying, full of dilemma, always vulnerable to misinterpretation and abuse. The counsels of impatience and hatred can always be supported by the crudest and cheapest symbols; for the counsels of moderation, the reasons are often intricate, rather than emotional, and difficult to explain. And so the chauvinists of all times and places go their appointed way: plucking the easy fruits, reaping the little triumphs of the day at the expense of someone else tomorrow, deluging in noise and filth anyone who gets in their way, dancing their reckless dance on the prospects for human progress, drawing the shadow of a great doubt over the validity of democratic institutions. And until people learn to spot the fanning of mass emotions and the sowing of bitterness, suspicion, and intolerance as crimes in themselves — as perhaps the greatest disservice that can be done to the cause of popular government — this sort of thing will continue to occur."