Tuesday, October 02, 2018

A Stain on our Democracy? I'd have to agree

Like millions of others this past week, I watched the second part of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Bret Kavanaugh. As I have said a googolplex times here, this isn't Wikipedia, and I will presume you know who he is and what has happened, or this will make little sense to you. If you know, no doubt you have made your own judgments, have your own biases and thoughts as I have mine, and will see it through your own lens. This is true whether you watched or know a little or a lot. Feel free to email me to comment, as I believe you will not be allowed to comment anonymously through blogger, and no one seems to want to leave a comment with their email address, which I guess I understand, given the dangers of the digital world.

The following is mostly a fantasy. It is the statement I wish Brett Kavanaugh could have given the day of his testimony (not the original testimony; I mean the one after Prof. Ford testified). I have hindsight in my favor, of course, and many conversations with many people over the last week, before and after the hearing. I've repeated a finding of mine, anecdotal, unsurprising, based on a very small personal and informal survey, but I still think powerful. During the day of his hearing, I spoke to 14 people, and including myself, 15 all told. This included friends, relatives and acquaintances. But, I knew who everyone liked and disliked politically and voted for (or not) in 2016. I also learned that day where they stood on Kavanaugh. Here was the interesting result. Five of those people either "hate" Trump, some virulently or at least dislike him and/or voted for Clinton. Every one of them thought Kavanaugh came off poorly, and that he was either too partisan or had a bad temperament, even if he were provoked, which did not justify his behavior. Five other love Trump. They all thought Kavanaugh did fine and that it was natural that he was furious at being called a molester, even a rapist, a serial rapist and even a serial rapist who drugged his victims. The last group was also five people, including myself, were people who don't like Trump or Hillary Clinton and/or didn't vote for either in the 2016 election. All of us five felt just like the Trump people did about Kavanaugh. By the way, of all those people there were only four women, though, of course, it would have been better if there were more. But, none of it was planned so it was what it was. Three of the women were Trump supporters and the other one didn't vote for either.

Yes, small sample size, and unscientific as can be. But, the results were hardly surprising to me. Although, the last group might not be the same in different geographic areas or bubbles like academia or certain workplaces, etc.  I live in middle class, white, middle-aged suburbia and that's who I was mostly speaking with. We tend to have similar opinions. Almost all of the people I spoke with who disliked Trump were on the telephone.

In any event, getting past my survey or whatever you want to call it, in the end, I have to agree with Kavanaugh. I did find it a national disgrace. We are reaping the whirlwind. I am saddened, really distressed, not only by the behavior of D Senators, who I thought behaved abominably (actually, worse at his first hearing) but also by the R Senators who out of fear of being called misogynist in the meeto! era abdicated any responsibility to defend a R nominee being assaulted by the other side, so that he was literally all on his own. I cannot imagine the Ds would have done that. But, the Rs also failed to own up to any responsibility for the anger that has arisen on the left because of their side's refusal to even consider Garland. Then again, the media would have been all over them if one of them so much as asked her a tough question. Perhaps I will try to show how to do that gently here too? It's really not so hard. I've had witnesses who had sympathetic stories and tried to bait me as an attorney into being too tough with them in front of the jury or arbitrators. I was able to avoid it without much difficulty. Also, that so many people decided that this man, who seemed beloved by so many others (everyone has people who do not like them), including co-workers, clerks, his children's friends and their family's, and so on, was "evil" or "hiding something."

But, I will leave the rest for the opening statement I wrote for him, which I will give forthwith. It is easier for me to write it a little more dispassionately than him for three very important reasons: One, no one threatened my family. Two, no one called me a rapist, never mind a serial rapist. And, three, I have the benefit of time and hindsight. I will not include even his better lines, such as his daughter's inclusion of the professor in her prayers. Because really, this is not his, but mine, though put into his person (we start with prayer - I don't pray). I'm just using his situation to say what given that hindsight, and experience, I think would have been most effective.

"Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein and Members of the Committee,

 You may not be surprised to know over the course of the past 11 days when I learned that Professor Ford claimed that I had assaulted her when we were teenagers, that I have prayed much. I have prayed alone. I have prayed with my wife and with my priest and my children. Whether it sounds farfetched to this committee or not, this committee has been in my prayers as well as anyone who truthfully believes I have done them harm. I was stunned, horrified, felt victimized, although not alone.

At the same time, I am a man, and I am subject to vanity, subject to pride, subject to anger. I know that if I came in here and stoically answered questions as if this was a walk in the park, it would probably be better for me. It would not make any difference to those who decided from before my nomination was announced that they were voting "no," or when it was announced that they were voting "no," or those who have determined that I was "evil," yes, "evil," in case anyone missed it. But, I have not been accused of being out of touch with proper behavior or social norms or that I "don't get it." I have been called one of the most heinous things you can call a man - a rapist. More, I have been called a serial rapist. And that is not even the worst of it. For those of you who run for office. These are not, as you say, Senator Klobuchar, normal times, though perhaps I think for different reasons than you. I have not in politics for a long time and my reasons are not partisan. I am concerned with civil order. And when I see a breakdown of civil order, public functions disrupted, violence and intimidation replacing argument and persuasion, then I think these are not normal times. And because these are not normal times, when a seat for the highest court in the land comes up, and it is contested not just by vetting the justice who is nominated, but by calling him evil, suggesting that he will cause pain and terror throughout the land, suggesting he is a pawn who rapes women and laughs triumphantly at their pain, well, it might result as it did result, with a death threat to the nominee's wife. I'd like you to think about that for a moment, because each of you, because each of you who has participated in castigating my good name, and I had nothing but a good name after 6 thorough FBI investigations, is responsible for a death threat to my wife. Maybe some of you have gotten death threats. Maybe you do not take them seriously. I do. And if my wife's life is threatened, who do you think she is frequently in the company of? What do you think that means to friends and family?

Perhaps you earnestly believe if you lose an election you have this right, not just to fight hard to try and persuade the other side and the public that you are right, but also to try to destroy men and women's lives if they are nominated for office by the "other side."

I know I am not the first one, And I know other people have dealt with far worse. Far worse. People have died in the name of freedom, been maimed in the name of freedom, seen their children sacrificed. And, of course, in doing this, someone in this process, and it can only be someone on one of the political staffs if not Ms. Ford's own lawyers, released her own name to the press and caused such distress to her life. Of course, she may not want my sympathy, feels it is false even, because she believes I molested her and am simply trying to appear sympathetic. But, I know I did not. So, I cannot help but give it, though it is mixed with wonder, of course.

I have listened patiently to your questions, the insinuations by you that I am supposed to tell President Trump what to do about the FBI, that I am hiding things, that I am a racist, that even before Prof. Ford's name came out I was complicit in harassment because I once clerked for a justice who was found to have harassed women. And I know I will hear all these again without apology or even acknowledgment that another Senator raised it 5 minutes ago. I know this because I was an attorney and I am a judge and I understand that this is part of strategy. But, all attorneys, all politicians, all humans should have limits, should have some basic decency.

I listened carefully to Professor Ford this morning. I do not remember her, for which I mean no offense but do not apologize. It is a long time ago and we meet a lot of people. I'm sure my words will be searched and no matter what I say, someone will find a way to interpret it so that I might have secretly, for some unknown reason left a loophole to mean that yes I did molest her or someone else. But, I will do the best I can so that at least people without an ax to grind will understand. I believe her when she says we met. I believe her that someone molested her at some time, although she cannot remember when or even what year. I understand the trauma of women getting molested and the effect it can have on them. But, I have never molested or forced myself on her or any other woman, period. I have never had non-consensual sex or unlawfully exposed myself to anyone. I have never taunted a woman. I have never tried to take a woman's clothes off against her will. At the time Professor Ford describes me, I was a virgin. I did not have sexual experiences with anyone except perhaps very few chaste kisses, which I do not choose to discuss.

I will do my best to answer your questions as dispassionately as I can, but I may fail. I'm sure I will hear that I will. I'm sure I will be told, no matter how I do, that I was intemperate, lack judicial temperament and am, as I said, evil. But, we have heard that already before this new material even came up. We heard that before I was even named and was only an X to be filled in.  But, I will continue to be honest beyond what is in my best interests. There is a large part of me that does not want to be stoic, that wants to let my anger out at not only the gross insult to me far beyond what anyone should have to absorb in accepting a nomination. It has been suggested to me by normally civil people that I use a certain declaration containing a swear word with you, that I trade insult for insult, because no nominee has ever been so insulted before this committee before, not even Clarence Thomas.

I'm not going to do it. But, I understand why they want me to and I believe a lot of people would not only understand why I did it, but might even stand up in their living rooms and applaud. And some of those people, would have been witnesses before Congress. As you said, Senator, these are not normal times.

I understand the politics of it but have to stay out of it. If you ask me about the president, I will recite to you from a prepared statement once. I understand you do not like him. I can't comment. After that, I will just ask you if you want me to recite the prepared statement. I understand about Justice Garland, who is a personal hero of mine, who I stood up for, but if you ask me about him, I cannot comment on it, and I will just read a prepared statement the first time. After that, I will just read it again if you want me to. Along with Roe v. Wade, which I do not expect questions about today, that's really what this is all about, and I think that's what most people in this country know and expect. But, that has nothing to do with me and it's not something that should have anything to do with me.

If you ask me about the FBI I will read from a prepared statement once. I understand you would like them to investigate, but I can't comment on it. After that, I will just ask you if you would like me to recite the prepared statement.

I do understand that this type of politics has been going on for a long time, much longer than anyone here has been alive. But, we've come so far in so many ways. Just not in this way. I found this quote from John Adams from a letter to Thomas Jefferson. By the way, that was era where the two sides routinely said horrible things about each other too. In any event, this was later in their lives and they were out of government, and had patched up their differences:

"While all other Sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a stand; little better understood; little better practiced now then 3 or 4 thousand Years ago. What is the Reason? I say Parties and Factions will not suffer, or permit Improvements to be made."

There's more, but I thought that was the most applicable part. We can see planets surrounding other stars and send robots through veins to cure diseases, but when another party takes power, we still try to destroy the lives of the people. It is practiced no better now than when the forefathers lived.

So, shut up, right? It is a seat on the Supreme Court. Death threats to your family, never getting to teach again because probably some of the students, egged on, will now call you a rapist or disrupt the class, perhaps never coaching again because protesters might show up at the game and endanger the children, hiring security guards for my children, these are the penalties I should have to expect, because I was nominated by a president you don't like. So, it's my problem, right.

You do have a duty, of course, to investigate the claim. It could have been handled confidentially with Chairmen Grassley two months ago and it would have then been discovered that none of the other people allegedly involved, including Prof. Ford's friend have any memory or knowledge of it, that there is no date or year for it, no evidence whatsoever of it. I am not making light of her feelings or pain. I am talking about reality. It did not need to be this for her sake or mine. It did not need to be this for the sake of the country. As to the other claims, all I can say is, are you serious? Is this where we are at? A woman can claim she went to ten parties where I was involved with the gang rapes of women, where no one called the police, where there is no evidence of it, and we are to take it seriously? What claim is so far-fetched that we do not take it seriously? Must it involve space aliens? I wish, I wish, I wish I was not jesting.

As I said before and might say again in answering your questions, Professor Ford sounds credible and I believe she is sincere, I know for a fact that she is wrong because I would never, even as a young man who sometimes drank too much, do such a thing. I was surprised, I have to admit, that no one asked her, a professional psychologist, if people in general, witnesses after even 24 hours, trauma victims ever have false memories. I think it is fairly well known, and one doesn't even have to be a trained psychologist to know it. But, there are books on the market and people giving talks about the certainty they had in accusing someone of rape, only to years later realize that - they were wrong. I admit, I wish someone else had brought that up, but, it looks like, I will have to.

I will take a deep breath now and submit to your questions. Forgive me if I am not the model of stoicism today, although I will try to re-achieve that level. Try to imagine that someone has accused you of one of the most heinous crimes we know of in front of the whole world and that you were worried someone was hunting your spouse or family and perhaps you will understand.

I will take your questions now."

That's my Kavanaugh statement. Of course, he had all that stuff about his dad and his calendar, some of which worked, some of which was booooorrrrrinng.

And, his petulance with some of his questioners, particularly Klobuchar, who is generally well-liked, and not as did not play well with anyone who did not want him to be confirmed in the first place, and did play well with those who thought the Ds were off the charts obnoxious when they first addressed him. But, other than the narrow band of Fox, talk radio and a few other media outlets, the overwhelming television and print coverage is anti-Trump (too well established to argue - see the Harvard study) and anti-Kavanaugh.

Even after it is over, it wasn't over. We had to listen to another round of dreadful speeches from everyone. I was even surprised at Lindsey Graham, who was outraged, purple with rage while Kavanaugh was being questioned, but calmed down the next day to say much the same thing, and defended his own policy again of voting for D nominees and treating them with dignity, even though he disagrees with him. I will give him a B-, not an A. Here's why. First, he's delusional to say they did the right thing with Garland. Yes, it was legal, but it so violated the trust the two parties must have with one another, that it has fueled this anger (and, yes, I'm perfectly aware that pretty much all of the the leading Ds had earlier said that they thought the rule should be no appointments in a presidential election year when it suited them - but that was insane too). If the Ds get the Senate there will be no more Trump higher offices filled until Justice Garland is seated on the Supreme Court, period, and we will see about after. Of course, he won't do that, so . . . .

Second, Graham does vote for the D nominees. And he does not sneer at them from across the floor. Nor do the other R committee members (at least since Sessions is gone). They were not as obnoxious as Whitehouse, Blumenthal, Hirono, Leahy and Durbin were, at least, with Kavanaugh and Korsuch, but they were smarmy and tried to be a little tricky, at least with Sotomayor and Kagan. I grimaced a little, but they were still respectful. Jeff Sessions questioning Kagan over her gun position while Dean at Harvard Law was probably the hottest exchange - he did look like he wanted to smite her. But, Sessions wasn't calling her a monster. He was just calling her out as being a liberal secretly against guns. And, in my opinion, she got the better of the exchange (as the justices usually do), because he was being paranoid. Compare that to the way to aforenamed D Senators treated Kavanaugh even before the Ford accusation came out - "Evil."

The problem is, a quarter to half the country is happy to agree that Kavanaugh is a monster, or at the very least, his being nominated by the Trump is enough to justify the destruction of his personal happiness, and his family's with it.  A friend of mine I was speaking to yesterday, who is unable to discuss anything about Trump without becoming enraged and quickly hanging up (he once, at his house, told me he was leaving the room if we didn't stop talking about Trump - meaning, he could, I couldn't - and I don't even like Trump), told me he trusts his judgment and he could tell from the first second that he saw Kavanaugh, he's an evil guy, part of the whole conspiracy to take the United States down and use it for the profit of just a few people. Yeesh. But, that's the Sanders-Warren-Democratic Socialist message, isn't it? Not really Clinton's, but, could she even run now if she didn't adopt it? I think she would soon get the Jim Webb treatment if she ran in 2020, unless she completely caved, kowtowing to the new generation. If she didn't, they'd yank her mike, and I don't mean figuratively. Cuomo found he had to say "America was never great" when he ran against a no borders, no Ice opponent, and he was initially a fairly moderate, actually conservative D.

A number of the Ds on the committee, friends who spoke with me, commentators online, etc., complained that Kavanaugh revealed himself as not having a judicial temperament. I know very few people who have not lost their temper at one time or another, many with very little reason. A very few of them show stress, but will not raise their voice no matter what the the provocation. I yell all the time now at my gf, but believe me SHE GODDAM WELL DESERVES IT!!!!! (God, I hope she doesn't read this - if I don't post next month, you'll understand. Donations are welcome). But, I have a pretty good sense of humor about myself. You can insult me a lot. I don't get upset about ethnic or slurs ("she" insults me so regularly I have to have a pretty thick skin), but, I admit, if you hit the right nerve about my personal integrity basically, call me personally dishonest, I can get pissed. And, though it doesn't seem to happen that I can recall. If you called me depraved, a child molester, rapist, etc., yeah, I'd be furious too.

The irony is, we live in the most sensitive times I've ever experienced in my life. It is the opposite of when I grew up, when it seemed people had a much thicker skin except for people we found a little weird, or, of course, little kids. Now, people are very quick to get insulted. Do parents even teach their kids "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me," anymore? We even have micro-aggressions, which I'm pretty sure mean "'not-aggressions' but we'd like to call them aggression anyway." Words with dual meanings ("retard" comes right to mind) or words that sound like other words (famously, niggardly) can be dangerous.

Everybody, well almost everybody (not Don, who sometimes commented here before Google screwed up the comment feature) is so freaking sensitive. Yet, when Bret Kavanaugh, on the word of a women who is going by memories that can at best be described as cloudy and incomplete, 35 or so years old, uncorroborated even as to the presence of her own friend, is called a child molester (she was a child at the time), and then also a serial rapist and drugger of women, some people expect him to say, "pip-pip, carry on" or not be livid or upset. His life is changed forever. He has already said he may never teach again. His own students would probably heckle him. How can he be alone with women now? How vulnerable is he? He has to worry about the security of his family, his parents? If he gets on the Supreme Court, are idiots going to be screaming out "rapist" at the oral arguments. We saw what the morons did at the first hearings he had (no Senator Grassley - it is not free speech when the police are dragging them away).

Today, people say they feel "unsafe" if someone has an opinion they do not like and they need "safe zones" or people get fired for their opinions (as famously happened at Google and just happened, I believe at CERN. But, Bret Kavanaugh is not allowed to be upset or show it, because he's going to be a Supreme Court justice and we have to pretend they are without partisan . . . ehhhh . . . they are without partisanship. How silly. Every other member of the court is as partisan as they can be. He'd be no different. In fact, he'd probably still be the least partisan of the R justices. I understand why politicians keep up the pretense of these partisan fantasies that the other justices are fair or impartial, but why do other people? Why not just say, I just want my side to win? Is there an R who wouldn't want Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from every controversial case, as a liberal constitutional scholar now insists Kavanaugh would have to, because she said something intemperate about Trump? Come off it. We know how every one of them really feels? Do you remember what Obama said that caused the the Rs not to go the State of the Union address anymore? It was nothing, a pittance over a case? Should they all recuse themselves? Of course not.

Of course, it doesn't matter to the Ds (neither parties feel shame - their friends all support them), because, as I wrote above, it's never been about him (and certainly not about Ford). It's mostly about Garland and Trump and Roe, in some order. I have no doubt, with the hysteria we are seeing, that some of them have talked themselves into believing the rhetoric.

I'm sure many ordinary citizens, forgetting that a week ago they were fine with him even if they were Ds or liberals, because now they have a handle that they'd be outraged at, no doubt, if used against a Clinton when one was in office. Come to think of it, not too long ago in history, they were. Except, almost all of that we've learned was true, and even some of them (and me - I supported him throughout it) kind of came to believe he may have been a rapist too. Indeed, I've only today learned that Juanita Broderick is demanding an FBI investigation into her alleged rape by Clinton. Anyway, partisanship is very powerful, blinding, and I'm sure they believe, whatever it is they believe and that includes believing they were fair in appraising it and coming out on the side they did. As Judge Roy Bean was supposed to have said - "First we have a fair trial, then we hang him." Or perhaps it is just the most magnificent coincident ever known to humankind - that in fairly appraising political controversy, Ds and liberals will side almost every time with Ds and liberals and Rs and cons will side with Rs and cons. And when they don't, their own side will hate them with a white hot heat little seen outside of supernovas.

I do hope Bret Kavanaugh gets on the Court. I have a gentlemen's bet that I hope I lose that he will not. So far I'm losing as he passed the Committee, when Flake voted for him. But, as we know, Flake nearly buckled and did the whole FBI thing, which, if you were watching, was just a weird ballet between him, who didn't know what he was trying to say, Grassley, who just wanted to finish and the Ds, who wanted Flake to make unprecedented demands (or an "amendment," which made no sense) on his yes vote that really made no sense. His experience, particularly with the two women in the elevator, tells us something. It is going to be an all-out "protest-assault" on Flake, Murkowski and Collins and probably a few D Senators to get them to vote against. I am hopeful it doesn't turn violent, but it seems to me that Ted Cruz and his wife were all ready chased out of a restaurant (which now has armed guards b/c the owners are getting death threats - although many Ds have assured me their far left is not becoming violent) in the name of Kavanaugh, so chances are not great if those protesting violence don't feel that they are getting their way.

Alan Dershowitz, a liberal Democrat (ironically, when I was a liberal, I could not stand him at all as he had the most combative and obnoxious debating style) and Harvard professor who often pontificates these days in favor of conservative outrage at political correctness b/c so many liberals truly have gone so far off their nut that it is hard to believe, has been falsely accused himself in the past and knows what it is like. He called what goes on these days nearly sexual McCarthyism. That's kind of like what it is, but maybe worse.  Whatever it is, I am passed my dating age and don't have to suffer much because of it. But, I feel for young people today. Many are just ignoring it, but many are just accepting it and they are missing a lot and also being afraid. I've heard too many say so to me, and it's not like I've talked to that many, to think it's just me being an old codger saying damn those kids and their newfangled ways.

The man I sometimes refer to here as Eddie told me that he heard recently that not only should affirmative consent be obtained before sex, but that it should be enthusiastic consent. Well, there goes my sex life and that of almost everyone in my age group. I'm not blaming anyone. I'm just saying. But, even Eddie, pretty far to the left by his own admission, thought that was over the top.

And, I'm done watching. The Senate has been speaking about it non-stop, as have the talking heads. I really can't listen anymore to either side. Poor Bret. We will see what happens. But, I just don't think he's going to make it and that will be the shame (as was Garland).  

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .