Politics

Why Brett Kavanaugh Doesn’t Belong on the Supreme Court

kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court because he’s dishonest and unable to use his considerable legal education and experience to form a logical, coherent defense strategy. In addition, his performative, self-pitying rage before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed him to be a conspiratorial partisan, which undercuts any notion that he can be a fair-minded adjudicator of the cases that come before him.

It’s indisputable that Kavanaugh lied repeatedly in his testimony to the Senate. At Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson wrote an 11,000-word article dedicated to refuting an array of Kavanaugh assertions with facts.

As Robinson wrote, when viewing the testimony of Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford “honestly, impartially, and carefully” it’s clear that:

  1. Kavanaugh is lying.
  2. There’s no reason to believe Blasey Ford is lying.

Now, that Kavanaugh drank too much (and underage) 35 years ago doesn’t matter very much today. His dishonesty is happening right now in real time, and that is important because it undermines his credibility as a judge. I’m not going to recreate Robinson’s article here. Read it for yourself and you’ll see a sober-minded dissection of Kavanaugh’s lies, misdirection, and use of performative anger to blunt Democratic questioning.

Robinson’s excellent article missed one Kavanaugh whopper: his assertion that he got to Yale Law School “without any connections” by “busting his tail.” In fact, Kavanaugh was a legacy student because his grandfather attended Yale as an undergraduate.

Kavanaugh’s blatant dishonesty ought to be disqualifying, but I’m also bothered by something else: how inane his defense has been. He’s supposed to be an elite legal thinker — one of the top legal minds the country has to offer. But what he’s offered in his defense has been:

  1. A calendar
  2. A letter signed by 65 women, some of whom later retracted their support
  3. The lack of corroboration of Ford’s story
  4. Irrelevant and misleading assertions about his career and the nature of federal background checks
  5. Misleading and false claims about his high school behavior in general, and his drinking in particular.
  6. Evading direct questions.
  7. Self-pitying indignation.

I understand the difficulty in attempting to prove a negative. But, there’s a difference between asserting innocence, and accusing Senate Democrats of a “well-orchestrated political hit.” (It’s sorta interesting to note that while defending himself from an accusation made without supporting evidence, Kavanaugh makes an accusation without supporting evidence.)

The point, however, is how flimsy and dishonest Kavanaugh’s arguments are on his own behalf. Imagine a similar accusation made against Antonin Scalia, for example. While I think Scalia was wrong about a great many things, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have made a forceful, logically coherent, and legally sound case in defending himself. There is no chance he’d have offered up a calendar and tried to claim that because he didn’t have this particular underage drinking party penciled in, it could not have happened. (Side note: Robinson points out that such an event actually IS in Kavanaugh’s calendar, including the names of two of the boys Ford remembers being at the gathering where she was sexually assaulted.)

As a public relations professional with some experience in crisis communications, one thing is particularly striking: how easy it would be to construct a response that used existing facts, avoided telling obvious lies, and would likely have Kavanaugh already confirmed an on his way to the Supreme Court.

What we know from multiple descriptions from people who knew Kavanaugh, and from Kavanaugh’s own contemporaneous accounts that he was a binge drinker who got belligerent and aggressive when he was drunk. He’d already be on the Supreme Court if when Ford’s allegations were made public he emerged with a statement in which he:

  1. Admitted to binge drinking in high school and college
  2. Admitted that he sometimes drank so much that he could not remember what he’d done the night before
  3. Acknowledged it was possible that during one of these blackout episodes, he did exactly what Ford has claimed
  4. Apologized to Ford and anyone else he may have hurt when he was drunk and out of control, and
  5. Asserted that his life of service to America is demonstration that while he’s personally ashamed of his excessive drinking and out of control behavior, he doesn’t live that way anymore.

He could even toss in a sixth point about how he’ll work with an appropriate organization to address the dangers of drinking alcohol underage and to excess, but I don’t think that would have been necessary. Those five points above would not have satisfied many on the left. He’d be acknowledging it was possible he’d committed sexual assault without admitting it.

That statement would likely have headed off the second round of hearings and the FBI investigation. It would have given Republicans cover to mutter platitudes about how youthful indiscretions shouldn’t disqualify someone from important office, and a majority of voters would probably have agreed. In the end, the strategy I describe would have likely resulted in Kavanaugh being confirmed on a mostly party-line vote (although I think it’s possible he could have picked up the support of a few red-state Democrats).

It’s almost inconceivable that no one on Kavanaugh’s team or in the GOP proposed this strategy. It has the advantage of being the easiest path, in part because it’s a good fit with things the public already knows about Kavanaugh.

Instead, Kavanaugh and the GOP decided to construct their defense on lies and bluster. They may be able to bully Kavanaugh through the system and onto the Supreme Court. But his nomination and the confirmation process lays bare the fundamental dishonesty and abuse of power that lies at the heart of today’s Republican party.

Whether or not Kavanaugh assaulted Ford, he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court because he’s revealed himself as entitled, dishonest, partisan, and unable to think clearly under pressure.

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For what it’s worth, I believe her

blasey ford

I don’t want to write about this, but I feel like I should because of how some are attacking Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility based on her not remembering certain details. Maybe my experience will help others understand, maybe not. Either way here goes…

I was abused as a child. Not sexually, but physically and emotionally. It was violent. It was torture. It wasn’t daily, but it was frequent, and I lived in fear at all times. The abuse left physical marks — scratches, bruises, welts, lumps. It left indelible emotional scars that are with me to this very fucking moment. I’m 48 years old. The last episode of abuse I recall was at least 34 years ago.

I remember many details, which I don’t want to share. Just thinking about them as I write is awful enough. Here’s what haunts me most:

In the midst of abusive episodes, in the midst of physical and verbal violence, the phone would ring. My abuser would go on screaming vile insults and answer the call with a calm and placid tone — just another relaxing day. I’d be required to stand silently while a protracted conversation took place, which would be followed by resumption of the abuse.

One time, it was our priest on the line. After a cheerful conversation, the abuse resumed.

At the time, it was terrifying and humiliating. Looking back as an adult, I realize this wasn’t someone getting angry and losing control. It was intentional. Even with breaks and an opportunity to reconsider, the abuser would go back to torturing me. Decades later, this knowledge tears me up.

I remember where most of these events took place because they were at home. I know who abused me because I knew them well. I recall with specificity some of the exact things done to me — implements used, injuries caused, words said. Being forced to clean up after.

I remember instances where there were witnesses, and who those witnesses were. I remember feeling powerless, frightened, and hopeless. I remember feeling nauseous every day coming home from school. It wasn’t until I left home that I learned I wasn’t just prone to being car sick.

But, I couldn’t give you a single date. There are instances where I couldn’t give a location other than “the car” or “beach house.” At this point, I couldn’t tell you what precipitated even one episode of abuse, although I surely knew at the time.

I never reported any of this despite frequent opportunities. I talked about it years later with loved ones, and then in counseling, but at the time, I lied. The abuse left visible marks that drew questions from friends, teachers, and in some cases complete strangers. At every turn, I lied about the cause of the injuries.

I still don’t fully understand why I protected the abuser. As an adult looking back, I think it was fear that nothing would happen and that I’d get it even worse. And there was shame because I believed I deserved it. One time, I ran away from home (it lasted maybe four hours). The aftermath…well…the difference between me escaping that episode alive or without serious head trauma was the quick reflexes of someone nearby.

I sometimes wonder: what the fuck was wrong with me? Not just for not telling someone, but what was wrong with me that caused the abuse. Because, as crazy as it sounds now, I believed I deserved it. Intellectually I know I didn’t. I know it was about the abuser’s problems. But…I still sometimes wonder.

I recognize there are differences in how child abuse and sexual assault are viewed by many. Children are considered blameless victims. Teen girls and women who get assaulted are often assigned some measure of responsibility for getting attacked. “What was she doing at a drinking party with boys?” “She was wearing a short skirt…” and so on.

That’s all bullshit. What causes sexual assault is the same thing as what causes child abuse: an abusive person. It’s not the victim’s fault. Even if we sometimes blame ourselves.

What does all this say about whether Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh are telling the truth? Maybe nothing. But, the delay in Blasey Ford talking about the assault, and the gaps in her recollection are not indicators she’s lying. It’s normal. For what it’s worth, I believe her.

Who Are The Biggest Liars In Politics?

trump

Donald Trump: Biggest liar in politics?

A conservative friend told me today that he couldn’t possibly vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a “serial liar.” Another voiced agreement, saying, “The Clintons are some of the biggest liars in the history of American politics.”

At first this felt like one of those unmeasurable assertions. Except…there are fact checking websites like, PolitiFact. Others exist, but PolitiFact publishes a handy table providing a numerical breakdown of each person and organization it’s fact checked.

PolitiFact rates claims they’ve fact checked in one of the following categories:

– True
– Mostly True
– Half True
– Mostly False
– False
– Pants on Fire

To create a measure of political truthiness, I combined the first two as “truth” and the last three as “liar”.

Here are the TRUTH leaders from my self-selected group of news makers, according to the information published by PolitiFact (percentage of claims made by each individual that have been rated true or mostly true by PolitiFact):

  1. Bernie Sanders 53%
  2. Hillary Clinton 51%
  3. Barack Obama/Jeb Bush (tie) 48%
  4. Rand Paul 47%
  5. Chris Christie 40%
  6. Joe Biden 39%
  7. Marco Rubio/Sean Hannity/Mitch McConnell 38%
  8. Rachel Maddow 37%
  9. Scott Walker 34%
  10. Harry Reid 33%
  11. Paul Ryan 32%
  12. Mitt Romney 31%
  13. John Boehner 30%
  14. Ted Cruz 22%
  15. Nancy Pelosi 18%
  16. Donald Trump 7%
  17. Rush Limbaugh/Chain e-mails 6%
  18. Ben Carson 4%

In other words, 53% of the claims and assertions made by Bernie Sanders have been rated as true by the journalists at PolitiFact — the highest level (by a hair over Clinton) in this group. And kudos to Donald Trump for being slightly more truthful than anonymous chain e-mails and Rush Limbaugh. Ben Carson, the most honest student at Yale, rated as the least truthful — just 4% of his claims were rated as “true” by PolitiFact.

On the LIAR leaderboard (percentage of claims made by each individual rated as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire by PolitiFact):

  1. Obama 26%
  2. Sanders 28%
  3. Clinton 29%
  4. J. Bush 31%
  5. Biden/Paul 32%
  6. Christie 33%
  7. Rubio 40%
  8. Romney 41%
  9. Pelosi 43%
  10. Hannity 44%
  11. Ryan/McConnell 46%
  12. Walker 47%
  13. Maddow 48%
  14. Reid 52%
  15. Boehner 54%
  16. Cruz 66%
  17. Trump 75%
  18. Limbaugh 82%
  19. Carson 84%
  20. Chain e-mail 89%

If I make it into a ratio — TRUTH/LIAR, I get these results:

  1. Sanders 1.92 (truths per lie)
  2. Obama 1.86
  3. Clinton 1.78
  4. J. Bush 1.55
  5. Paul 1.47
  6. Biden 1.23
  7. Christie 1.22
  8. Rubio 0.94
  9. Hannity 0.86
  10. McConnell 0.82
  11. Maddow 0.77
  12. Romney 0.74
  13. Walker 0.73
  14. Ryan 0.70
  15. Reid 0.64
  16. Boehner 0.57
  17. Pelosi 0.42
  18. Cruz 0.33
  19. Trump 0.09
  20. Limbaugh/Chain e-mail 0.07
  21. Carson 0.05

So there you have it: the biggest liars in politics are Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh, chain e-mails and Donald Trump.

In the interest of fairness, I’ll point out that the forgoing numbers don’t necessarily represent “lies” in the sense that each of these people knew they were saying something untrue in each of these instances. Some of these are likely factual errors.

In addition, the PolitiFact database includes only claims they fact-checked. Each of these people have made a gazillion claims, many of which could be true, false or something in-between. What’s presented by PolitiFact (and therefore by me) is analysis of claims that were controversial or iffy enough to indicate a need for third-party evaluation. (I use “third-party” intentionally because PolitiFact has been accused of having a liberal bias. That’s a subject for another day.)