Did he do it? Do we believe her? Does it matter?
These are the questions swirling around the confirmation proceedings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Beyond partisan politics, these vital questions not only pertain to Kavanaugh and his confirmation, but they also reflect and shape our national collective conscience, too.
What is the truth? Do we listen to and believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation? Does this have any bearing on Kavanaugh’s fitness for office?
First, let me expose the terrible hypocrisy sitting in the middle of the room. Republicans who were quick to denounce the likes of Senator Al Franken and President Bill Clinton for their sexual misbehavior have been making every perceivable excuse for Judge Kavanaugh. And of course, Democrats who turned a blind eye to Franken and Clinton are now piling on Kavanaugh. Sexual misconduct and abuse is what it is. It either matters and brings to question the offender’s qualification for the responsibility of public office, or it doesn’t. Plain and simple, Democrat or Republican. (Of course, I don’t expect the partisans to agree with me. I’m sure they’ll respond with their regular barrage of worn-out, deflective talking points. Nevertheless…)
Now that the partisan smokescreen is out of the way, what do we make of Kavanaugh?
Let’s reverse the original order of my questions and first ask, “Does it matter?” Answer: it certainly should.
We’re about to confirm Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the nation’s Supreme Court where he will render decisions that will affect our lives and the lives of generations to come under the provisions and protections of United States Constitution. That’s heavy stuff. It takes women and men of the highest character, the clearest thinking, and with the firmest grasp on the truth to faithfully render just decisions.
There is now an accusation of sexual assault raised against Kavanaugh. If he cannot render the full, whole truth of himself in the face of a question regarding sexual conduct and ethics, that says two things. First, it says that he cannot be trusted to see and render the truth. And it says that his character is essentially flawed; he cannot recognize and take responsibility for the choices he has made.
Now there are many who are arguing, “Kavanaugh was a teenager. That was a long time ago. We all did stupid stuff as kids. If he even did that, why should he be punished for it now?” It’s true. Kids do dumb things. Then they grow up… hopefully. And part of growing up is taking responsibility for what we do and have done.
Let’s suppose Kavanaugh called for a press conference or confessed under oath the following: “The allegation brought forward against me by Dr. Ford are regrettably true. As a young man, I did sexually assault her, and I am deeply sorry for what I have done. Since making that terrible, injurious choice, I have grown to respect the dignity and value of every woman. Thus I ask Dr. Ford’s forgiveness. I am willing to make any necessary amends to Dr. Ford and her family. Meanwhile, I continue to commit myself to the highest standards of professional and personal boundaries, ethics and accountability.” After a statement like that, I think most of us would find ourselves moving towards forgiving Kavanaugh, even if on other grounds we still oppose his nomination.
But if Dr. Ford’s allegation stands as credible and Kavanaugh in any way denies or evades the question, he disqualifies himself. Furthermore, if Kavanaugh is content to sit passively, allowing the Republican majority to scuffle the allegation while pressing forward his confirmation, we would have every right to continually question its validity. Truth and character always matter. One informs the other.
That leads to the second question: Do we believe her? The #MeToo movement has done much to expose sexual assault and misconduct for the grave injustice it is, holding the perpetrators accountable, no matter how powerful they are, and making room for victims of assault to come out of the shadows and tell their stories without fear of retribution or incrimination. We have much further to go. Yet we are finally moving to the higher moral ground of saying to these precious neighbors, “What happened to you was not your fault. It was wrong, and we believe you.”
The case of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh is another hurdle in this revolution of truth and consequence. By all accounts, we have every reason to listen to and believe Dr. Ford, regardless of how her case has been handled thus far by the Senate. We’re all entitled to know the facts. We have an obligation to openly listen to her story without suspicion. And then, we must carefully watch and evaluate how Judge Kavanaugh responds.
This raises the last question. Did he do it? Hopefully we’ll soon know. It seems that Dr. Ford is open to the idea of some form of testimony. And yes, there should be an open investigation into the facts. Let’s apply every effort to understand what happened.
At this point, the truthfulness and character of far more than Judge Kavanaugh is on the line. The truthfulness and character of the Senate is also in the dock. And so is ours. Let’s hope and pray, for our country’s sake, and for sakes and the lives of victims and perpetrators of sexual assault, that we get this one right.