The Kavanaugh Divide

Americans are divided about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. This isn’t a right-versus-left divide. This is a split between people who care about the truth and people who don’t.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford wrote a letter alleging that, when they were both teenagers, Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her. That’s a serious accusation and we ought to let her be heard.

There’s a segment of the population that says Kavanaugh is certainly guilty, and another segment that says he’s innocent. These are two sides of the same coin; neither one cares about making a decision based on facts.

Ford deserves a chance to state her case. Right now, she’s forfeiting that chance by refusing to testify before the Senate. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee offered her the option of testifying behind closed doors, without any reporters or cameras. Ford turned them down.

Ford says she will not testify until the F.B.I. investigates the alleged attack. There are two problems with this. First, the F.B.I. does not investigate possible state-level crimes or possible sex crimes. Secondly, no one requires an F.B.I. investigation in order to tell the truth.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who received Ford’s letter, and Ford herself both know that the F.B.I. is never going to investigate this. They’re using a hypothetical investigation as a reason for Ford not to testify.

It is disingenuous to stake your future statements on an investigation that you know will never happen. Ford wrote a bombshell letter, and I can’t imagine she made that decision lightly. Her letter and her name are already public, and no matter how much she may want to return to anonymity, she can’t un-ring the bell. Why, now, would Ford refuse to swear under oath that her own statements are correct?

Feinstein, who wants to delay the Kavanaugh vote based on the letter, doesn’t even know if the letter is accurate. “Now, I can’t say everything is truthful. I don’t know,” she said. And how could she? She wasn’t there. That’s understandable. What’s not understandable is trying to delay a confirmation vote based on something that might be false.

Feinstein has refused to set up calls between Ford and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Sen. Grassley, “The standard procedure for updates to any nominee’s background investigation file is to conduct separate follow-up calls with relevant parties. In this case, that would entail phone calls with at least Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. Consistent with that practice, I asked Senator Feinstein’s office yesterday to join me in scheduling these follow-ups. Thus far, they have refused.”

Feinstein has had the letter since June, and told no one about it until a Kavanaugh vote was imminent. She sat on the letter for months and did nothing, and now says it merits an F.B.I. investigation.

If the alleged event requires an investigation now, why didn’t it require one when it landed on her desk back in June?  And why won’t she advise the only person who remembers this event to tell other Senators about it? Feinstein’s behavior is not that of someone who cares about the truth.

If no one is willing to swear that the letter is accurate, the Senate ought not to make a decision based on it. Even if Ford were to change her mind and say, under oath, that the letter is correct, that’s still not enough evidence to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination. There is no evidence that Kavanaugh and Ford were in the house, and the only other witness said the event never happened. Ford has a story and no corroborating evidence to back it up.

Now, it is possible that Ford is telling the truth. She has scant evidence to back up her story, but that doesn’t make it false – it only makes it impossible to prove. Ford has not given a date of the alleged event; there is hardly any context in her letter. None of this is a criticism of her; the human memory is imperfect and the alleged attack happened more than 30 years ago. If Ford is telling the truth, I am so very sorry for her. She might have a real, horrifying story and simply lack the evidence to back it up.

Without any evidence, though, the Senate must grant Kavanaugh the same right that any court grants the accused: the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Kavanaugh has not been proven guilty. Feinstein isn’t trying to prove him guilty, and unless she testifies that her letter is accurate, neither is Ford. The Senate should vote on Kavanaugh – based on the sworn testimony and facts they have seen – immediately.

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