Friday, September 28, 2018

The Elephant in the Room

I didn't catch all of the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing yesterday, but I saw quite enough of it. In some ways it was like watching two different hearings. In the first, Professor Blasey Ford told her story and answered questions calmly, firmly insisting on her harrowing account of what allegedly happened to her years ago, in a way that certainly seemed believable, while she herself certainly came across as sincere and honorable. She asserted her "100 percent" certainty about the identity of her attacker, invoking her scientific expertise as a psychologist to clarify why that particular memory is so certain. Her account of her attackers' laughter was particularly powerful. However uncomfortable and unhappy she may have been about being there and having to testify publicly, she seemed to succeed in effectively making her point, in spite of the awkward committee procedure which chopped up her testimony into 5-minute segments and caused the questioning to alternate awkwardly between the hired Republican prosecutor and the sympathetic Democratic senators. (At times I felt as if I were watching an aristocratic Edwardian dinner, where at a periodic signal from the host everyone would have to turn and switch conversation partners!)

Then came Judge Kavanaugh's turn to testify. Expressing both personal anger (justifiable if he is innocent) and partisan Republican rage, Kavanaugh appeared to be behaving as his White House mentor may have wanted him to. If so, it seemed to have worked, when the President tweeted in response: “Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him.” Kavanaugh's aggressive behavior also seemed to liberate some of the Republican Senators to speak more aggressively in turn. I could hardly help wondering, however, what would be the reaction if Professor Ford, or any other woman or, for that matter, any poor or otherwise non-privileged person of either sex were to talk that way to the committee?

Of course, instead of all his histrionics, Kavanaugh, if he is innocent as he claims, could have served his cause much better by asking for - calling for, indeed demanding - an FBI investigation. This not only has he refused to do, but he seemed to go out of his way to avoid answering directly every time that question was posed. There is no better illustration of the committee majority's bad faith, of their determination to impose Kavanaugh on the Court no matter what the facts, than this suspicious reluctance to seek a normal investigation.

This is indeed the proverbial "Elephant in the Room," this Republican unwillingness to ask for a fuller investigation, and in particular the refusal to subpoena the one witness whose testimony could actually make a difference one way or the other - Mark Judge, Kavanaugh's classmate and friend (and memoirist of hedonistic preppy culture), who is alleged by Professor Ford to have been present.

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