Did you watch the Brent Kavanaugh confirmation hearings yesterday? I couldn’t help myself. I watched much more than I at first intended. I found it all quite fascinating and very conclusive in terms of filling the Supreme Court post left open by the resignation of Anthony Kennedy.
Surprisingly, I decided that if presented with the improbable choice, I’d vote to approve Christine Blasey-Ford, not Brent Kavanaugh, for the vacant post. Her testimony yesterday exhibited the qualities I expect in a judge. She also evidenced a sharper legal mind than the actual nominee.
Let me explain.
At issue, of course, was Dr. Blasey-Ford’s accusation that 36 years ago, when she was 15 and he was 17, Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a drunken high school party. Perhaps even more importantly, the issue has become whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is lying about the event in question.
Dr. Blasé-Ford’s couples-therapist has notes to prove that the alleged crime remained a disturbing issue long after the alleged event and well before Kavanaugh’s nomination to fill the soon-to-be-vacant SCOTUS position. Blasey-Ford says she is “100% sure” that Kavanaugh was her attacker. She has also taken and passed a lie detector test to that effect.
Her request is that the F.B.I. investigate her allegations – specifically that they take a deposition from the only witness to the crime, one Mark Judge who, she says, was at least an accessory to the crime, if not an active accomplice of the young Kavanaugh she describes. Blasey-Ford alleges that Judge egged Kavanaugh on and that he ended up jumping on top of the pair as the future SCOTUS nominee attempted to disrobe her.
Throughout her testimony, I found Dr. Blasey-Ford’s testimony low-key, measured, open, matter-of-fact, and un-defensive.
For his part, Judge Kavanaugh denies the whole thing. His testimony was loud, aggressive, angry, extremely emotional, tear-filled, defensive, and punctuated by snorting, huffing, puffing and frequent pauses for long gulps of water. With raised voice, he repeatedly talked over his inquisitors. At points, it appeared that he was having a nervous breakdown.
Along with his Republican male colleagues, the judge painted himself as the innocent victim of a calculated smear campaign. Though Dr. Blasey-Ford may well have endured the horrific attack she describes, Kavanaugh maintained that she had mistaken the identity of her attacker.
He further argued that there was no need to depose Mark Judge. It was good enough, Kavanaugh said, that the one Dr. Blasey-Ford had identified as his accomplice or accessory had submitted a statement swearing to the innocence of Kavanaugh (and, naturally, of Judge himself).
Similarly, for Kavanaugh, further F.B.I. investigation would be pointless. Much less would it help for him to take a lie-detector test. He intimated that his detailed calendar from 36 years ago, along with his own interpretation of its meaning was more credible than any such testing might ever be.
And that brings me to the conclusion I mentioned earlier. I thought of the whole spectacle in terms of a job interview. After all, that’s the bottom line here. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, Brent Kavanaugh is interviewing for a position on the highest court in the land. The real question here is not about the alleged event of 36 years ago, but about hiring him for a life-long job with iron-clad tenure.
To help answer that question, I recalled my years of work at Berea College in Kentucky and of the innumerable job candidates I interviewed there. What if Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh were applying for a job there? How would I and my colleagues evaluate their performances? Who would be most the most effective candidate.
It would not be Kavanaugh.
To begin with, measured, thoughtful, humble and articulate would be judged far more favorably than strident, defensive, accusatory and accompaniment by snorting, huffing and puffing. That contrast alone would disqualify Kavanaugh from serious consideration.
But then there’s the more serious question of professional competence. I and my colleagues would wonder who exhibited more . . . well, judiciousness? Who gave evidence of a better legal mind?
Clearly, it was Blasey-Ford. She called for full investigation of new charges. She requested deposition, cross-examination, and judgment based on eye-witness testimony. Meanwhile, he preferred reliance on investigations prior to recent charges. For him, testimony of the accused, endorsements by his friends, and trusting the written self-exoneration of an alleged accomplice or accessory were good enough.
I’m sure I and my colleagues would see such reasoning as sloppy and . . . well, injudicious.
In the words of a Great Man, I’m certain we’d conclude in effect: “Judge, Kavanaugh, you’re fired!”
Improbably, we’d offer the position to Dr. Blasey-Ford instead.