From the City of Manizales, high in the central range of the Colombian Andes, a dual United States Colombian national ponders.
Some personal clarifications necessary to evaluate the following observations. The author is not a supporter of the current president, but nor was he a supporter of his predecessor. He believes both major United States political parties are putrid and terminally corrupt, tools of the tiny elitist faction that rules us. He believes that the “Deep State” is a fact, albeit not as an organized institution but rather a series of collaborative alliances, and he believes that today, rather than the heart necessary to pump the lifeblood of democracy, accurate and complete information, the allegedly mainstream media is a propaganda machine, bought and paid for, and not by us. While in the past he has been a wanderer among varying political currents, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, he has come to realize that he is a democratic socialist, not a social democrat, or a faux socialist like Bernie Sanders, but more along the lines of Noam Chomsky and Albert Einstein, two heroes. But there is no Democratic Socialist Party in the United States, only shocked and dismayed people of conscience.
With that out of the way, let’s continue ….
So, it seems that sometime today, Saturday, October 6, 2018, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will become Justice Kavanaugh. After all the polarization and fury concerning his nomination, all the putrid allegations, all the investigations, the FBI (at least) has apparently concluded (who knows, we’re not to see the report) that there was no corroboration for the allegations of sexual improprieties by Judge Kavanaugh during his teens brought by several women, chief among them, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Most of the GOP members of the Senate (apparently all but one), apparently joined by a single lonely Democrat (I guess that makes it bipartisan, at least on a token basis) will vote to confirm Mr. Trump’s second nominee to the highest tribunal in the land, … for life. One wonders whether the Republic will survive another Supreme Court nomination battle during the Trump presidency, especially if it involves replacement of one of the Democratic Party appointees. What if it’s currently eighty-five year old Ruth Bader Ginsburg? What if a politically insensitive President Trump does not nominate a woman and the GOP still controls the Senate? A politically objective observer (assuming one exists, somewhere) might surmise that we would need to find a much stronger phrase than mere “hypocritical hyper-partisan hyperbole” to describe the ensuing political mayhem.
How will Republicans next react to a Democrat president’s nominee? If the Senate is Republican, will there be another Judge Merrick Garland spectacle? What happens if the Senate is also controlled by the Democrats, will Republicans riot in the streets, riot in the halls of Congress, riot in its elevators? Will the allegedly “mainstream” media lie down and purr rather than roil and roar defending any inadequacies and defects rather than seeking to destroy? How will the voters react?
What legacy, if any, does the recent political invasion of the judiciary leave us other than with many, many questions and a great deal of concern for the future? What lessons?
Perhaps one. That our political branches are inept and dishonest and concerned only with their own power which they will use any strategies and tactics to obtain, regardless of how filthy. Too inept to be entrusted with the nomination of federal judges by the executive on the one hand and their confirmation by the Senate on the other. That perhaps a fundamental constitutional change, a paradigm shift, is required. Perhaps that the selection of federal judges should be left to the chief justices of the state supreme courts, although one wonders at the mischief Murphy would then seek to cause playing with the laws of unintended consequences.
So what just happened?
An apparently brilliant and until recently well respected member of a United States Court of Appeals for the Washington, DC Circuit, albeit of conservative, strict constructionist judicial temperament, confirmed by the Senate on a relatively close 57 to 36 bipartisan basis to that post in 2006 (although only after a bitter three year confirmation process and significant negotiations by the Bush administration), was nominated by an unpopular president, at least among the “mainstream media”, during a period shortly preceding Congressional elections, in an atmosphere where the party defeated at the polls in 2016 was desperate for victories, victories regardless of the cost or to whom (hint, it’s us).
Democratic Party hopes for electoral victory in 2018 rest heavily on an ability to recapture the votes of many women, whose votes were inexplicably (at least to them) lost to them in the last elections despite fielding the first major party woman presidential candidate (damn Jill Stein, evidently not a real woman) and that has required dusting off and polishing the concept of polarizing identity politics centered on the manufactured fear that conservative Republicans will reverse women’s rights to elective abortions. Ironically, the centerpiece of that campaign relied on what became known as the #MeToo movement, a gender war tactic highlighting the very real problem of sexual assault by expanding it towards any uninvited sexual initiative by men, although most frequently or at least most notoriously, the men involved have been Democratic Party supporters. Former president Clinton has of course been subtly declared off limits but current president Trump has been declared guilty, even if the alleged encounters were consensual.
Roe versus Wade redux, Roe versus Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) versus the Second Amendment, again. Our most divisive and polarizing non-issue issues as change seems politically unviable although the issues sure as Hell rile up the respective bases.
Despite a great many claims to the contrary by Democratic Party partisans (especially in fund raising appeals for the upcoming Congressional elections), in Senate hearings and interviews Judge Kavanaugh had unequivocally stated that the famous case of Roe versus Wade which discovered the right to abortion amidst unseen shadows of the Bill of Rights instead of in the expansive fields of the Ninth Amendment, was settled law. Not to worry thundered the Democratic Party response, he’s lying, but not only that, in a post-last-minute rush reminiscent of the arrival of a cavalry, perhaps just a tad late, as if it one had arrived at the Little Big Horn just after the battle, allegations of an unwanted high school era sexual assault of sorts were popped out of a bag held in reserve for just such an occasion, allegations so artfully non-specific, except for the Judge’s identity, so completely uncorroborated, that while impossible to prove, they were also conveniently impossible to disprove, but they involved an issue so serious and so much in vogue that it was impossible for even tone deaf Republicans to ignore them, at least for most of them.
The related rhetoric has ruffled and flourished, the smoke is clearing somewhat, after a supplemental FBI investigation demanded and then derided by Democratic Party and mainstream media leaders, and the facts? Well, there are no direct and relevant facts, how could there be. It remains entirely probable that psychologist Christine Blasey Ford, PhD2 was sexually assaulted by someone, somewhere, at some time, it is even possible that then seventeen year-old apparently hard drinking (but never blacked out) preppy Brett Kavanaugh was the guilty party, but that is unknowable. Like religion, it has to be taken on faith. The hearings and investigations did nothing but polarize us further. But a few things have become clear for those interested in facts and who have the courage to admit them, distasteful and politically incorrect though they are.
The current debate concerning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh remind me a great deal of my perceptions of the criminal case against O. J. Simpson. The only certain thing there was not the veracity of the allegations, guilt or innocence, but only that someone was lying, and that the liar was someone other than the accused, although the accused may well have been lying too. In the Simpson case it seemed clear that evidence had been tampered with by investigators, perhaps to the surprise of the prosecution. The glove was one thing but to me, most telling was the sock with an identical blood stain on both sides, impossible if the stain had been made while it was worn. In the case of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, Dr. Ford’s testimony has a number of elements that make it appear contrived, especially given the nature of control over the timing of her testimony by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s minority, abusing Dr. Ford again for blatant political purposes involving not only control of the Supreme Court but of Congress as well, and the maneuvers of her Democratic Party funded and found attorneys, arranged for by ranking member Dianne Feinstein, tactics including arranging for a supporting polygraph examination that apparently took many stressful hours to ask but two somewhat generic questions. Maneuvers which included a series of critical demands for hearings while concurrently demanding delays because of psychological traumas, the residue of the alleged assault, which left Dr. Ford with a fear of flying to the hearings (although apparently unbeknown to Dr. Ford, perhaps her attorneys forgot to inform her, the GOP majority had offered to take her testimony, in private, either at her residence or nearby). Somewhat incongruous also given the fact that at the time, she was not at her west coast home but had flown to her grandmother’s funeral on the east coast. But problematic as the actions of her apparent handlers were, her own actions created more serious credibility doubts. Not because of her long delay in coming forward with charges, that’s not unusual; nor because of the vagueness of her charges with respect to timing and location; given the delay, that is understandable as well. But other factors weigh in, and heavily.
Despite her timid demeanor during the hearings, Dr. Ford is an accomplished professional woman, as a college professor, used to speaking in public in a coherent, rational and effective manner. Among other things, despite her apparent terror at flying she appears to be an avid traveler by plane and her alleged claustrophobia, based on information provided by a long term live-in significant other, seems to have been a very recent post traumatic symptom (phobias be damned), they lived together in a tiny apartment with but a single door. Most troubling however was her denial of any experience with polygraphs. She was unequivocal and credible claiming she had none. Just as she was unequivocal and credible claiming that Judge Kavanaugh had assaulted her all those long years ago. But it turns out that she may well have been lying, at least as to the former. The witness against her, still disturbingly anonymous although Dr. Ford clearly knows who he is, is that same long term live-in significant other who has written that Dr. Ford helped a “life-long best friend,” Monica L. McLean, who was “interviewing for jobs with the United States Attorney’s Office and the FBI,” prepare for a possible polygraph exam, stating “I witnessed Dr. Ford help McLean prepare for a potential polygraph exam … Dr. Ford explained in detail what to expect, how polygraphs worked and helped McLean become familiar and less nervous about the exam. Dr. Ford was able to help because of her background in psychology.” It must be noted that Ms. McLean has denied that Ford assisted her, just as Judge Kavanaugh’s friends have denied he ever had an encounter with the young Ms. Ford. As in the case of Judge Kavanaugh, veracity now is perhaps more relevant with respect to Dr. Ford, than is an incident impossible to either verify or deny. He said, she said, then another he said and another she said, ad infinitum.
Dr. Ford appears to have been less than honest in her testimony, perhaps unnecessarily embellishing it due to deeply held civic beliefs, while still true to its most important elements. But we can’t know, we can’t separate the two aspects. Despite the sincerity of her tenor, the substance of her testimony, as was the case in the Simpson trial so many years ago, objective analysis finds her less credible than she needed to be.
Disgusting, at least it should be.
What the Kavanaugh and Ford sagas never should been was politicized, but in today’s political climate, politicizing the most private matter or the most serious social issue is apparently unavoidable.
So, now, on to the elections.
Serious charges of sexual misconduct against leading Democrats remain virtually ignored (think Keith Ellison and of course, Bill Clinton), the existentially serious aspects of the #MeToo movement are tainted, at least among the politically independent, and women’s safety issues remain compromised. Nice work Senator Feinstein.
Politics, the art of the possible? Perhaps more likely the impossible, or at least the improbable.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2018; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at www.guillermocalvo.com.