Because reasons, I’m pretty consumed with the news around the Republicans’ attempts to railroad the already despicable Brett Kavanaugh through Senate confirmation, even after the highly credible allegations by Christine Blasey Ford. I am reading just about everything I can, and I’m finding little I find edifying.
Here’s my bottom line: I was opposed to him before Blasey Ford’s allegations surfaced, and her allegations only intensify my opposition. And I hate – I just hate – how ridiculous the national conversation about it all is.
I just read a column by Bret Stephens, a New York Times columnist, that made my blood boil. It’s filled with statements by him about what he believes. It’s intended to be rational, moderate, but it’s not. He has just a couple of “I believe” statements that reveal he’s just another douchebag. Before I tackle what he wrote, here’s what I believe:
- I believe that the facts of what happened on some night in the early 80s in a room with one girl and two boys in it are, ultimately, unknowable.
- I believe that the traumatic flashbulb memories of the girl are far more likely to be accurate than are the general denials of one highly interested party, corroborated by the confession to no memory by the other boy present.
- I believe that the Republicans have no interest in the truth.
- I believe that the Democrats have only slightly less interest in the truth, but that, at least, they have a political interest in appearing to be interested in the truth.
- I believe that, notwithstanding the Republicans’ majority in the Senate, the Democrats are playing a stronger hand.
As to what Stephens believes…
He writes, “I have absolutely no idea what, if anything, happened between Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford at a party in Maryland in the 1980s. Unless you were at the party, I don’t believe you do either.”
Here’s what I believe: I believe that Christine Blasey Ford was sexually assaulted at a party in Maryland in the 1980s. I do not believe it is possible that the fact pattern described lines up with no assault’s having taken place.
He writes, “I believe the thing that matters now is that Kavanaugh categorically denies the sexual assault allegation.” As I wrote in my previous post, I don’t believe that a “categorical denial” is believable. Worse, I don’t believe it’s honorable. So I guess, maybe, I agree about the thing that matters, but I disagree about why it matters, about what it means. Stephens seems to be saying the categorical denial is to be taken seriously as being, in some way, related to the facts of the evening. I think it matters because it’s prima facie evidence of Kavanaugh’s venality.
He writes, “I believe in the presumption of innocence.” He goes on to say that this is true in the court of public opinion as well as in the court of law. Well, sure. Except. I don’t think one has to conclude that Brett Kavanaugh is “guilty” to conclude that the nation would be better served by having a Supreme Court justice who more than 50% of Americans believe committed sexual assault. This isn’t a question of guilt or innocence, or of what Kavanaugh is “entitled” to.
FUCK me. Kavanaugh’s not entitled to anything. He’s a nominee for a Supreme Court seat. The only people with an entitlement regarding that seat are the American public. Kavanaugh is proposed to be our instrument. Having been nominated, he’s entitled to nothing. The President has an entitlement: to the Senate’s advice and, should they wish to give it, their consent. The Senate has an entitlement – to whatever information they feel they need to determine what advice to give the President, whether to give him their consent. And we, the American people, have the right to be represented honestly, faithfully, by our Senators. And to vote the fuckers out if they fuck this up. But Kavanaugh? He’s entitled to precisely nothing.
Stephens writes, “I believe women lie just as often as men do.” Meh. Not about being sexually assaulted.
He writes, “I believe that Blasey has a moral obligation to demonstrate, as best as she can, that the serious charge she has brought against Kavanaugh is true. I believe that if she fails to do so, after having reluctantly but voluntarily come forward, she will have smeared Kavanaugh.” I don’t even know where to start with this. Blasey has no moral obligation, other than to tell the truth. She had no obligation to come forward. She has no obligation to say, or do, anything more.
He continues to say that he believes “human memory is imperfect,” that “it deteriorates over time.” He magnanimously allows as how he “might be mistaken about this,” citing a recent Op-Ed in the Times which, he says, “argues that we tend to remember traumatic incidents quite vividly.” He continues, “I believe that if this hypothesis is correct, then Blasey should be able to provide a wealth of information about the attack and the circumstances surrounding it.” Um, no. For fuck’s sake, no.
The Op-Ed he cites doesn’t “argue” that “we tend to remember traumatic incidents quite vividly.” It cites scientific evidence to that effect. This isn’t a question of argument; it’s one of science. And the science the Op-Ed cites isn’t all the science available on the subject. It omits a crucial element of traumatic memories: the tendency of those who suffer trauma to remember the traumatic event itself vividly, but not so much the ancillary facts. According to Wikipedia, “In high-stress situations, arousal dampens memory for peripheral information – such as context, location, time, or other less important details.” Wikipedia provides good words, but there’s much science cited, including, most saliently, a 2007 study by Chris Brewin, the abstract of which says, “Whereas involuntary memory is enhanced… voluntary memory is likely to be fragmented, disorganised, and incomplete.”
In other words, Blasey shouldn’t “be able to provide a wealth of information … about the circumstances surrounding [the attack].” And the test Stephens seems to be setting up is spurious. Or worse.
Stephens says some other things that I have no quarrel with, but the overall tenor of his piece – the standard “two sides to every story” that we’ve all become used to – is egregious, and off the mark in this case.
As I write this, Blasey Ford has agreed to testify on Thursday. I don’t much care how the hearings go. If the Senate votes to seat this man under a cloud of doubt, it will be showing conclusively, decisively, how little it regards American voters, how much it privileges privilege, and ideology, over decency and humanity.