Friday, October 5, 2018

The altar of Donald Trump's need

Dear Senator Flake,

I am grateful you used your leverage to get some sort of FBI inquiry into the allegations made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, but I’m wondering what follow-up you have in mind.

You’ve said that if the FBI finds that Judge Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee, his nomination is over. But you didn’t need the FBI to know that he was lying. Not necessarily about what did or didn’t happen in 1983, but numerous statements the judge made in his September 27th testimony are documentably false, down to whether he watched Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony (a Republican aide says he did watch it; Judge Kavanaugh stated in the hearing that he did not).

The FBI investigation itself indirectly raises other questions. Your colleague Sen. Collins said she found the investigation to have been complete, but that’s transparently false. The Bureau didn’t interview the witnesses proposed by Deborah Ramirez. They didn’t interview numerous college classmates of the judge who came forward to offer their eyewitness testimony about his drinking behavior during college (and thus speak to whether he was truthful with the Senate Judiciary Committee).

Most damningly, they interviewed neither Dr. Blasey Ford nor Judge Kavanaugh. During the most recent testimony, the judge was not only combative, but notably evasive in responding to questions from Democratic senators. In an FBI inquiry, belligerence and evasion don’t work, and so the failure to interview Judge Kavanaugh looks very much like an intentional measure to avoid making him answer difficult questions.

The background issue here is what purpose you had in mind for an FBI investigation. If you wanted to be able to point and say, “The FBI looked, they didn’t find anything, so my conscience is clear in voting ‘Yes,’” then you got what you wanted, what you needed.

If the purpose was to shed light on what may have happened in 1983, or at Yale during Judge Kavanaugh’s freshman year, or on his truthfulness about his relationship to alcohol, then the FBI investigation was designed to be a failure.

For that portion of the public that doesn’t follow politics closely, you undoubtedly have adequate political cover. But this was too constrained an investigation to provide cover for your conscience.

You yourself have all but said that the judge is temperamentally unfit for a seat on the nation’s highest court, and numerous conservative voices agree with you on that, including retired Justice John Paul Stevens. I understand you want a conservative justice on the court, but are there no conservative judges with appropriate judicial temperament? Surely that can’t be true, so why are you considering granting a lifetime seat to one who has shown himself manifestly unfit?

The defense of Judge Kavanaugh is split between those who say, “There’s no evidence he did it,” and those who say, “Sexual assault is a natural rite of passage for teenage boys.”

That second group is advocating crime and normalizing the treatment of women as objects.

They’re also implying some doubt as to the judge’s innocence—after all, if you were confident that he didn’t assault Dr. Blasey Ford, why would you advocate crime against women as part of his defense?

If you vote “yes,” this is part of the company you’re keeping.

Lastly, you have rightly condemned the president’s attacks on Dr. Blasey Ford. The question is whether you mean it.

It reminds me of when a child says, “Sorry I hit my sister,” then goes right back to hitting her as soon as the parent’s back is turned. Apologies are worse than useless if the words aren’t backed up by deeds.

Your condemnation of the president’s attacks is equally hollow if you don’t back those words with consequences.

And the only relevant consequence in this situation is a “no” vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

I live in New York, so I am not your constituent, but let’s be honest—you have broader political horizons. In legal terms, you represent only the people of Arizona, but politically, you are speaking to the entire country, and so it behooves you to listen when the country speaks back to you.

And there’s your conscience.

You give every sign of thinking this is a man who is unqualified for the Court, except by his ideological agreement with you.

It seems you found Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony credible—not necessarily true, but credible. And yet you may vote to confirm the nominee of a man who mocks her to crowds, encourage them to hate her.

The ultimate question here is how much of your self-respect you’re willing to lay on the altar of Donald Trump’s insatiable need.

Karl Seeley
Oneonta, NY

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