I am hesitant to comment on the most recent developments in the process to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The level of cynicism our politics has adopted seems unprecedented. Of course, it is not. During the campaign of 1828, Henry Clay’s campaign accused Andrew Jackson’s wife, Rachel, of being an adulteress and Jackson’s campaign accused John Quincy Adams of procuring prostitutes for the Russian czar. In 1884, candidate Grover Cleveland was accused of having fathered a child out of wedlock, and some of us are old enough to remember the downfall of Sen. Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential bid, when he was accused of having an extramarital affair. Accusations of sexual crimes and indiscretions have long been a favorite political weapon.
Still, it seems particularly cynical that a man who has served his country so long and with such distinction is now facing allegations of sexual abuse that came out of left field only days prior to when a vote on his confirmation was scheduled. Not only that, but the Democratic leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee knew about the allegation from a letter the accuser sent them and sat on it, claiming that the accuser wanted to remain anonymous. The FBI was given a copy of the letter and reported back that it was impossible to prove or disprove the allegation because it was from so long ago and there were only three witnesses. The alleged sexual abuse took place over 35 years ago, in high school, when Kavanaugh was seventeen and attending a high school party. The accuser says he was drunk when he groped her. Kavanaugh says he was never at the party, and wonders if the accuser has him confused with someone else.
Besides looking like a blatant attempt to destroy Kavanaugh’s reputation for the sake of defeating his confirmation, there are some other concerns this matter raises.
How much impact should the stupid or even criminal things we did when we were in high school have on our lives decades after the fact? If a man or woman has led an otherwise impeccable life and served with distinction in his or her profession, how much weight should we give to their actions during their high school years? Do we really want to go there? Has our political polarization gone so far that we’re now willing to destroy good people in order to meet our political ambitions? Yes. Yes, it has.
The #MeToo movement has changed the character of sexual abuse and the way we regard victims of sexual abuse. In many ways, this is a good thing, certainly. But, not when it’s taken to the point where anyone who lodges an accusation is assumed to be telling the truth while those accused are assumed to be guilty until they can prove their innocence. In some minds, to even suggest that the accuser may not be telling the truth, or to even dare question the accuser is to betray all victims of abuse. A number of female alumnae from Kavanaugh’s accuser’s high school, including the actress Julia Louise Dreyfus (of course, if a celebrity endorses it, it carries more weight because celebrities are experts in all things) have written a letter saying they believe her and support her. Most of these alumnae don’t know the accuser and had never heard of her before this week. Neither do they know Kavanaugh. So, on what basis do they claim to believe her? And, what weight is that supposed to bear on her accusation in the absence of any real evidence? A number of women who have worked with Kavanaugh over the years wrote a letter supporting him in the face of the accusation, but at least they know the guy. There’s some basis there for taking his word against hers. The fact is, outside of a confession, there is no way the accuser can prove what she says happened actually happened, and no way Kavanaugh can prove that it didn’t. It is entirely her word against his. I’ve met plenty of people who claim superhuman powers to ascertain when a person is lying or telling the truth. I’ve not met one who has been able to back it up. Kavanaugh’s supporters will believe Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh’s opponents will believer his accuser. In truth, though, many (most?) on both sides don’t care who is telling the truth, so long as the outcome is the one they desire.
If we’ve entered the minefield of the end of attaining the political outcome we desire justifying the means of destroying people’s lives, will there be many good people willing to risk traversing that minefield in order to answer the call to public service? Knowing that accepting a nomination to the Supreme Court, or any post requiring confirmation, will mean having to defend yourself against charges of misconduct from decades ago, and knowing that your political enemies are willing to question your integrity and machinate the destruction of your life and reputation in order to successfully oppose your confirmation, even if that means lodging false allegations against which you cannot possibly defend yourself, would you be willing to risk that? Who would? Who will? What kind of political class are we creating? I’ll tell you what, a class of “public servants” dedicated only to their advancement and willing to lose it all for it, or who’s lives and priorities are truly questionable (like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton), because they figure they have nothing to lose and are just as willing to expose and destroy their enemies as their enemies are to expose and destroy them. The 2016 presidential election proved we’ve already reached that milestone. Next, we may soon see the day when necessary positions will be left vacant for years because no decent person will want them.
In any case, the whole thing is just pathetic.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.