Too Little, Too Late: The Kavanaugh Hearings

It’s 2019, what’s the thing you care the least about at the moment? The Kavanaugh hearings? Okay then, let’s talk about them.

Because I think almost everything anyone said about the hearings is wrong. I know I pick on the left a lot, so I should probably pause a moment to address the rightwing bromide that you can’t convict a man without a trial based on the testimony of one person. This bromide may be true on the face of it, but Kavanaugh spent his time on the stand, fuming, spinning conspiracy theories about that notorious Hilary Clinton, clowning (“I’ve been through hell and then some”/”Have you ever blacked out?”) and acting like a gigantic tant. In case the slang term tant is not part of your idiolect, let me define it for you as: “someone who acts like Brett K. except for the judge part.” In case the slang term boof is not part of your idiolect, let me assure you it does not mean what BK claims it means. If convict means “not appoint,” then surely we can convict a man based on the unbalanced things he says in front a of a national audience.

That was easy, but more interesting is the liberal bromide, which I saw everywhere, and which runs something like: “I could be hiring somebody to paint my house or walk my dog and if a woman came forward and called him a rapist, I wouldn’t hire him; there’s no due process in a job interview, and everyone knows it and pretending there must be now is silly and selective.”

I know I said I pick on the left a lot, but I do it (in part) because the left consistently shoots itself in the foot, insisting on policies that assume it will always be in power. It does this even when it’s not in power! Like now!

It’s absolutely true that most employers would discard an applicant based on one unsubstantiated but unsolicited aspersion. But for someone to take the time to interfere in the hiring of a dog-walker…that must be a really hateable dog-walker! The allegation about the dog-walker could be true and could be false but the very fact that someone bothered to horn in on the application process is weird. I’m sure there are plenty of people who dislike me, but I think none of them care enough to research up when I’m applying for a job and make the necessary phone calls to keep me unemployed. If anyone hates your dog-walker that much, then he might be a rapist and he might be not a rapist, but…man, I just want someone to walk my dog; I do not need this drama!

Contrast with a seat on the Supreme Court. There are over 200 million grown-ups in America. About half of them do not want any given Supreme Court nominee to get confirmed. Maybe only five or ten percent of them actually care a lot, even for a highly contested seat like Kavanaugh’s. How many would be willing to lie to keep a candidate from getting confirmed? How many if they knew we had a policy that meant one accusation would unseat the judge? One in ten thousand? One in a million?

If we are so honest as a people that only one in a million of the ten percent who care a lot would be willing to lie to further their political ends, then we can expect twenty accusations for every applicant and no one will ever get confirmed for anything.

That doesn’t mean Christine Ford is a mercenary liar. “Credible” is the adjective everyone assigns to her. This isn’t a story she manufactured five minutes before air time.

But how credible do the accusations need to be to keep your dog-walker from getting hired? Wouldn’t an anonymous phone call be sufficient? I’ve seen a boss throw out an applicant’s resume because the applicant took a sip of soda while the boss was talking. If there’s more than one candidate, choosing between them can be difficult enough that you’ll jump on any possible disqualification.

The right has a lot of rich people, and what’s going to prevent Trump or the Koch brothers from throwing money at some poor schlub until she makes up a story about whatever Democratic candidate the Democrats are trying to get confirmed? Their integrity?

The fact that it’s prohibitively unpleasant to come forward (as Ford did) and accuse someone of sexual assault is not a great argument when you consider that we are all committed to making it less unpleasant. You can’t claim something as a safeguard when you’re actively trying to dismantle that same safeguard.

Mutatis mutandis, everything I say here also applies to any plans to change burdens of proof for sexual assault etc. We all need to make sure, whatever policy we’re lobbying for, that we’re not lobbying under the misapprehension that it will not apply to “me and my friends.”

“This petard is for hoisting other people.”

We probably want to avoid a future in which everyone just tries to funnel money to unscrupulous snitches so they can act out a drama we wrote the script for when we assumed we’d control casting forever.

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