Senatorial Insanity

I had an experience this weekend that may shed an oblique light on how we should think about the recent allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.

I was in a three-and-a-half hour bicycle race, on a team with five friends. Roughly half way into the event, three of my teammates employed a tactic that infuriated me. I was so angry that I didn’t stick around to talk with them after the race for fear that I would tell them what I really thought of how they had ridden. One can get pretty wound-up about a three-and-a-half hour effort.

When I later received a group-email from one of the miscreants celebrating the event, though, I felt I had to set out my perspective.

They all responded to my email, of course. They had seen the same sequence of events very differently than I had.

Don’t get me wrong, here, I still know that they were wrong to have employed the tactics they did, just as they know that they were innocent of the perfidy that I had perceived – but at least I now recognize that while their behavior may have been incomprehensible to me at the time, it wasn’t what I had thought.

Case closed.

***

My guess is that Ms. Ford is being just as sincere in her allegations of a deeply improper manhandling by the then-teenaged Judge Kavanaugh thirty-something years ago as he is in denying the allegations. Probably, if they had each been asked what happened on the following morning, their completely honest recollections would have been of two very different stories. I very much doubt that they later compared perspectives on those events. Instead, it seems, Ms. Ford let her memories of having been done wrong fester for over three decades before talking to a therapist about them, and now using them to try to torpedo his nomination to the Supreme Court.

***

I was a teenaged boy once, and I have a vague recollection of what it felt like to have hormones raging through my system. Teenagers, male and female, do some stupid things on their ways to discovering who they really are. Boys more often than girls.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then; the Beloved Spouse and I have raised two girls and two boys to adulthood (“Every adult is a miracle” – my mother-in-law) and we are proud grandparents to two girls and a boy.

I can say with regard to all my offspring – but the females in particular – that in the unlikely event that I ever came to witness somebody inflicting grievous bodily harm on any of them, I would do whatever it took to stop that from happening, up to and including killing the perpetrator in the heat of the moment. I’m guessing that you would do the same. There is no excuse – ever, outside military and protection-against-crime contexts – for intentionally harming another person.

I’m also guessing that nobody would have seen whatever happened between Judge Kavanaugh and Ms. Ford in that light. She says that she had a moment of panic about her breathing, true, but also that she “escaped” Kavanaugh and another boy – which seems most unlikely if they had had any genuinely evil intent.

So my take is that Kavanaugh may have behaved boorishly on the occasion that Ms. Ford remembers; but if he did, since there is no evidence of other such escapades in the decades since he became an adult, he presumably learned from his mistake.

***

My general impression of Judge Kavanaugh is that he is a gentleman as well as a man of great achievement. From all I can see, he has led a truly exemplary adult life – with his talents he could doubtless be making tons of money as a lawyer; instead he has diligently served the common interest as he sees it. His judicial inclinations may or may not be to your taste – they are to mine – but in the six times that he has been vetted by the FBI no allegation has come to light that even remotely resembles the one Ms. Ford has now levelled. To me, the picture that has emerged is of a devoted family man and a judge of the highest character and caliber.

Let’s think for a moment about all the Senators who may now vote against Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination who also voted against President Clinton’s conviction by the Senate. President Clinton was a convicted perjurer and it was all too well known that his adult behavior toward women was anything but gentlemanly. Indeed, entirely apart from his horribly improper and arguably criminal behavior with Ms. Lewinsky, dozens of women had alleged behavior on his part that was orders of magnitude worse than anything Judge Kavanaugh is alleged to have done as a teenager; indeed several women have credibly accused Clinton of rape.

In my view, any Senator who voted for Clinton and now votes against Kavanaugh, using Ms. Ford’s allegations as an excuse, is the very worst kind of hypocrite. The two men’s sins – known and as alleged – are radically dissimilar, with Kavanaugh’s barely meriting mention. If the Senate will only approve nominees who are, and always have been, perfect, nobody will ever be confirmed. Indeed, who will even consent to being nominated in the expectation of such insanely hypocritical standards?

***

Well-meaning people, even the best of friends, often remember the same events very differently. Where there is no clear pattern of misbehavior, or hard proof of a bright red line crossed, we need to avoid judging anybody based on one person’s recollection of events long past – especially where those events, even if they occurred exactly as alleged, should, in light of the nominee’s age at the time and subsequent clear track record of exemplary behavior, be waved off as a learning experience.

 

M.H. Johnston

2 comments to Senatorial Insanity

  • DP  says:

    Thumbs up for taking on this topic. Nicely said.

  • Ron Cypers  says:

    Mark – I think bringing this up some 40 years hence is bad form on the part of Mrs. Ford. I doubt if Kavanah’s behavior was simply boorish back in high school, but yes he certainly has not followed a pattern of mistreatment of women. Politics is ugly and getting worse, too bad for all of us.

    This brings up the importance of raising our sons to respect women way more than has been the case for many. The behaviors among powerful men, particularly in the entertainment field, are unthinkably wrong – so send a bunch of them to prison – Cosby, Weinstein and more.

    I’m more interested in the bike race behaviors, we should review those with a couple of beers – one day soon – I hope. Best RC

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