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Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Day 2), Sept. 5, 2018. C-SPAN / Youtube screen grab
Joseph Backholm Joseph Backholm

Opinion

Kavanaugh hearings and the search for truth

Joseph Backholm Joseph Backholm

September 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court has become a political melodrama.

A day after the dueling testimonies of Judge Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the nomination to the entire Senate.  But that’s not all.

Sen. Jeff Flake followed that vote by saying he would not be willing to vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh on the Senate floor until there was an additional, one week investigation by the FBI to look into lingering questions raised by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.

Since Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, Flake has a lot of leverage. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has joined Flake’s call for an investigation and others may as well, so Republicans may not have a choice.  

A few thoughts after a crazy couple of days.

  1. Ford seemed credible. She didn’t seem crazy or particularly partisan but also benefited from no hard questions. It’s easy to conclude she’s not lying.  Does that mean it’s true?  Not necessarily.  
  2. Kavanaugh also seemed credible. He behaved exactly as you would expect someone who has been falsely accused of rape and assault to behave. He repeatedly emphasized that none of the people mentioned in Dr. Ford’s story could corroborate her story.  
  3. The Democrats on the committee, especially Senator Feinstein, are defensive about how the information was handled. That is a concession that they know how bad their case against Kavanaugh is. If they were convinced that he did this stuff, they would own whatever process was used to get to the "truth".   But of course, to the several Democratic senators who are on record as saying they should do everything in their power to block Kavanaugh, it really wouldn’t matter whether he did it or not.  What they need to “succeed” is simply create doubt and delay. 
  4. I think he gets confirmed.  It's about much more than the Supreme Court now. It's also a test of whether the tactics of delay, leak, and exploit will be rewarded. Politically, the Republicans simply have to get this through.  The one week delay adds a real element of risk, but Republicans can’t go into the midterm elections having just “caved” in the most public of political fights over the Supreme Court. Yes, the left will be outraged whenever it happens, but from their perspective that’s just all the more reason to rip the band aid off and move on.
  5. Did it happen? Who knows? It seems unlikely that it happened as Ford describes. Not a single person has been able to corroborate any part of her story.  Does that mean it didn’t happen? No. But, memory is a funny thing.  It may have happened just as she describes.  It’s also possible that nothing ever happened. Or, it could be somewhere in between.

As observers, we really don’t know anything.  We weren’t there 36 years ago and most of us don’t know the people involved.  But here’s a final thought as we head into another week of Supreme Court melodrama.  

Work to care more about the truth than the outcome of this particular political skirmish.  As big as the stakes are in this moment, and they’re high, they shouldn’t be worth sacrificing the truth.  To paraphrase what Sen. Kennedy from Louisiana said about the person who leaked the Ford memo, “what does it profit a man if he makes significant policy achievements but loses his soul?”  

What does this mean? Listen more than you speak and honestly consider information you don’t like.

Am I suggesting that Brett Kavanaugh has done the things he’s been accused of?  No.  I think the evidence suggests that’s unlikely.  But let’s observe with humility.  The conversation around this situation is filled with people who are absolutely certain they know what happened when none of us know anything.  And that represents a larger problem.

The current political environment we all claim to hate is driven, in large part, by an unwillingness to listen and an impulse to jump to conclusions based on political allegiances rather than actual information.   Our unwillingness to listen seems to be motivated by the fact that we want our side to win more than we want to find out what’s good, true, and beautiful.

Not only are you and I capable of being wrong and dishonest, but so are people that we like and agree with politically.  As my parents used to say when I was a kid, I have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak.  

If we aren’t willing to challenge assumptions or acknowledge inconvenient facts, we’re pawns in a political twitter war not culture changers.  Not many of us will have an actual role to play in who the next Supreme Court Justice will be, but we can use this moment to develop some critical skills.

Caring about the truth more than political victory is not just a good habit, it may also be the key to solving culture problems even larger than the Supreme Court.

Joseph Backholm is legal counsel and director of The Embassy at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.  Follow him on twitter @josephbackholm.

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