October 23, 2018

Making Sense of Ford v Kavanaugh

The September 27th testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh was exhausting not only for the two of them but also for the millions of citizens who watched it. The challenge now is it to make sense of it.

Ford was credible and her story was moving. There seemed no way Kavanaugh could equal her in persuasiveness. And then he did just that! The result was a tie-score with no possibility of overtime, or so it seemed. But is the score really tied? Let’s see.

THE CENTRAL PRINCIPLES

Before any allegation by anyone about anything, there stand two  ancient principles affirmed by philosophy and ethics and embraced by law: An accused person must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and The burden of proof lies with the accuser.

THE TESTIMONY: Ford alleged that she was the victim of an assault that occurred approximately 35 years ago when she was 15 years old, and identified Brett Kavanaugh as one of the assailants. She also provided many precise, painful details of the assault. Yet she did not identify the date or the place of its occurrence. Kavanaugh vigorously denied that he had assaulted Ford or any other woman at that time or any other time.

THE EVIDENCE: Ford provided the names of four friends who, she suggested, would support her allegation. The four subsequently gave statements under oath that did NOT support her allegation. Kavanaugh provided a contemporaneously annotated calendar covering the month during which the assault supposedly occurred. The annotations accounted for his whereabouts during the possible times.

THE LOGICAL CONCLUSION: Given that the Ford’s only evidence was her memory of events, she did not meet her burden of proof and Kavanaugh should therefore be considered innocent.

The Senate committee could have acknowledged that conclusion and moved to a vote on whether to pass the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. But before that could happen, in the committee’s break before voting, protestors accosted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator they should not have had access to and shouted demands that he vote against Kavanaugh. Then, before he took his seat in the hearing room, Democrat senators asked to speak to him in a small anteroom. After about twenty minutes he returned and announced that he would vote in favor of Kavanaugh, as he had earlier promised to do, but only on condition that a new FBI investigation first be conducted on the allegations brought forth in the meeting.

Obviously, the Democrat senators who were with Flake in the anteroom had persuaded him to adopt the demand they had made throughout the hearing—that the FBI investigate further. The Republican senators had rejected that same demand throughout the hearing, citing the following reasons:

a) The FBI had previously conducted SIX thorough investigations of Kavanaugh for his earlier positions in government, including his position as judge in the second highest tribunal in the country, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals;

b) During Clarence Thomas’ 1991 hearing, Democrat Senator Joe Biden had made clear that an FBI investigation at that stage of a nomination would have been pointless because that agency could only gather facts and not draw conclusions;

c) Democrat committee members had the opportunity to report Ford’s allegation and have the FBI investigate it many weeks before the hearing, yet chose not to do so;

d) Democrat committee members deliberately rejected the opportunity to join Republicans in asking probing questions about Ford’s allegation before and during the hearing. Instead, they devoted most of their inquiries to matters such as Kavanaugh’s drinking habits. One example of an interesting question they could have asked is this one, raised by a journalist several days before the hearing: How could Ford have first reported that four boys were at the party when, as later revealed, one of them had been a girl that Ford had known all her life?

When the committee’s vote was taken and the White House ordered the FBI to conduct the investigation, Republicans claimed again that the real motive of the Democrats was to postpone the Senate’s vote on Kavanaugh until after the November election, in the hope that they would regain the Senate, prevent Kavanaugh from being seated on the court, and thereby succeed in protecting their cherished “right”to abortion. (See my essay on the Democrat’s “Sacrament.”)

Democrats flatly denied they had such a motive, declaring they only wanted a quick investigation of just what had been covered in the hearing. However, the very same day, Ford’s attorney Debra Katz issued this statement: “A thorough FBI investigation is critical to developing all the relative facts . . . No artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed on this investigation.” (Ah, yes, a quick and limited investigation with no artificial limits! No contradiction here.) Not surprisingly, Democrat senators picked up the chant.

As the discussion of these events continued around the nation, one important line of inquiry, the most important one in my view, begged to be taken up:

Given Logic’s principle of contradiction—a statement cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same way—Ford’s allegation and Kavanaugh’s denial cannot both be true. And yet both people seem completely credible. How can this be explained?

One interesting possibility is that Ford unwittingly formed a false memory in which she mistakenly saw Kavanaugh as her attacker. This could have occurred if her therapist had used hypnosis to help her regain the memory. (Whether the therapist did so has not been revealed but can easily determined.) In September 1997, the New York Times reported on two studies had demonstrated that the hypnosis can produce “pseudomemories” and that the person can easily be deceived into accepting them as real. One study was conducted by Ohio State psychology professor Joseph Green, and the other by SUNY Binghamton psychology professor Steven J. Lynn.

As far as I know, Republican senators have not considered this very real possibility, and it is clear the Democrats have no interest in this or any other information that would clear Kavanaugh. Even before Neil Gorsuch was nominated, the Democrats promised to oppose any nominee Trump put forward no matter how outstanding his or her credentials. They subsequently did so with Gorsuch, announced they would do so with Kavanaugh, and gone to disgraceful lengths to keep their pledge. From the outset they have had no interest in the truth, which is alarming since learning the truth about issues is an essential part of legislating.

As I write, the final outcome of the Kavanaugh nomination is not known. But what is known beyond any doubt is that Democrats have dishonored the nominee, the Senate, and themselves.

Copyright © 2018 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved

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Written by
Vincent Ryan Ruggiero

VINCENT RYAN RUGGIERO, M.A., is Professor of Humanities Emeritus, State University of New York, Delhi College. Prior to his twenty-nine year career in education, he was a social caseworker and an industrial engineer. The author of twenty-one books, his trade books include Warning: Nonsense Is Destroying America and The Practice of Loving Kindness. His textbooks include The Art of Thinking and Beyond Feelings, both in 10th editions and available in Chinese as well as English, Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues, and A Guide to Sociological Thinking. His latest book, Corrupted Culture: Rediscovering America's Enduring Principles, Values, and Common Sense, is available at Amazon and in bookstores. Professor Ruggiero is internationally recognized as one of the pioneers of the Critical Thinking movement in education. Earlier in his career, he published essays in a variety of magazines and journals, including America, Catholic Mind, The Sign, The Lamp, and Catholic World.

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2 comments
  • I weep for Judge Kavanaugh, his wife and his two young beautiful daughters. I could say more but all I can do is shake my head in disbelief. It is crazy making, and one of the main reasons I left the democratic party when President Clinton was in office. I need to pray a little harder for everyone.

Written by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero