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Matthew Stokes: I hate all of this

By MATTHEW STOKES, Alabama Daily News Columnist

I spent a good portion of Thursday watching or listening to the Senate testimony of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexual assault, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.  It was riveting testimony in all directions, and I don’t think you have to live in a social media bubble to see this as a very important day in American political history, on par with the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearing, and possibly even Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss.  I kept track partly out of political interest, and admittedly I thought Kavanaugh a solid nominee, but by the time the whole thing was over, I hated all of it.

I hate that Sen. Diane Feinstein’s office kept Dr. Ford’s accusation quiet, never investigating it or presenting it to other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  It was one thing to respect privacy, but to never question the nominee until her own staff leaked the accusation to the press was inexcusable. I hate that while Alabama Senator Doug Jones has a lot of stirring words about victims of sexual assault, he has nothing to say about how his Democratic colleague handled this mess, and what it has meant for her.  I hate that, per her own testimony, Dr. Ford’s lawyer seem to have not made her aware of all of the committee’s willingness to interview her privately before we were treated to the circus last Thursday. I hate that, despite the seriousness of the accusation, Democrats tried to take political advantage of the entire process.

I hate that Republicans and conservatives have responded in many of the ways they have.  In many quarters, Ford was disbelieved from the outset. It was not unfair to have questions but the early rejection of her claims was disconcerting, if for other reason than the stakes were too high to waive away the claims.  The Senate holds investigative power, and should have been allowed to make every effort to investigate the claims. I share Sen. Ben Sasse’s frustration in that these claims could have been investigated privately, without public stigma, by a body that is Constitutionally charged with doing so.  I hate that it has comes to this, but I support an extra week and a FBI investigation to make doubly certain we know what did or did not happen.

I hate that this whole mess has been adjudicated publicly.  As Noah Rothman of Commentary has noted in numerous podcasts, tweets and articles, this is something that the public is simply not equipped to handle.  We’re not equipped because we cannot help but bring our own emotions, experiences and prejudices to the matter. That’s precisely the reason our Senators are there; to process information and make judicious decisions in a deeply impartial manner.  As we’ve crossed the point where that is no longer possible in this case, I think the last minute decision to give the FBI a week to investigate is both moral and politically wise, a point seemingly lost on a lot of anxious grassroots Republicans.

I hate that Judge Kavanaugh’s anger on Thursday was regarded as entitled and ill-tempered.  This was deeply unfair, if one can gin up the moral imagination to conceive that Kavanaugh sincerely believes he has been falsely accused.  Having been accused of sexual assault, indecent exposure and gang rape, who wouldn’t be overcome with cold, smoldering anger? It may be that Kavanaugh is a liar and a sociopath, but if he’s not, who could blame him?  I hate that our commentary class – largely liberal and urbane – mock the idea that a man might fight for his reputation and family, and that Kavanaugh’s status as privileged means that those things carry little to no weight.  I hate that Dr. Ford’s family and career are in peril over her accusations, when those accusations could have been addressed privately.

I hate all of this.

I’m in a small minority of conservatives, but at this point I support last Friday’s decision to allow for an investigation by the FBI.  As of this writing on Saturday night, rumors are swirling that the White House may (or may not) have limited the FBI’s scope. If true, this is politically foolish and morally suspect.  To preserve the integrity of both the Court and the Senate, an independent investigation is needed. While Kavanaugh has a stellar professional record, I am concerned that he downplayed his teenage and college drinking in his Senate testimony to such a degree that it muddies the water even further.

I don’t know what comes next.  I have deep suspicions about this White House, but I have no confidence that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are operating in good faith.  I don’t know where we go as a country, and I am fearful that we have crossed some undefined Rubicon, and we will not easily find our way back. So much of our democracy depends on the grey area of norms and expectations, not simply black and white laws.  The last week has lit that all on fire. We should all fear what remains when the smoke clears.

Matthew Stokes is a writer living in Birmingham. Follow him on Twitter @yellingstopAL or email him at [email protected].

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