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Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, September 29, 2018

Through many a clime 'tis mine to go, With many a retrospection curst; And all my solace is to know, Whate'er betides, I've known the worst. What is that worst? Nay do not ask— In pity from the search forbear: Smile on—nor venture to unmask Man's heart, and view the Hell that's there.

—Lord Byron

I did not plan to watch Thursday's hearing. There would be plenty of accounts to read and video highlights to watch afterward. The radio happened to be on because I was messing around in the kitchen as the hearing was about to commence. After a few minutes of NPR commentary I moved to the computer for the PBS NewsHour live coverage and was unable to tear myself away. Here are my initial thoughts and impressions, for what they are worth. They may not be worth much. Professor Christine Blasey Ford was dignified, credible, and compelling. Rachel Mitchell, questioning her for the Republican side, seemed to be looking for inconsistencies in Ford's testimony and for indications that she was being used by others to further their agenda, perhaps as a sincere but unwitting tool to derail the Kavanaugh nomination. That was fair.

Mitchell came up short on both counts not because she did a poor job or because of a format that left something to be desired with questioning restricted to five-minute increments, but because there was nothing to find. Ford's agenda was her sense of civic duty to share what she knew with the committee. She did not lobby for rejection of the nomination. Following her testimony Ford was described as genuine. That is how she came off. Judge Brett Kavanaugh came out combative and not just emotional but overwrought, hurling wild charges of a vast left-wing conspiracy and revenge on behalf of the Clintons. It is I think without question that Democrats were on the lookout for something that might bring Kavanaugh down in a process that Republicans were orchestrating to a foregone conclusion. Some jumped on Ford's allegation with unseemly relish when it was made public and she came forward. This happened after the fact, not as a consequence of some nefarious plot laid out beforehand. Kavanaugh's bizarre contention that this is somehow the revenge of the Clintons is the stuff of right-wing paranoia. I imagine it played well to the Trump's base and to the president himself. Maybe that was the point. Kavanaugh did not serve himself well when he threw Democrats' questions back at them, asking if they like beer, what they drink, have they ever blacked out. In his defense, and here I am engaging in some amateur, armchair psychology that could be off the mark, maybe his outbursts and inconsistent, unpolished presentation are understandable as the reaction of an innocent man wrongly accused of a terrible misdeed and caught up in a Kafkaesque prosecution. I am not arguing that he is innocent but that his temperament on display at the hearing is not in and off itself an indication of guilt. An alternative interpretation might be that this was the response of a man who believes that this seat on the Supreme Court for which he has been groomed is his due and is about to be cruelly snatched away after being in his grasp. All I have is speculation. The Democrats on the whole did not distinguish themselves. Their incessant attempts to maneuver Kavanaugh into requesting an FBI investigation, on the presumption I suppose that this would put pressure on Republicans and the president to call for one, grew tiresome and pointless. Amy Klobuchar was an exception. She was impressive. Her questioning was tough and direct, with a sense that she was trying to get to the facts of the matter. Too many of the others were patently out to score political points. I felt for Diane Feinstein. She was trying to do the right thing in what was a no-win situation from the time she received Ford's letter and the corresponding request for confidentiality. It did not turn out well, for which she has been criticized from both sides of the partisan divide, but I am hard-pressed to suggest a better way for her to have handled it. Any alternative course of action could also have blown up. The Republicans held the high cards. They dictated that Thursday's testimony would come down to "he said, she said." My thinking about it is filled with contradictions I am unable to resolve. In the end it comes down to which person I find more credible, more believable, and that may come down as much to my psychological makeup and predisposition as it does to truth and facts when these remain in dispute. Yet I must choose. I must come down on one side or the other knowing that I could be wrong. Throughout the week I found myself posing the question again and again, what if Kavanaugh is somehow innocent. I hope that he is guilty. A terrible wrong has been done if he is not. Presuming innocence for the moment, for sake of argument, it would be a lot to ask of a person in Kavanaugh's position that he take the high road. We should ask a lot of the character of women and men serving in the highest offices of the land. Kavanaugh disdained the high road. From his opening statement on he issued a call for partisans of the Trump regime to take to the barricades. This was echoed in Lindsey Graham's rant. To be fair, too many comrades on my side of the divide are equally eager to have at it.

Yesterday on NPR someone asked if the way this nomination has played out marks a Rubicon that has been crossed. It seems to me that we crossed a Rubicon with the election of Trump. With the Kavanaugh episode both sides dig in deeper for prolonged trench warfare. How in these circumstances can we possibly begin to address the issues and problems that face the nation? Where do we go from here?

Memo from the Editorial Desk

Minor nonsubstantive revisions were made to this piece after it was published.

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