Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much

On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure.

Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception.  What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency, and due process.

Our country, a man or woman must always be presumed innocent unless proven guilty. (Applause.)  And with that, I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

“Transcript: Remarks of Trump,  Kavanaugh at ceremonial swearing-in,” Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 8, 2018.

“You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.”   Never mind that, as reported, “President Donald Trump claimed executive privilege to deny the Senate all access to records involving Kavanaugh’s service as staff secretary in George W. Bush’s White House.”  Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale and author of The Decline and Fall of the American Republic, writes that “this was also a time when the CIA and military had transformed Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and covert sites throughout the world into torture chambers.”   Ackerman says that knowledge of the service Kavanaugh performed for Bush “is of central importance,” as “it is no small matter to put a war criminal onto the Supreme Court – if the papers show that Kavanaugh did, in fact, endorse John Yoo’s notorious ‘torture memos’ in his dealings with the president.”

“Witheld Kavanaugh Documents Are A Constitutional Crisis In The Making,” Sept. 5, 2018.

“Historic scrutiny?”  Eoin Higgins of The Intercept writes that former President “Obama’s refusal to investigate the Bush administration’s war crimes “allowed Brett Kavanaugh to skate onto the supreme court.”  Higgins writes that “at least 100,000 documents relating to Kavanaugh’s involvement in developing policy during his time as associate counsel to the president from 2001 to 2003, and his time as staff secretary from 2003 to 2006, have been held by the Trump administration.” These documents would reveal whether Kavanaugh had a role in the development of warrantless wiretapping, surveillance programs, and torture. Higgins says that former President Bush “spent the weeks leading up to the confirmation vote publicly defending Kavanaugh from charges of sexual assault and misconduct, and urging GOP senators who were wavering to support the nominee.”   (‘OBAMA’S RESISTANCE TO INVESTIGATING THE BUSH ADMINITRATION ALLOWED BRETT KAVANAUGH TO SKATE ONTO THE SUPREME COURT,’ Oct. 9, 2018)

Higgins concludes about Kavanaugh: “His new role as Supreme Court justice is what happens when democratic societies don’t hold criminals in the government accountable for their actions.  At a bare minimum,” Higgins continues, “everyone involved with the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and post-9/11 torture and detainees programs should have been thoroughly discredited and rejected from polite society. That they weren’t,’ he says, “may end up being one of the defining moments in the 21stcentury.” (Ibid)

There was “historic scrutiny” of Judge Kavanaugh, and it obviously was performed by President Trump himself.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune’seditorial board decided not to support Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, stating, “There remain too many troublesome aspects of Kavanaugh’s  background, too much evasion of questions . . .  that deserved deeper answers, for the Star Tribune Editorial Board to support his confirmation.”  Especially concerning to the Board: “There is something different about this nominee. Alone among the more than two dozen names Trump considered, Kavanaugh has endorsed a singularly expansive view of executive power, even stating in a paper and speech that the president should be immune from criminal investigation or prosecutorial questions while in office.”  The Board then states, “Given the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, Kavanaugh has a responsibility to fully air his thinking.  Instead, he evaded” the issue. (“Kavanaugh failed to explain expansive view of executive power,” Sept. 4, 2018).  Having Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is Trump’s ace-in-the-hole against Mueller’s “witch hunt.”

“What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process.”  In her testimony before the Senate Judicial Committee, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford said that, when they were teenagers,  Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her.  To support her accusation, she took and passed a polygraph test and called for an FBI investigation of her charge.  The Democratic senators  on the Committee repeatedly asked Kavanaugh, during his testimony, to request that the Republican-controlled Committee members  conduct an FBI investigation, and each time he refused.  The Republican senators did not want an FBI investigation. And they refused to interview Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s close high school friend and accomplice, who, Ford said, was in the bedroom with Kavanaugh when he sexually assaulted her.

Finally, Republican senator Jeff Flake flirted with due process by saying his vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation would depend on an FBI investigation into the allegations of Ford – and also the allegation of Deborah Ramirez, who said that while attending Yale, at a party, a drunken Kavanaugh pulled down his pants and thrust his penis in her face. Flake said, “I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week,”  adding, “We ought to do what we can do to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important.” (“Flake says his Kavanaugh vote depends on FBI probe results,” By Arlette Saenz and Daniella Diaz, CNN, Oct. 2, 2018)

Due process, “with all due diligence,” was squeezed into lessthan a week – which is how little time the FBI gave to the investigation.  The FBI is reported to have interviewed nine people.  That was enough for President Trump and the Republicans, who had actually controlled who would be interviewed.  They were quoted as “calling it a ‘thorough investigation’ and a ‘comprehensive review.’ “  To the contrary!  CNN senior reporter Matt Ferner writes that “investigators ignored countless accounts from Kavanaugh’s former classmates, friends and residential hall neighbors, many of whom spoke with HuffPost, that could paint a more detailed picture of the circumstances surrounding the allegations at hand.”  Ferner added, “Multiple former classmates said they had information about Kavanaugh or Ramirez that they were willing to share but were never contacted by the FBI or never heard back after they reached out to the bureau.” (“Here Are The People The FBI Didn’t Ask About Brett Kavanaugh,” Oct. 4, 2018)

Matt Ferner lists numerous people whom the FBI decided not to contact, and their comments.  One is Julie Swetnick, who “alleged that she witnessed Kavanaugh at parties during the early 1980s where women were ‘gang raped.’ “  She said that “ ‘he was very aggressive – very sloppy drunk, very mean drunk.’  “  She “ ‘saw him go up to girls and paw on them, try to, you know, get a little too handsy, touching them in private parts. I saw him try to shift clothing,’ Swetnick told NBC News.”  Ferner also cites Deborah Ramirez’s lawyer , who “provided the FBI with a list of ‘more than 20’ additional witnesses ‘likely to have relevant’ information to corroborate Ramirez’s account [of a drunken Kavanaugh dropping his pants and putting his penis toward her face at a Yale party].  . . . Those witnesses were not interviewed, Ramirez’s lawyer said in a letter.” (Ibid)

“Due process?”  Especially revealing is the fact that the FBI did not interview the two most principal persons before the Senate Judiciary Committee: Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. Had Dr. Ford been interviewed, she could have responded to any concerns about her testimony before the Committee, and raised questions about the truthfulness of certain of Kavanaugh’s testimony.

In a critical statement, Dr. Ford’s attorneys said, “An FBI supplemental investigation that did not include an interview with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – nor the witnesses who corroborate her testimony – cannot be called an investigation.”  They continued, “We are profoundly disappointed that after the tremendous sacrifice she made in coming forward those directing the FBI investigation were not interested in seeking the truth.”  (“Ford’s attorneys slam FBI’s Kavanaugh investigation for not interviewing Ford, witnesses,”By Jordain Carney, The Hill, Oct. 3, 2018)

“Seeking the truth” also would have involved, with Dr. Ford and her husband’s approval, interviewing her and her husband’s couples therapist, with whom, in 2012, she shared the lasting trauma of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault.  A trusting therapeutic relationship elicits self-awareness and honesty and thus truthfulness, which enable a patient to confront and work through traumatic emotional obstacles to healthy functioning.  The Fords’ therapist would have been a competent source to evaluate the veracity of Dr. Ford’s testimony against Kavanaugh.

Informative also would have been an interview with her husband.  And, if discovering the truth were the goal, the expert who administered the polygraph test to Ford would also have been interviewed.

The FBI’s circumscribed investigation indicates that President Trump and the Senate Republicans did not want to touch the truth with a ten foot pole.

Thus Judge Kavanaugh was not interviewed either.  Had Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez’s witnesses been interviewed, the FBI would have had much information to guide their interview with Kavanaugh.   One important example is his testifying before the Senate Judicial Committee that he was unaware of Deborah Ramirez’s sexual allegation against him until it appeared in The New Yorkerstory.  (See ‘SENATE DEMOCRATS INVESTIGATE NEW ALLEGATION OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, FROM BRETT KAVANAUGH’S COLLEGE YEARS,’ By Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, Sept. 23, 2018)  But an NBC Newsstory reported that “in the days leading up to a public allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to a college classmate, the judge and his team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim, according to text messages obtained by NBC News.”  The story continues: “Kerry Berchem, who was at Yale with both Kavanaugh and his accuser, Deborah Ramirez, has tried to get those messages to the FBI for its newly reopened investigation into the matter but says she has yet to be contacted by the bureau.  The story ends with, “Lying to Congress is a felony whether testimony is taken under oath or not.”  (“Text messages suggest Kavanaugh wanted to refute accuser’s claim before it became public,” by Heidi Przybyla and Leigh Ann Caldwell, www.nbcnews.com, Oct. 2, 2018)

One could say that “what happened to” Dr. Christine Blasey Ford “violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process.”  While Judge Kavanaugh and his family have experienced much emotional pain themselves, they have not fled their home.   And newly installed Justice Kavanaugh now regularly shows up at the Supreme Court to render his judgment on national legislative issues.

Conversely, USA Today reports that Dr. Ford “is still in hiding.” Attorney Debra Katz, her lawyer is reported as saying “It’s going to be quite some time before they are able to live at home.  The threats have been unending.  It’s deplorable.  It’s been very frightening.” (“Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s attorney: she is not at home, ‘the threats have been unending,’” Oct. 8, 2018)

The list of witnesses not interviewed by the FBI gives much credence to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assessment of the report.  She said about “the FBI’s supplemental background investigation of sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh: . . . The most notable part of this report is what’s not in it.” (“Feinstein on FBI  Investigation: Incomplete, Limited,” www,feinstein.senate.gov, Oct. 4, 2018)hgghgh

The FBI had done its assigned White (House) wash job.  Even Sen. -“with all due diligence”-Jeff Flake agreed that “the investigation was thorough.  When asked by CNN if he were inclined to support Kavanaugh after leaving the staff briefing on the report, Flake responded, “  ‘we’ve seen no additional corroborating information’ to claims against Kavanaugh, and added that he needs to finish reviewing  the material.” (“2 key senators say Kavanaugh FBI investigation ‘very thorough,’ By Clare Foran, Jeremy Herb and Ted Barrett, CNN, Oct. 4, 2018)

Evidently the FBI’s investigation took care of Sen. Flake’s reported motivation for calling for the investigation:  that Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court “is ripping us apart” as a country. (“Behind the scenes of Jeff Flake’s decision to call for a FBI probe into Kavanaugh allegations,” By Nancy Cordes, Grace Segers and Bo Erickson, CBS News, Sept. 28, 2018)  Apparently the “very thorough” investigation calmed Flake’s fears.

Sen. Flake said that he needed “to finish reviewing the material.”  The FBI report is locked up in a room; the Republican senators have the key; and only one Senate Judiciary Committee member at a time could read it.  And we citizens will never know what is actually in the report.  So we will have to take President Trump and the Republican Committee members word that it is a “thorough investigation” and “comprehensive review.”

Except that like President Trump, the Republican Senators also doth protest too much about Judge Kavanaugh’s innocence and high mindedness.  After the FBI completed its report on the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, key Republican Senators held a reported “hastily arranged press conference” to seal the deal regarding his innocence and pave his way to the Supreme Court.  Rolling Stonejournalist Tessa Stuart captures the ways in which the Senators protested on Kavanaugh’s behalf.  Sen. Orrin Hatch said that “Kavanaugh’s ‘confirmation would be a victory for the Senate as an institution, [and] a reminder that the politics of baseless personal destruction has no place here.’ “  Sen. John Cornyn  declared that “ ‘the Senate itself is on trial here.  . . . A vote against Kavanaugh . . . will be a vote for the shameful intimidation tactics that have been employed.’ “  Also,  Sen. Tom Tillis addressed concerns about “Kavanaugh’s “temperament” saying that his “anger”  at “last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing . . . was justified. “ (“Senate Republicans Apologize . . . to Brett Kavanaugh,”Oct. 4, 2018) And there is Sen. Hatch’s earlier snap judgment that Dr. Ford is “mixed up.” (“Orrin Hatch: ‘Dr. Ford is mixed up’ (takes off invisible glasses),”by Aldous J. Pennyfarthing, www.dailykos.cpmSept. 21, 2018)

Obvious about the press conference is the fact that most of the Republican Senators are older men with gray hair.  Perhaps this sight, along with many older members on the Senate Judiciary Committee, led Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam to a conclusion that leaves much to be desired.   In a column on “No country for old men (or women),” he writes, “After witnessing the disgraceful Brett Kavanaugh spectacle, I am pro-ageism, plain and simple.  Who are these decrepit codgers purporting to run our country?  Let us name names,” he said: “Senators Chuck Grassley (85), Orrin Hatch (84) Dianne Feinstein (85), Patrick Leahy (78), and Mitch McConnell (76).” He goes on: “How could anyone watch these geezers puzzle their way through their own prepared statements, as if they were ransom notes written in Farsi, and take them seriously.   His sarcasm continues: “I love it when a young staffer leans over one of these senators’ shoulders to reassure them that yes, a bathroom break is coming right up.”  Beam ends with: “Who needs one more display of mediocre, subpar leadership by America’s superannuated solons?  Vote often and vote young.  I certainly plan to.” (Oct. 11, 2018)

The issue regarding these Republican Senators is not aging, but moral awareness, a lack of which Alex Beam also displays in his column.  The fact that all of the Senators on the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee are not only men, but white men, reveals much about the long-standingattitudes of these so-called “decrepit codgers.”  Their strong identification with Judge Kavanaugh and dismissal of the credible allegations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez was not a matter of aging but of patriarchy: that instils in boys, who become men, that girls, who become women, are lesser.  The fact that no Republican women Senators have served on the Senate Judicial Committee in over 200 years of its existence should speak for itself – and should have been spoken about by Alex Beam. (See “Grassley explains all-male, all-white Senate Republican judiciary panel: women don’t want to do the work,” By Emily Stewart, Vox, Oct. 6, 2018)

Also, The lack of any Republican persons of color on the Senate Judiciary Committee indicates the extent to which America’s white-controlled hierarchy of access to political power still dominates the Republican Party especially. As reported, for the first time, the Senate Judiciary Committee has two black senators —  Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, both Democrats.  The “only other African-American “ who ever “served on the Committee was Sen. Carol Moseley Braun” – also a Democrat. (“Senate Judiciary Committee Has 2 Black Members For First Time In Its History,” By Dominique Mosbergen, HuffPost, Oct. 1, 2018)

Alex Beam could have addressed the historic lack of black persons and women on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Instead, he paraded his ageism , with a tip of his hat to bipartisanship and fair mindedness by including as “geezers” Democratic Senators “Dianne Feinstein (85) and Patrick Leahy (78).”

One would think that faith leaders, committed to truth and morality, would have demanded a real FBI investigation of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, and condemned the farcical report foisted on the public.  Sadly, many white evangelical Christian leaders have bargained away their morality for a mess of political power offered by President Trump.  And numerous white mainstream Christian faith leaders remain spectators at most, fearing that any real confronting of abusive Republican power with reality and moral truth would offend and alienate certain members of their own power base.

A personal note.  Regarding “No country for old men (or women),” like you, I could cite countless older persons who continue to be creative, rather than become “decrepit.” And possibly you, along with referencing others, could cite yourself.  I myself continued to work as a full-time hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center until I was almost 85.  And in about a week, I will be 92, and am still writing, and continue as a resource person for BMC’s clinical pastoral training program for seminary students and clergy. With all due thanks to the older and younger persons in my life.  I’ve discovered over the years that it is no more difficult to teach an old dog new tricks than a young dog old tricks.  It is about attitude, not age.

Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His newly published book, The Minister who Could Not Be “preyed” Away is available Amazon.com. Alberts is also author of The Counterpunching Minister and of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review of the book in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.