Nicholas Kristof from the NY Times has three questions for Judge Kavanaugh. It’s not the type of article I would normally read and I’m shocked it’s not behind a paywall as most NY Times links I try to read usually are, but it was listed at the top of Google News for me so I figured it might have substance.
It did, but only enough to deserve a response. Since it’s highly unlikely Judge Kavanaugh will answer the questions in an article that he probably won’t read, I’ll offer answers of my own. I’m not speaking for Kavanaugh. I’m not a Republican, though I do consider myself conservative. Mr. Kristof likely won’t read these answers, but just as his article was intended for the NY Times audience even if it was directed at Judge Kavanaugh, so too are my answers directed at our readership.
For full disclosure, I support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation for political reasons. Most Democrats who oppose his nomination do so for political reasons as well, though many will rewrite their personal histories and claim the sexual abuse allegations made them change their minds. However, most were like Senator Chuck Schumer and opposed his nomination within minutes of President Trump announcing it. Many opposed any nominee by Trump even before he announced.
Here’s the article by Kristof first in case you want to read it:
Judge Kavanaugh, I don’t know what happened in 1982. But I’m deeply troubled by what I perceive as your lack of integrity last week. You told the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that your “have you boofed” yearbook question referred to farting, that “devil’s triangle” was a drinking game, that a “Renate alumnius” was simply a friend of Renate with no sexual insinuations, that the drinking age was 18.
Now, here are my answers:
1. Isn’t an itsy-bitsy lie still a lie?
Yes. Any intentional untruth spoken under oath is still a lie. There are, however, degrees of importance that sensible people consider when attempting to discredit someone or prepare them to be charged with perjury.
That’s really what Kristof’s question is about. At the very least, he hopes Judge Kavanaugh can be discredited by his lies, but that’s the consolation prize. What he and many Democrats really want is a perjury charge and investigation. If it’s done soon, it can derail the confirmation. If it’s done after the midterm elections (and if Democrats can win a majority in the House), then they can launch an impeachment. It wouldn’t make it through the Senate even with the most Democrat-friendly math, but getting him on record as going through an impeachment proceeding will damage President Trump and Republicans in 2020.
I’m not a fan of whataboutisms, so I’m not going to point the finger at Christine Blasey Ford’s “inconsistencies” that could be construed as outright lies. What I’ll do instead is argue that none of the points Kristof made have a chance of standing up to a criminal perjury litmus test.
I recently watched a video my friends and I made in the late 80s. I’m not as old as Judge Kavanaugh but I had a hard time recalling the circumstances surrounding the video. In fact, I had to Facebook Message one of my old friends to find out what I was talking about at one point in the video. He reminded me of the context and it all came back to me.
I’m not suggesting Judge Kavanaugh did not knowingly lie about the meanings of “boofing” or “Devil’s Triangle.” I personally think he probably did, but here’s the thing. These were personal questions that did not hold material value to the intent of the hearing. Perjury requires intent and relevance. Intent would be impossible to prove because the terms in question were used over three decades ago. As for being relevant, that’s a stretch few prosecutors would be willing to pursue.
2. Do you have empathy for those who aren’t so blessed as yourself?
Of the three questions, this is the one I wish I could avoid. It’s not that it’s a hard one to answer. It’s that Kristof’s insinuations and his attempt to make us draw a valid conclusion from them are manipulative.
It starts off by saying this:
An air of entitlement hangs over both your testimony and the sexual assaults, if they happened as alleged, and it leaves many of us with misgivings even as we acknowledge that you are a smart, hardworking and distinguished public servant.
“…if they happened as alleged…”
This is the biggest problem with the question and associated explanation for it. What Kristof insinuates is that the sexual assaults happened and Judge Kavanaugh is not showing proper empathy towards his victims. This is silly on its surface and dangerous when you dig deeper.
It’s silly because it’s saying Judge Kavanaugh should have empathy for his victims instead of having an air of entitlement. For him to have empathy, we have to assume that he’s guilty of the accusations, which the author clearly believes. He is begging the question, a shameful debate tactic that assumes his audience either already agrees or will fall into his trap.
What Kristof says with this question is that Judge Kavanaugh committed the sexual assaults and we should be worried about him as a Supreme Court Justice because he doesn’t show empathy towards his victims. Seriously?
If he didn’t commit the sexual assaults, we shouldn’t expect him to have empathy towards people who have harmed his family and tarnished his name for the sake of political posturing.
Kristof’s question would be insanely stupid in any context other than this one. The NY Times assumes guilt and wants everyone else to as well. Therefore, begging the question is technically brilliant because it takes the sheep and soon-to-be sheep and paints them into a corner where they must either stipulate the accusations as factual or defend a lack of empathy where none should exist.
3. What should we make of your rage and partisanship?
With this final question, Kristof brings up a valid point. As Matt Damon said while playing Judge Kavanaugh on SNL this weekend, he started at an 11 and took it up to 15.
Either someone got in his ear after his milquetoast Fox News interview the previous week or he decided it on his own, but at some point between the interview and the hearing he chose to be indignant towards the accusations, angry at the failed process, and preemptively combative towards Democrats. If I were guessing, I’d say he got a private call from the President on how to “punch back harder” as he is wont to do.
Judge Kavanaugh took it too far and came across poorly to those who didn’t already fully support him. That’s the extent of the validity of Kristof’s third question.
From there, he misses the mark once again, perhaps on purpose. The judge has the right to an emotional response during his testimony. Democrats have acted like obstructionists and have been treating him unfairly since well before the accusations were made. They peppered him with more written questions than all other Supreme Court Justice nominees combined. Many declared they would oppose him before he stepped foot on Capitol Hill.
This has been a partisan trap from the start. To say that Judge Kavanaugh is being overly partisan for speaking the truth about the party that opposes him is disingenuous. Yes, he invoked “revenge for Clinton” in a way that can be called conspiratorial and partisan. It could also be called quite obviously true.
The final portion of Kristoff’s article attaches Judge Kavanaugh to the Republicans defending him, in particular President Trump. Nobody ever accused Kristof of lacking intelligence or being a bad writer, which is why I must give him kudos for this tactic. To achieve his goal of discrediting Kavanaugh and preparing his readership for whatever the next play against Kavanaugh might be, he lays out this attachment to place anything negative from the Republican Party squarely on the judge’s shoulders. The sins of all become the sins of one.
When all is said and done, article’s like Kristof’s want the ire to be on President Trump. Judge Kavanaugh is his current newsworthy proxy, so attacking him is as important to the left as attacking the President himself.