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On Kavanaugh, Finis

I hope I never write about Brett Kavanaugh again. This has been an American tragedy from any perspective and it has been foisted on us by both political parties. I’ve already written that my biggest issue with Kavanaugh is with his dishonesty and his willingness to lie to Congress.

But what I wanted to write about tonight as we wrap up this sad saga is this. Memories.

Brett Kavanaugh and I are almost exactly the same age. He was born about three months after me, but due to a quirk in the school calendar, I was a year ahead of him, graduating in 1982 instead of 1983 when Kavanaugh did.

The summer of 1982 was when I started to get out there into the social world of teens and college kids. I started hanging out with a group of people who became my core group of friends for many years and in recent years, this group has re-connected.

Back then, in the summer of 1982 we spent a lot of time getting together on Friday evenings, playing pickup softball games, getting something to eat, and then hanging out at the house of one of our group. We’d drink, watch movies, play games. And frequently do a lot of it again on Saturday nights.

There was a core group within a larger group. About 8-10 of us who showed up every week. And there were satellite individuals who came and went and came and went. I could tell you who most of the core group was, but my memory of those satellite people is a lot fuzzier.

I can also tell you about a whole lot of things that happened at that friend’s house. But we didn’t always end up at her house. Occasionally we would go somewhere else. But I have virtually no memory of events elsewhere. Jennifer’s home, where her parents would go to bed when we got there and let us do what we would, was the party place. It’s where my memories are also. Even though I know we went elsewhere at times, the mind is blank regarding those times.

Within our group there were those who drank more and those who drank less. I’d say I was somewhere in the middle. I do know that I never drank to black out or to a state where I did something I wasn’t aware of, except for maybe one time.

It was the end of the semester and we went out to celebrate.  Mexican food with mixed drinks, going back to Jennifer’s house. Shots of vodka, followed by a game of quarters. The story is that while playing quarters, the one gay man in our group put his hand on my knee and I said to him when he did so, “Patrick, get your hand off my knee.”

My friends told me about this the next day, but I had no recollection of it.  Other than that there is nothing about that time in my life where I couldn’t remember what I had done the night before. And I know this, I never attempted to sexually assault anybody. I never wagged my penis in somebody’s face. I never. I never.

But here’s the other thing.

It’s 35 years later. I simply do not remember the details about the vast majority of those get-togethers with this important group of friends. I don’t remember the satellite friends who came and went. But I have memories. They are like still photos with spotlights on them.

Of Rick hitting the ball so far it bounced down the street by the park and we had to run after it. Of the magic couch in Jennifer’s family room. Of watching Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. Of so many things. And in my memory, I see these things that are, as I said, in a spotlight where I see a few things lit up by that light and all other details are shrouded in darkness that I can no longer see through. Who was there around the edges, what was happening at the fringes. Where were we? what exactly happened.

I think of it like I think about my wedding. I have these memories of that day, great, incredible memories, but they are also spotlight memories as well. I remember when we arrived at the reception, one of the first things we did was go to the bar at a friend’s suggestion and have a shot of tequila. But I couldn’t tell you who was in the group that joined me for that. And I couldn’t tell you what the bar looked like. I just remember enjoying that introduction to the celebration.

After dinner, we danced to Hava Nagila. It is a traditional Jewish dance in which my wife and I danced in the center of two or three rings of people who held hands and circled around us. I remember this — it was a highlight of the day and of my life. But I couldn’t tell you who was in those circles. I couldn’t tell you hardly any of the details at all except the memory I have of how incredible it was. In that memory, the spotlight is on my wife and I and that is what I see. The two of us dancing and laughing and having such an incredible time with our friends and family around us. But who was actually in those dancing circles. Shrouded in shadows and I can’t see them.

What’s my point?

I totally get why Dr. Ford doesn’t remember all of the details of that night. The memory spotlight for her is on that traumatic event and nothing else. She can see the faces of the two young men in the room and their laughter, but the other details? Like where it was, when it was, how she got there or how she got home? Those are in the darkness that leaves behind memories of the more minor details. There is no reason she could or should remember those things and suggestions that failure to remember the minor details don’t recognize how human memory actually works. I also get why some of the witnesses she identified couldn’t corroborate her claims.

I really don’t know anymore what might have happened between Dr. Ford and Mr. Kavanaugh. I tend to believe her and not him. It is possible that he legitimately believes it didn’t happen, but it is also possible, given the wealth of stories that have come out that he has lost the details of that particular event in all of the other “events” that happened in his teen years.

Here’s what I believe is more certain and I’ll go back to the points I’ve already made in my earlier posts on this. And it is for those reasons that I fundamentally do not believe him today about what happened 35 years ago.

In 2004 and 2006 when he was nominated to serve as a district court judge and then as an appellate court judge, he lied to Congress. Senator Leahy’s emails were hacked and emails involving the Democratic strategy for dealing with GWB court nominees were stolen. Kavanaugh, who worked in the GWB administration at the time and his duties included getting GWB judicial nominees through the Senate, claimed not to have known anything about it. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under oath. Emails subsequently discovered reveal that he was involved. He also testified that he had nothing to do with GWB’s torture policies. Emails subsequently discovered reveal that he was involved. There are one or two other instances of this type of dishonesty in Congressional testimony under oath.

It is for these reasons I believe he simply has no credibility and no integrity. Certainly not at the level one would expect from a Supreme Court Justice.

Much of Kavanaugh’s career before he became a judge was spent in highly partisan pursuits. Working with Ken Starr and performing a critical role in the Clinton investigations, and there is evidence that he was one of the most partisan involved in the investigation. He then worked on the GWB legal team dealing with the Florida recount, and ultimately ended up in the GWB White House working on a range of partisan issues. He is one of the most nakedly partisan individuals nominated to the Supreme Court.

And he has been willing to lie to Congress to pursue those partisan objectives. If he was willing to do so in 2004 and 2006 for lesser judicial appointments, there is every reason to believe he would do so today to secure a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court to further the partisan objectives of him and his allies.

I’m not so naive to believe politicians and judicial nominees don’t shade the truth here and there. But what Kavanaugh has done crosses the line in its nakedness. He does not belong on the Supreme Court.

A couple more points:

  • I agree with Republicans who attach Democrats for how they handled this. I appreciate that Dr. Ford sought to remain confidential, but given the stakes, Feinstein had an obligation to do something more with her allegations than wait until the last minute.
  • I agree with those who question whether these events that occurred 35 years ago are really disqualifying. People do a lot of stupid, offensive things when they are young. And then they grow up. In the absence of continued stupidity, their youthful stupidity should not necessarily be disqualifying. And, yes, there is some youthful stupidity that is so horrible it is. But there is a whole lot that isn’t. Where is that line?
  • Republican allegations that all of these allegations are a coordinated attack on Kavanaugh are akin to the man on the grassy knoll, the idea that 9/11 was an inside job, or that Elvis is really still alive and living on an island with Marilyn Monroe. The level of coordination it would take to bring all of these people out who would be willing to lie and none of them would eventually spill the beans about that coordination … well, it would be stupendous and impossible.
  • I don’t believe all of the allegations. I think some of them strain credibility. that doesn’t mean the other allegations are false.
  • I believe the FBI did a sham investigation over the last week that was designed solely to address the credibility of Dr. Ford’s allegations.

What the investigation did not do, however, was address whether there was evidence that supported the idea that Kavanaugh committed perjury in this testimony last week.  And that’s a shame. It is his willingness to lie, to commit perjury, to demonstrate such an utter lack of integrity that matters more than anything else.

It’s a shame. All Americans have been damaged by this shit show. Neither party should be viewed as looking good coming out of this. But the partisans on the left will believe they did the right thing and the partisans on the right will believe the same. The divide continues to metastasize. There is a cancer in America and there doesn’t seem to be a cure.


Thank You Andrew Sullivan

Last week, after I wrote Stand Up! I retweeted it at Andrew Sullivan and suggested people with a platform and audience like him need to start spreading the message. I have no idea if he read my post, but yesterday he published America, Land of Brutal Binaries in his regular column in New York Magazine.

In his Andrew Sullivan way, much more intellectually presented, he makes the same points I did. His final paragraph is a perfect example of his talents. Drawing in a quote from the past, tying it to the present, and connecting it all to a well-stated conclusion that gets right at the core of the problem.

“When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them,” Martin Luther King said, which is why today’s cultural revolutionaries have so little time for him. But he made a huge practical difference in moving everyone forward a little. He made things better by including more. That was also how we won marriage equality, the biggest civil rights victory of my generation. We did it by drawing larger and larger circles, by treating the other side as arguing in good faith, and appealing to a shared humanity, to what we have in common as citizens, rather than what divides us as members of a tribe. Today’s well-intentioned activists — the ones driving much of the conversation around Kavanaugh and, on a much smaller scale, Buruma — in contrast, are drawing an ever smaller, purer, more tightly policed circle, in order to wage a scorched earth war against another, ever-purer, tightly policed circle. And God help anyone who gets in their way.

There is a reason I consider Andrew Sullivan to be one of the best thinkers and writers on our modern society, culture, and politics. This column is another example.

It’s a shame that the progress described in that paragraph is being torn down in record time by a return to virulent tribalism in our country. So much progress being wiped out in the blink of an eye.

On Kavanaugh

I know I’m supposed to care about this. One way or the other. But instead, it is a perfect example of why I’m losing interest in our nation’s political wars and believe we need to find a different way. We need to grow up and start doing the right thing.

On the right, she is a loose, lying, whacko who is not to be believed. Over on PowerLine, either the blog’s authors or its commenters have “reported” on the following:

1. Kavanaugh’s mother, who was a judge, ruled against Ford’s parents in an action foreclosing on their home.

2. According to, she is a horrible professor, a raving lunatic, a professor to be avoided.

Both of these stories have been thoroughly debunked. In fact, in the foreclosure action, Ford’s parents were able to refinance their home, the creditor moved to dismiss the action, and Judge Kavanaugh (the mom, not the nominee) granted the dismissal. So, instead of ruling against Ford’s parents, they kept their home, and she confirmed that through her granting of the dismissal.

The RateMyProfessors story? Equally false. The ratings were for a different Professor Ford at a completely different university, one that the relevant Professor Ford never taught at.

But does that stop the allegations that are designed to tarnish Ford?


The site now has several posts about the possibility that Ford’s allegation is based on a case of mistaken identity. That it was not Kavanaugh in that room that day. It was somebody else. And the leading purveyor of this allegation is perfectly fine with providing a name and a picture of who that other person might be. The allegation is based on nothing more than the suggestion that Kavanaugh and this other guy look alike (looking at the pictures, probably 75% of white males at prep schools looked similar) and he lived in the area where she believes the party took place. So, somebody else has now been thrown under the bus by the Right in their quest to discredit Ford.

In comments to one of the posts about this mistaken identity allegation, others are bringing up information from her high school yearbooks that suggest her school was party central, encouraged binge drinking, and she was right in the mix of all of it. Because, you know, all high schools aren’t like that. Only hers.

My point — there are so many false stories about her cropping up, but the right-wing is perfectly fine with launching them via their megaphone out into the world where they will become part of the inevitable narrative. Why? Because everybody believes the allegation and remembers it, many people don’t stick around to hear the response and demonstration that the allegation is unfounded. It is these kinds of stories that fuel a false narrative about people and issues. Throw it out there and the ripples will go on regardless of the truth of the thing.

On the left — well, those of you who have read my fiction know that my first novel is about an allegation of sexual wrongdoing made by a woman that was … false. It’s fiction, but I have no doubt that there are true stories everywhere about false allegations made in these types of circumstances.

But on the left, they are using their megaphone to tell us she has to be believed. No matter what, in the age of #metoo, you must believe the woman and act accordingly. This is something I simply refuse to do, not because of the novel I wrote, but because that is not how our country is supposed to work. I don’t care if we’re not in a court of law at the moment, but I fundamentally believe in the idea that somebody is innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the person making the allegations, regardless of whether criminal charges have been brought.

And here is where I’ll say something that is likely unpopular among some of my readers. We’re talking about an allegation of behavior that occurred 35 years ago when Kavanaugh was 17. There has been no suggestion, no evidence presented anywhere that I have seen, that suggests this was more than a one-time incident. Unlike the President who has numerous allegations of questionable behavior stretching back for decades. This appears to be a one-time event, if true. If that’s the case, I’m not sure it’s disqualifying.

The time to hold Kavanaugh responsible for such behavior was back then. I get that reporting such incidents does not always happen and there are very valid and legitimate reasons for that. But … in the absence of credible evidence he engaged in similar behavior at some point later in his life, is this where we have come as a nation? Do we really believe that only the perfect are qualified for such offices? Is that really where we want to be?

I get it. The allegation here is more serious than typical teenage misbehavior. It’s not setting off M-80s in garbage cans. It’s not heavy drinking. It’s not a high school prank (putting a car on the roof of the gym) gone wrong. It’s an allegation of attempted rape.

But still. 35 years later and no credible evidence anywhere of anything else similar. And we are just supposed to believe her and ruin his career? Sorry, I can’t do it.

Nor can I buy the right-wing narrative on this as it is fueled by such a disregard for the truth. Similarly, I am bothered by other things about him and believe he should be disqualified for other reasons. Primarily, that back in the middle part of the last decade, Kavanaugh testified before Congress and claimed not to have been involved in matters that emails from the time showed he was definitely involved in. Senator Leahy’s emails were hacked, Kavanaugh testified that he knew nothing about it, emails showed he received copies of the hacked emails. There were other similar situations in which he testified that was not involved in something and contemporaneous emails demonstrated otherwise. It’s just kind of stunning that we will likely see the confirmation of a Justice who was so willing to lie to Congress.

What ultimately bothers me about the Kavanaugh-Ford imbroglio is that both sides are playing it for every partisan purpose and gain they can identify. Republicans have only one objective — to secure Kavanaugh’s appointment to the court. Democrats have only one objective — to prevent that. Neither side is interested in the truth or uncovering the facts. No, it’s all about scorched earth, no-holds barred, take no prisoners, all out war.

And besides Kavanaugh and Ford, who have both been victimized by this, all Americans are victims as well. It’s another sad day in the life of the United States.

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