A common refrain when Nixon resigned was “the system worked!” This made people feel better. Yes, we had put a crook into office, but the system eventually got rid of him. Justice was done (ignoring, of course, the inconvenient fact that Nixon’s successor waived his magic pardon and kept Nixon out of jail).
What’s happening now shows that it was never really the system, that what’s always in question is the people running it. What’s happening now is that the people on the Judiciary Committee are doing their best to obstruct justice.
It’s a tactic certain to work for the short term—Judge Kavanaugh will almost certainly be confirmed. And it may work for the long term, too, if none of the women making these accusations take their complaints to the actual legal system. But make no mistake, what’s happening are clear steps in an ugly process of obstructing justice.
No wonder, I suppose. This is a fear-filled world of people who toss around words like “credible” and “corroborating evidence” and “innocent until proven guilty” in ways that bend reality. It’s a target-rich world for people in leadership positions.
The word “credible,” for example means only that something is believable enough to have a reasonable likelihood to be true, yet some people want to twist the word to force some kind of closure upon it. Dr. Ford is credible. Even when you believe her, this does not mean she’s guaranteed to be right. It means there is a very reasonable chance her allegations are true, and her testimony calls for deeper investigation.
Her eye-witness testimony is evidence. And, while that testimony is credible on its own, its credibility is boosted by much “corroborating evidence” that surrounds it, specifically right now the fact of her documented conversations with her therapist and statements from others about her conversations. There is more to get, of course. An investigator could explore leads in several directions. Mark Judge. Finding the house. Reviewing the Kavanaugh calendar with deeper street work. Spending some time with all the character witnesses—both for and against both Ford and Kavanaugh. Indeed, several investigative reporters have begun this process. All the findings from these steps that support her allegations would be corroborating evidence. You can see them out there now, so to ignore they might exist is a great slight-of-hand way to obstruct justice.
Despite this fact, people say there is no corroborating evidence.
The stupid inherent in that set of comments is deep enough to drown in.
At the same time I hear these same people worried that we must assume a defendant is innocent until proven guilty—which is true, but not relevant in this moment of the process. If you are a member of a jury, you assume innocence until the information is all presented. We are, however, at the front end of the process—the part where truly credible and likely to be true accusations have been leveled. At this point of the process, the investigator accepts the accusation as true, and begins to progress along the proper paths to prove it. In other words, in order to prove the hypothesis they have to believe it—or at least operate as if it is likely to be true.
If, after a proper investigation, they cannot actually prove the case, the proper investigator changes their opinion from true to false. But that happens only after a proper investigation.
That is not what’s happening here.
Here we have people who say Dr. Ford’s allegations are not credible (meaning, apparently, that she doesn’t have a pair of DNA-stained blue undies wadded up in the corner of her closet somewhere). And that, since she brought no evidence but her own word to a table where she was restrained from bringing that corroborating evidence in the first place, there is none. Against this, we have people saying that Kavanaugh must be held as “innocent” as the reason to kill the investigation that might well result in better understanding the truth.
That word, “obstruction,” is interesting, of course. People use it politically in the form of “The Republicans obstructed Merrick Garland,” or “The Democrats are just trying to obstruct things until the mid-terms.” The first of these is 100% true. The second is true if you remove the term “just.” That the Democrats would love to push off the confirmation until after mid-terms is just as obvious as the fact that the Republicans used their power to wait in order to stop Garland.
So, sure. There’s deep politics going on.
But that’s not the full story. The Democrats are not “just” hoping to delay until after mid-terms. In this case, Democrats are forcing Republicans into a position where, to proceed, they have to pretend that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is not credible, that the evidence she has does not warrant additional investigation. In other words, Dr. Ford and some democratic senators have put the Judicial Committee into a position where, to move forward, they have to publicly obstruct justice.
Which is what they are now doing.
Welcome to privilege. Or simple human nature. Or just ignorance—willful or otherwise. It’s all the same in the end. The system is fine. It’s the people who are broken.
I completely agree with what you’ve said here.
I’ll also point out that “innocent until proven guilty” is the standard for a criminal trial, which this is not. This is a job interview, and that standard doesn’t necessarily apply.
If you’re considering someone for a job, and one of their contacts tells you that they’ve stolen from the company in the past, or harassed female employees, or if they just say, “I would not hire this person again,” your suspicion that this person would not be a good employee is all the “evidence” you need to decline to hire them. You don’t have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they’d be a poor fit for your organization. You don’t owe them a job.
Kavanaugh is not owed a seat on the Supreme Court. If he’s not confirmed, he’ll go back to his very cushy and prestigious job as a judge, and — since none of the women who’ve accused him of sexual assault or rape have seen fit to file official charges — most likely his notoriety would eventually die down and he’d go on with his life. After having been turned down for an incredible job, when he already has an excellent one. Gee, poor guy. [eyeroll]
Well analyzed and well written. Yes, it’s mainly the people; but, the system may need a bit of scrutinizing & tweaking too.
I’m no lawyer, but “Innocent until proven guilty” is one of the most mis-used phrases in the book. Unless you’re in an actual court of law, that concept and its associated arguments are generally the friend of cheats and liars–which in some ways, I suppose, we all are. 🙂
Always up for some system tweaking, too.