There is an old children’s hymn in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled “Choose the Right.” That sounds simple, but sometimes it is hard to figure out what the right is.
Events happen so quickly in Washington, D.C., that it is hard to finalize a column on Thursday that will be printed on Saturday. Such is the case of the current Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanagh. As of this writing, it appears that there will be yet another hearing next Monday, Sept. 24, in which Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, has been invited to testify. Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley granted the Democrats’ request for a hearing, but the next day, Ms. Ford’s lawyer changed her request to have an FBI investigation before the hearing. In this case, Ms. Ford isn't clear on all the details.
I was in the Senate during the painful hearings on Justice Clarence Thomas. There, Anita Hill did testify suggesting specific dates and conversations. Justice Thomas categorically denied all of her accusations. Both were questioned extensively by the Committee. Justice Thomas was approved and is currently serving on the Supreme Court.
At the time as a senator, I listened closely to both Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. Their stories were the opposite, and to this day, I honestly do not know who was telling the total truth. But the overall summary of Clarence Thomas’ remarkable career and his testimony persuaded me that he deserved to be on the Supreme Court, so I voted for him. But it was a painful vote.
In public policy, social sciences or everyday life, matters such as buying a car or voting, we have to rely on our innermost judgments as rational empirical facts don’t lead us to an absolute conclusion.
To this day, most of us who were in the Senate at that time, in a moment of complete honesty, would probably tell you that we will go to our graves wondering about the real truth. Analogously, many Americans would probably say that there was more to the John F. Kennedy assassination story than we have been told, even after several investigations and a blue-ribbon commission.
It seems in these highly charged hearings, people remember events in different ways from the same set of facts. Recently, I heard a speaker discuss how some public controversies or mysteries can have the same set of facts, but different people reach different conclusions.
Comparing Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge Kavanaugh might make me a target for the #MeTooMovement, but I would argue that I am a supporter of that movement. I was certainly part of an early pro-women movement, being one of the few Republican co-sponsors of the original Equal Rights Amendment. I paid a fairly political price for that, which was used against me in my 1996 defeat after three terms in the Senate.
The point is, in public policy, social sciences or everyday life, matters such as buying a car or voting, we have to rely on our innermost judgments as rational empirical facts don’t lead us to an absolute conclusion.
Also, the manner in which it was handled seems very strange. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, now 85 years of age, had the letter in her hands when she did a lengthy interview with Judge Kavanaugh, and she did not mention it. And later, she went through the entire several days of hearings without confronting him with it. Why? I have worked with Sen. Feinstein on many matters and she is usually a mistake-free political figure. The only explanation that comes to me is that her age might be a factor, as this is clearly a serious mistake in not introducing the letter sooner. This whole thing is an example of the highly partisan spirit that seems to rule the Senate these days. Of course, in the background are the upcoming Senate elections, which I now believe the Democrats will win. And coincidentally, this would promote Sen. Dianne Feinstein to Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. My conclusion is that Sen. Feinstein’s delay in bringing this letter up illustrates the worst in American politics, but it will work for the Democrats in November.
If I were still in the Senate, I would vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh based on his overall record, as I did to confirm Justice Thomas. No amount of additional investigations will get us any closer to the absolute truth. The problem is, the truth is consistently being perceived differently in different minds with people of different perspectives. Thus, the Senate’s verion of “Choose the Right” will be to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.
My prediction is that Kavanaugh will be confirmed, which will appear to be a victory for the Republicans. However (ironically), this whole matter will end up helping the Democrats win the Senate in November. The reason is that very few voters know the details, and the political ads will bombard viewers with things along the lines of “we have two sexually accused males on the Supreme Court and one in the White House — all of whom have unfairly survived accusations by women.” Women across the country will be persuaded to vote Democratic this November as they will think that “Choose the Right” means to side with the women accusers.
What is the absolute truth? Washington, D.C., is a topsy-turvy place in search of “Choose the Right.”