Evaluating the Supreme Court Standoff -- Sunday Political Brunch - September 30, 2018


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I was not there. You were not there. I say this because of the explosion of “experts” (from both sides) on social media this week regarding the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing him of sexual assault. Like many of you, I found the hearing spell-binding and I could not turn away. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Dr. Ford’s Testimony” – I found her credible, passionate, certain, heartfelt, emotional, strong, compelling and believable.

“Judge Kavanaugh’s Testimony” – I found him credible, passionate, certain, angry, emotional, strong, compelling and believable.

“Why I Call it a Standoff” – This is not a legal proceeding – as much as many people on both sides would like to suggest it is. There is no legal standard to judge here such as, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” or “based on a preponderance of evidence.” In the end Senators could be influenced by everything from partisan politics, to belief in the shape of the court over the next generation. Or, Senators can simply use the standard of, “my gut tells me to vote this way” based on the testimony they heard. They don’t have to base it on any evidence, or lack thereof.

“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” – This hearing had all kinds of moments: some riveting; some sad; some even funny; and, some downright weird. It just goes to show that no matter how much people rehearse and plan their testimony or speeches, spontaneous moments can erupt. Let me address a few.

“No Laughing Matter” – I thought it fascinating when Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) asked Christine Ford what was the most memorable, searing part of her alleged sexual assault. She said, "The laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two," Ford said, her voice cracking. "And their having fun at my expense." A lot of people may have been expecting a description of a sexual nature, but her answer was about as raw and candid as it gets.

“I Like Beer” – If there was any levity in the hearing – and trust me – I know that allegations of sexual misconduct are no laughing matter, still, one exchange sparked lots of funny comments and memes on the internet when Judge Kavanaugh was asked about his teenage drinking. "I drank beer with my friends, almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers, sometimes others did." He added: "I liked beer, I still like beer, but I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out and I never sexually assaulted anyone." It was funny, because clearly he probably went over the top describing about how much he liked beer. Expect a Saturday Night Live skit soon. But it was spontaneous and candid and likely unrehearsed. It was a raw moment in a hearing that had relatively few.

“On the Other Hand” – One of Judge Kavanaugh’s responses about drinking drew a lot of jeers. He had an odd exchange with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) when she questioned: “So you’re saying there’s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?” Kavanaugh shot back, “You’re talking about blackout. I don’t know. Have you?” After a short recess Kavanaugh apologized to Klobuchar. “I’m sorry I did that,” he said. “This is a tough process.” Klobuchar responded: “When you have a parent [her father] who’s an alcoholic, you’re pretty careful about drinking.”

“Things Go Better with Coke! – Maybe Not!” – During part of her testimony today, Dr. Ford had a large bottle of Coca-Cola on the table, clearly visible on TV. Those of us old enough to remember Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings in 1991, will remember the testimony of Professor Anita Hill who worked with Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In alleging a hostile, sexually charged work environment, Hill recounted an incident: "Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, 'Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?'" The people at Coca-Cola HQ must be shaking their heads again, after two unintended product placements on national television that were not the most flattering.

“Vote Watch” – Judge Brett Kavanaugh will likely be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but does he have the majority of votes in the full Senate? Here are the undecided votes to watch: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine); Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska); Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia); Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota); and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana). Previously undecided Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) confirms he will vote 'yes' on Judge Kavanaugh.

“My Advice” – 2018 is much different than 1982. Back in the late 1970s I worked in law enforcement and had the opportunity to assist in some sexual assault investigations. There were no DNA tests back then; no support groups; no campus or community rape-crisis centers; and, few women in law enforcement. The well-intended, but misguided notion in those days was, “Let’s not put the victim through additional trauma by compelling her to testify.” That was wrong. Today we have all these assets to help. Women and men alike should report sexual assaults when they happen, so that critical physical evidence and testimony can be gathered. Time is of the essence. Reach out to friends, family, clergy, and others for support. It’s there.

Please share your thoughts and opinions by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, the five surrounding states and the District of Columbia.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: NR/C-SPAN

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