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Evidence? Who needs that?

September 23, 2018

This week’s public circus involves accusations of sexual assault leveled against Supreme Court nominee B rett Kavanaugh by California College Professor Christine Blasey Ford. Even though the accusations are almost four decades old, and there is as of this writing no hard evidence informing any of it, that has stopped almost no one from forming strong opinions. This is yet another one of those issues that I can look either to the left or to the right and say with conviction — be careful what you wish for.

As readers of this column know I am no fan of nearly anything Trump — and that includes this nominee for the Supreme Court. I find some of Judge Kavanaugh’s views, particularly concerning the First Amendment, alarming. But you know what — that’s just too bad for me. Donald Trump is President and he gets to nominate who he wants for the Supreme Court. If the Senate confirms Judge Kavanaugh that’s that.

I have felt exactly the same way about every nominee to the Supreme Court by every President in my life. Elections have consequences and this is one of them.

Having said all of that, and putting politics aside, Judge Kavanaugh seems qualified to be on the Supreme Court. I don’t know that having access to everything he’s ever written or examining every dark secret of his life is going to change what seems obvious — that he’ll be a reliable conservative on the Court — something Donald Trump and a Republican controlled Senate have a right to put in place. Republican Presidents appoint conservative judges just like Democratic Presidents appoint liberal judges. Based on what I know now if I were in the Senate I’d vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh myself.

The reason for my present support is that no one knows what did or did not happened 37 years ago between Ford and Kavanaugh except the two of them and a supposed witness, Patrick J. Smyth, who denies knowing anything about it. Professor Blasey Ford is vague in many details of the alleged incident. This is quite understandable in light of the amount of time passed but nonetheless troubling as support for such a potent allegation. Unless she can provide some better proof I just don’t think there’s much there besides an accusation. And accusations, sans evidence, should not be enough to derail a career.

So that’s where we are. If the allegation is true Judge Kavanaugh is a deplorable human being who deserves jail rather than a seat on the highest court in the land. But an accusation is not the same as proof. And unless something remarkable happens we are not going to resolve this no matter who gets interviewed by the FBI or put under oath. Those who think that putting someone under oath magically produces Perry Mason moments where the perpetrator comes clean haven’t spent much time in court. I am quite confident that every attorney and judge that I know would assure you that people lie under oath all of the time — and this rubs both ways.

What hard evidence do you suppose is likely to emerge from a 37 year-old alleged incident between two people with no corroborating witnesses. We are left, unfortunately, with a “he said, she said” except that the score is 2-1 in favor of team “he.” That is very unfortunate for the alleged victim, who has my sympathy, but those are the facts. And Judge Kavanaugh deserves to be evaluated on the basis of facts. I’d give him that even though I oppose his politics because I believe it’s the right thing to do in a fair and democratic society. It’s also the right thing to do if you believe in evidence-based decision making.

As I watch this unfold in the public sphere I’m struck and disheartened by the number of people who “believe” either the accuser or the accused based on partisanship — evidence be damned. Are the Republicans guilty of complete hypocrisy and a glaring double-standard here in light of near-continuous attempts to promote one ridiculous conspiracy theory after another against Hillary Clinton? Yes they are. But so are Democrats who are all of the sudden enamored with lie detector tests that they thought were bogus just a week ago and are suddenly more than willing to pursue evidence-free threads themselves just to kneecap political opponents. It’s all BS — and in light of that I’m going with the evidence.

Once again, to my friends on the left and on the right I say be very careful what you wish for. When you prevail despite facts and evidence I think that you might not, in the end, much like what you find waiting for you.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time happily raising three children, llama farming, and riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.

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