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Brett Kavanaugh politics

Right To Choose: Republicans Need To Abort Brett Kavanaugh Nomination

This isn't going to end well - for anybody.

The last time I put digital pen to digital paper to talk about Brett Kavanaugh, I not-so-gently suggested that just about the last thing America needs is to put someone on the bench who apparently doubts the precedent on Roe v. Wade.

I’m not a fan of the notion that government should be in the business of telling women what they can and can’t do with their own bodies based on what, at the end of the day, is a rationale based on the purported “sanctity” of life.

That appeal to the nebulous concept of “sanctity” is beset with religious overtones and pretensions to morality, neither of which have a place in public policy.

This is a prickly topic, but common sense dictates that implicitly citing a work of historical fiction (the Bible) on the way to justifying a policy that curtails a woman’s right to choose whether she wants to give birth is borderline psychotic.

While we all like to couch things in terms of what’s “morally” right, public policy should be made based on secular appeals to common sense. You don’t have to appeal to “morality” to, for instance, make murder illegal. It’s not so much that murder is “wrong” (what does that even mean?), as much as it is that a society where murder is legal would be a society that doesn’t function because human beings, being a self-interested lot, would probably just kill each other to advance their own interests if left to their own devices. Obviously that’s not conducive to a functioning body politic, so murder has to be illegal.

The same goes for rape, theft, fraud, and on and on. Sure, you can say all of those things are “wrong”, but the only rationale for making them illegal that doesn’t ultimately rest on something we can’t prove is real (i.e., there is no proof that some things are “just wrong”), is that allowing those things to go on would make life unlivable and would quickly lead to anarchy.

[Aside: I, like everybody else, often lapse into using the terms "right” and "wrong” to describe injustices, but the harsh reality is that something is only "right” or "wrong” in the sense that it strengthens or weakens (respectively) the bond that holds society together. There is no divine judge of what is "right” and what is "wrong”. The "judge”, as it were, is social utility]

Importantly, each time someone gets away with one of those crimes (be it theft, fraud, murder, etc.), society as a whole gets a little less safe. The social fabric suffers a slight tear. I needn’t be the one who was robbed or defrauded to suffer from someone else being robbed or defrauded. The fact that robbery or fraud was committed with impunity is injurious to me because it suggests that the rule of law is breaking down and that at some point, I could be a victim.

Abortion, on the other hand, doesn’t fall into the same category. If my neighbor has an abortion, my life is no less livable than it was before. No actual harm comes to me from her decision. No actual harm comes to society from her decision either, unless you want to extrapolate about who the unborn child might have been and what he or she might have done, but that could go either way: The unborn might have been a saint or the unborn might have turned out to be a serial killer. We don’t know. What we do know is that there is no argument against abortion that doesn’t ultimately rest on pretensions to morality or appeals to amorphous concepts of “right” and “wrong.”

Over the past couple of days, Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of committing an act that, if he did indeed commit it, is injurious not only to the accuser, but to society itself based on the arguments made above.

Kavanaugh’s accuser is one Christine Blasey Ford, a California-based research psychologist who teaches at Palo Alto University and trains graduate students in clinical psychology. According to the Washington Post, she’s “widely published in academic journals.”

Ford claims that Kavanaugh assaulted her when the two were in high school. Specifically, she says a drunken Kavanaugh held her down on a bed, tried to pull her clothes off and put his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” she told the Post. Ford has since engaged counsel and apparently has a polygraph test to back up her account.

All of this came to light when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to whom Ford sent a confidential letter, referred the matter to the FBI, who then sent a redacted version to the White House. Fearing her identity would be revealed one way or another, Ford agreed to go on the record with the Post, whose reporters she had already contacted via an anonymous tip line a few weeks before she sent the letter to Feinstein.

Kavanaugh strongly denies the claims and on Monday, Trump called him (Kavanaugh) “one of the finest people I’ve ever known.” Of course that wouldn’t be saying a whole lot given the kind of folks Trump associates with.

Anyway, Kavanaugh’s previously inevitable confirmation is now in jeopardy and on Monday evening, the Senate Judiciary Committee said they’ll delay a vote on his nomination in order to hold a public hearing scheduled for next week that will feature both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is going to be an absolute circus. “[It] sets up a[It]entially explosive public showdown that carries unmistakable echoes of the 1991 testimony of Anita Hill, who accused the future Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in an episode that riveted the nation and ushered a slew of women into public office”, the New York Times writes, adding that the hearing “will play out against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, which has energized Democratic women across the nation, in an institution, the Senate, that is more than three-quarters male.”

Multiple women claiming to have known (and in two cases, claiming to have actually datedKavanaugh have come forward to defend his honor (and seeing as how he’s a judge, there’s a double entendre in there).

Clearly, if Kavanaugh lied about this he shouldn’t be confirmed, but barring some kind of truly remarkable turn of circumstance, proving or disproving these allegations will be impossible.

Given that, and given that there’s presumably no shortage of people Trump could potentially nominate in Kavanaugh’s place, it’s not at all clear whether it’s a good idea for the GOP to push the issue here.

It’s certainly possible that this could backfire on Democrats. After all, the “base” is now at least partially comprised of uneducated voters who have time and again demonstrated a remarkable propensity to overlook similar allegations against the President himself. Additionally, there are those in America who are, frankly, sick and tired of the #MeToo movement.

That said, the optics here are horrible for Republicans. Sure, they’d like to get this over and done with, but at what cost? Consider this from Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein:

What I’d like Senate Republicans to say: They cannot know whether this accusation is true, false or somewhere in between. They do know such an act would disqualify Kavanaugh from this position and from any high office if were true. Kavanaugh (they believe) was otherwise a perfectly acceptable nominee. But the injustice to the entire nation of confirming him if the claim is true — and the message that confirming him would send if it is — outweighs the injustice to him personally if he has been wronged. Kavanaugh can still return to serving in the high office he currently holds, and Republicans still have plenty of time to nominate and confirm a (conservative, partisan) replacement while the current Senate remains in session.

Republicans should be holding themselves to an especially high standard on this, and not only because they have nominated and elected a president who has had serious accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault leveled at him. Politicians of both parties have, over time, been guilty of terrible crimes. But Republicans have a particular obligation here because their public-policy positions have put them on the side of those who oppose equality and full citizenship for women, and because they nominate far fewer women for elected office.

Beyond that, the mental anguish of this public hearing for Kavanaugh, his family and for his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will be brutal.

True, Ford deserves to be heard if she’s telling the truth, but she’s already been heard. Loud and clear, in fact. This is going to hang over Kavanaugh for the rest of his life.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, deserves to clear his name if he’s been falsely accused. But given that isn’t possible considering these allegations are decades old, and given that he presumably can’t be charged with a crime, and especially given that his career probably isn’t at risk from this, it isn’t at all clear that this is worth it for him. In the best case scenario, he gives the more compelling testimony and ends up getting confirmed, but it’s not like anyone is going to forget this, nor will anyone forget the climate in which it took place.

Coming full circle, if Kavanaugh did in fact do what Ford alleges (and again, nobody, including and especially me, has any way of knowing whether he did or didn’t), then it would mean that America is about to put a man on the Supreme Court who isn’t sure whether a woman has a right to choose whether to give birth, but when drunk, is sure that he, as a man, has a right to commit an act that could potentially lead to conception against a woman’s will.

Think on that, America.

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17 comments on “Right To Choose: Republicans Need To Abort Brett Kavanaugh Nomination

  1. Confirming Kavanaugh would put TWO men on the Supreme Court against whom credible claims of sexual assault have been made. How are women to take that?

  2. Thanks for this! Yes I am with u about the work of historical fiction! Refreshing to see that in print

    • Dylan Sinclair

      Thought the same thing. Great commentary as always H, been reading for years. Thank you.

  3. Always be suspicious of those conducting moral crusades.

  4. Oil Investor

    Who is to say what is real or what is fiction, especially when the subject is decades or centuries old. H’s rationalization against murder contrasted to his implied rationalization for abortion is problematic. Either life is important or it isn’t. But, frankly, I would prefer H stick to his expertise of enlightening us on economic complexities.

    • I am to say. The Bible isn’t real. For instance, dinosaurs invalidate the Old Testament timeline and Jesus didn’t walk on water because people don’t walk on water. That’s not the way reality works. And as far as your “frankly” comment goes, might I remind you that “frankly”, I am a university-trained political scientist, which gives me a claim on an informed opinion. Perhaps you too are a trained political scientist, but I doubt it. So “frankly”, I don’t care what you would “prefer.”

      • Oil Investor

        Perhaps you are short on sleep or you missed a meal. As dynamic as you are, I’m sure this occasionally happens. A university trained political scientist pedigree definitely gives you as much latitude to opine as a university trained scientist and engineer. You made a correct statement of fact – people do not walk on water. Aside from that, frankly, you seem to be struggling to interpret biblical language or to differentiate opinion from fact on this matter. So, I will continue to extract value from your usual brilliant commentary on financial matters, and will, frankly, ignore your opinions on all other matters.

  5. David Marilley

    Interesting that Trinity theology is nominally absent from the Bible, but stands at the core of Christian thought and that a superficial look at Hindu Buddhist and Sufi mystical thought reveals absolutely identical transcendental categories. That is no accident.

  6. Is anyone the same person today that they were over 30 years ago?

    • Yes, a person may become more educated or wiser after 30 more years of life but they are the same person.
      There is evidence he lied under oath in prior hearings, presented by Mr. Booker (I believe it was Booker).

      So, has he changed much in the last 30 years? Well, he is still a liar and not suitable for the Supreme Court.

      If an investigation of prior criminal behavior is actually proven, he should be impeached and no longer a judge. That would be an appropriate punishment for what happened to Ms Ford and whatever else we don’t know about…yet.

  7. H, the pure contractualist position that you seem to espouse would imply to me that the U.S. is unconstrained morally in its treatment of people outside the U.S. The threat of retaliation would constrain our actions against powerful countries, and reputational costs (if we have any reputation left) might constrain others, but would you really argue that there is no moral constraint on torturing or nuking people in other (weak) countries?

    • To be clear, I’m certainly with you with regard to the whole religion thing. I just think there’s more room for a Kantian moral outlook than you seem to allow—woven together with contractualism, not in place of it..

  8. technosteria

    I see a significant weakness in the assertion of no ‘societal harm’ from a woman’s decision to have an abortion, on the basis that we can’t know whether the aborted fetus would have matured into a societal asset or a societal liability.

    It seems to me that we have a reasonable expectation that (far) more often than not, an aborted fetus would have matured into a person who is societal asset rather than a net societal liability. And so on that basis, it could readily be claimed that, more often than not, there IS likely to be at least some amount of societal harm from abortions.

    But please note that I do NOT assert that such societal harm trumps a woman’s personal sovereignty. And I quite like the line of thinking that “if one is opposed to abortion, one should just not have one” (rather than imposing on others, by state force, obeisance to one’s opinion).

    • Your first paragraph is flawed in that you see the woman more or less as a machine to produce humans who may or may not become accepted and productive members in our society.

      Your second paragraph assumes higher possibility of a newborn person being an asset as opposed to a liability.

      So, the societal harm would be related to failure to thrive, failure to be assisted properly with physical and mental healthcare, proper nutrition, a residence not under a bridge or street, a job to provide pride in being productive.

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