The Kavanaugh-Ford Tie-Breaker: Will It Be Truth or Will It Be Politics?

By Tom Gilson Published on September 28, 2018

Christine Blasey Ford presented herself in a believable manner during testimony yesterday. She said almost the things you’d expect her to say, with the emotions you’d expect her to present if her story were true. 

If you found her credible on that basis, I’d understand that. But read on: Exactly the same is true of Judge Kavanaugh, only without the “almost” qualification. He didn’t contradict himself as she did, for example over her fear of flying. If she was credible based on her presentation alone, so was he. For my money, his responses were harder to put on; he seemed more completely real.

People will differ over who was more believable, though. I expect their views will mostly line up with their prior opinions. So you could call yesterday’s hearings a tie, or near enough not to matter much.

It certainly didn’t have to come out as a tie. The Republicans could have played it so much better than they did. But it was what it was. By themselves, then, the hearings really shouldn’t determine anyone’s decision. So let’s review what each one still has going for him or her.

Christine Blasey Ford’s Advantage

Ford has two things going for her. First, many are saying we should believe her because “Victims are never believed” and “It’s so incredibly damaging when we don’t believe them.” The latter is certainly true. To dismiss a sexual assault victim’s complaint is to multiply the harm that’s been done to her. The former used to be true, or near enough that we should pay it close attention; although our country has lately begun attending to it quite seriously. That’s the whole point of the #MeToo movement. 

So those are both great answers — but to the wrong question. They’re answers to, “How should we treat victims?” when we need to know instead whether Ford is a victim. Until we know that, those answers are premature and (for now, at least) strictly irrelevant. They work great as ideologically-motivated misdirections; otherwise they serve no one any useful purpose.

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Second, Ford’s story supports ongoing abortion rights. The more people who believe her, the less likely Kavanaugh is to be confirmed, and the more likely Dems will get a nominee they like better for the sake of abortion. The Democrats on the committee yesterday told her they believe her, when they hadn’t heard Kavanaugh’s side of the story yet. His side of it didn’t matter to them; all that mattered was getting his nomination blocked.

That’s what she’s got going for her. I don’t think much of it. Neither should you.

By the way, did you notice the Republican’s chosen questioner asked Ford a whole lot of questions? What led her to  choose such innocuous, mostly irrelevant questions, I’ll never know, but at least they were questions. That’s how you find out the truth. The Democrats pronounced their conclusions without even pretending to make any inquiry.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Advantage

Kavanaugh has politics on his side, too. Republicans want him on the court. I do, too. Abortion is one reason, but it’s really about ending judicial activism and restoring the rule of law in our country.

When it comes to evidence, Kavanaugh wins by a country mile.

And Kavanaugh has tons of corroborative evidence on his side. Ford has none. The witnesses she says could support her story deny it instead. The ones who don’t deny it are unable to produce any evidence prior to 2012. 

I’ve heard pundits complaining this was a “he said, she said” situation. That’s a fair description of yesterday’s hearings, but not the overall process. Overall it’s “She said this, and everyone else who knows anything about it says something else.” 

Breaking the Tie

So let’s review our score here.

Both Ford and Kavanaugh have politics on their side. Let’s call that a tie.

Both Ford and Kavanaugh presented themselves in a believable manner yesterday, if you’re willing to overlook Ford’s “fear of flying” and a couple other flubs. We could call it virtually a tie.

When it comes to actual evidence for the truth, though, there’s no room for dispute. Kavanaugh wins by a country mile. Of course we know some senators won’t care about that; they’ll let ideology win out over evidence every day. We’ll see which way the entire Senate goes.

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  • Chip Crawford

    The questioner got a bum wrap, imo. The idea they were working with was to have an even, respectful woman question her as opposed to 11 men. She was developing it methodically, but the five minute clip wasn’t amenable for that. She’d have to be more blunt to get those cogent questions out there. Bad short segment for developing questioning, The Republicans are using old fashioned respect, listening to the 11 old white men thing and stuff like that, but they can’t win of course. The barbs switch off at their will. I disliked Dr. Ford personally, seeing a lot of the petted person about her, wondering if she was pretty hard to get along with in the main. You know, the: If mama’s not happy, wifey not happy, teacher not happy, et al, then everybody catches it. The terrified, wide-eyed look, especially at the beginning, was too much – poor middle-aged matron, who is a sophisticated traveler we find, degree’d academic, manager, published writer, probably spelunker, scuba diver, etc. – trapped in her teen memory …

    Sorry, she made me sick. And what a dog. Ever hear of makeup? Few women go bare faced these days; far, far fewer can get away with it. She’s not one of them for definite sure. Hey, I’m not a judge; I’m a witness – lol. What’s a drinking 15 year old at a rough party like that, any drinking party, you know? That used to be known as “fast,” but we can’t say anything like that now … Bunch of bunk. I hope people start flooding the FBI with lead on her and cause this whole thing to come apart like a $2 watch. Just what needs to happen.

  • Kevin Quillen

    Sadly truth does not matter to the Demonrats. People who fiercely advocate for killing babies in the womb, will stop at nothing to advance their cause or maintain power. There is a limit to how far patriots will go. We have the second amendment for a reason. We are approaching the line. If the crazy lefties start attacking conservatives physically, the line will have been crossed.

  • Philmonomer

    This seems about right to me (from a Vox article by Zack Beauchamp):

    “Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh lied during his Senate testimony on Thursday. He lied about all sorts of things: his drinking habits, the meaning of crude terms on his yearbook page like “boofing,” and even about what other named witnesses to his alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford have said about the night in question. The lies are well documented; the evidence of them extraordinarily strong.

    So why don’t Republicans care?

    I’ve become obsessed with this question since the hearing, wondering how anyone could have watched the same hearing I did and concluded that Kavanaugh did not lie under oath. Sure, some of those people are hackish partisans, willing to look past a little light perjury to get a fifth vote on the bench. But not every conservative is like that: Some of Kavanaugh’s most vociferous defenders, like National Review’s David French, are thoughtful people expressing their good-faith opinions.

    I couldn’t get a good handle on this until I read a paper by three scholars — Carnegie Mellon’s Oliver Hahl, Northwestern’s
    Minjae Kim, and MIT’s Ezra Zuckerman-Sivan — on how voters could recognize that a politician is lying but consider them authentic and appealing.

    Using both a large-scale survey and a lab experiment, Hahl and his colleagues demonstrate that people are shockingly willing to look past lies from someone that they feel represents their group. Instead, the lies are seen in the broader context of what supporters see as a “deeper truth” — in this case, that Kavanaugh is an innocent target of a Democratic smear campaign.”

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