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Supreme crisis

In a vexing process, conservatives have an opportunity to be careful with the truth while pursuing the truth

Supreme crisis

Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on Sept. 6 (Alex Brandon/AP)

What a week in Washington, D.C.

On Monday evening at a restaurant near the U.S. Capitol, a small crowd of protesters ambushed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his wife, Heidi, as they made their way to a booth in the upscale eatery. The demonstrators heckled the couple until they left: “We believe survivors!” 

Cruz serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel set to conduct a public hearing on Thursday regarding accusations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a high-school girl, Christine Ford, when he was a teenager. Another woman claims he exposed himself to her during a drinking game as a college student.

On Wednesday, a third woman, Julie Swetnick, claimed she was aware of efforts by Kavanaugh to “spike the punch” and target inebriated girls at parties she attended in the early 1980s. She claimed she was gang-raped at a party where Kavanaugh was present. (She didn’t say that Kavanaugh raped her.) Swetnick said she has witnesses to back up her claims, but she didn’t identify those witnesses publicly. 

Kavanaugh has denied all the accusations, and he called the latest claims “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone.” 

Back at the D.C. restaurant on Monday, activists demanded to know how Cruz would vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, as the scene grew intense. The senator guided his wife back to the door, and one activist yelled: “Fascist, racist, anti-gay!” When the pair left, a demonstrator warned other patrons: “This is what’ll happen to you if you support Kavanaugh.” 

Desperate measures during a vexing week.

But left-wing activists weren’t the only ones taking drastic steps. Late last week, Ed Whelan, the president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), mounted a defense of Kavanaugh by pointing to a high-school classmate of his as a potential attacker of Christine Ford in the early 1980s.

Whelan named the man and posted photos of him, noting a similarity in appearance with Kavanaugh. He posted floor plans of the home the man may have lived in as a teenager more than 30 years ago, and he suggested the layout matched Ford’s description of the party on the evening she claims Kavanaugh assaulted her.

Desperate measures.

In this case, Whelan seemed to recognize the enormity of his error: He deleted the tweets and apologized for what he called “an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment. …” He offered his resignation to the EPPC. Board members asked Whelan to take a leave of absence instead, and said they would review the situation in a month.

For conservatives—including those eager to see Kavanaugh confirmed—the debacle offers an important dose of clarity: In the quest for truth, don’t undermine truth to achieve a desired end. That risks making an idol of something that is important but not ultimate.

It’s true that the debate over Kavanaugh carries high stakes, and his accusers bear the burden of proof when bringing such serious charges against the judge at the very end of his confirmation process. No direct witnesses have corroborated the claims.

Indeed, some conservatives believe Democrats will say anything to topple Kavanaugh. But those same conservatives should be careful not to play loose with other pieces of the case in the quest to defend the judge, even if they believe they are right in their cause.

This involves a commitment to taking great care when speaking about either side of the debate. On the Christian Broadcasting Network last week, Franklin Graham said he didn’t believe that something Kavanaugh may or may not have done as a teenager was relevant to whether he should be confirmed today.

But he also told the network: “There wasn’t a crime that was committed. These are two teenagers and it’s obvious that she said no and he respected it and walked away—if that’s the case, but he says he didn’t do it. … Regardless if it was true, these are two teenagers and she said no and he respected that so I don’t know what the issue is.”

The problem: This isn’t what Ford claims at all. She does say that she and Kavanaugh were both teenagers, but she claims he pinned her down, covered her mouth with his hand, and tried to remove her clothes before she managed to get away. That would constitute a crime, even if committed by a teenager. Ford is certainly not describing a scenario where a teenage boy respected her and walked away.

Again, we don’t know whether this scenario happened or if it happened the way Ford remembers it. The hearing on Thursday will give opportunity to hear from her, and to hear Kavanaugh’s response.

But it still matters how we talk about the claims in an ordeal so full of confusion it’s difficult to see the way forward. (Whatever happened with Ford, it’s at least important for teenage girls to know if they do find themselves in such a scenario, it’s not a harmless situation they should dismiss.)

The one thing that conservatives—particularly conservative Christians—should offer in such troubling days is a commitment to speaking the truth carefully in all circumstances. Often that means insisting on evidence to substantiate claims, and that’s an important part of promoting truth.

But as Whelan learned—and seemed to acknowledge publicly—it also means that anything less than being careful with the truth in an effort to promote the truth runs the risk of undermining a whole cause itself.

Comments

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Wed, 09/26/2018 11:31 pm

    If it walks like a skunk, smells like a skunk and has a white stripe down its back, it probably IS a skunk! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out! All these allegations coming out a couple days before Kavanaugh is voted on by unscrupulous lawyers and Democrats should clue us in that this is a political hit job meant to take out Kavanaugh. It is no different than what happened to Judge Roy Moore! It reminds me of the warning given in the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-13). “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.”  Let us be shrewd people of the light and not be naive as we navigate this world! We need to stand and fight for truth, justice and Kavanaugh!

  • phillipW's picture
    phillipW
    Posted: Thu, 09/27/2018 10:54 am

    Thank you so much, Big Brother, for telling me how to think, and how I should respond to this circus.  I guess I better not use my brain to think for myself, when all I have to do is read something like this, which intructs me exactly how to think and act.

  • gndgirl
    Posted: Thu, 09/27/2018 12:00 pm

    philipW, explain to me please how a call for carefully handling truth is Big Brother telling you how to think?

  • Judy Farrington
    Posted: Thu, 09/27/2018 12:25 pm

    Wow! Right on, with careful and clear thinking. Thank you, Jamie Dean. You are most certainly NOT "Big Brother." as alleged by phillipW. Most excellent article. Keep up the very good work.

  • Janet S
    Posted: Thu, 09/27/2018 01:45 pm

    I agree that as Christians we are held to a higher standard by God to think and act rightly. We must never stoop to lower standard. The truth will eventually prevail (but it may not be in this lifetime).  But in our current culture of "me too" your statement that his accusers bear the burden of proof is not true.  Mr. Kavanaugh has already been tried and and found guilty in some if not most of the minds of those who hate President Trump and the conservative voice. 

  • West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Thu, 09/27/2018 03:18 pm

    It's difficult to know who the "Big Brother" in Phillip W's post is. I took him to mean he was replying to Cyborg3's post. Phillip?

  • West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Thu, 09/27/2018 03:32 pm

    Jamie, You wrote a very good article. Thank-you.

    When evaluating whether or not someone is telling the truth, we most often draw on our own personal experience. As a public school teacher, a parent of one of my students reported to my principal a false allegation by her son. I denied the veracity of the accusation, and because it seemed serious, I strongly requested a face to face interview with the mother and the principal, the three of us at the same time, so that the truth of my innocence could come to light. The principal said no. However, she believed me, and took no action except to quietly transfer the student out of my classroom.

    The point is, when a person is falsely accused, they want an investigation in order to clear their good name and standing. I wish Judge Kavanaugh would do the same, because the nomination to Supreme Court Justice is of great importance, and the allegation, at least as much of it as I am privvy to, is grave. Innocent people in public office often desire investigation, so that it doesn't boil down he said, she said.

    By the way, I just listened to Ford's complete testimony to the Senate, and I heard no slander. I only heard a narrative statement to the best of Ford's recollection. She is not slandering Kavanaugh's character; she is reporting facts as she recollects them.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Cyborg3
    Posted: Fri, 09/28/2018 02:54 am

    WCG, the Democrat request of an investigation by the FBI is just a stall and delay tactic meant to torpedo Judge Kavanaugh. All the FBI will do is interview those identified and gather statements from them - no different than what they already have. They will not determine guilt or innocence and will give the evidence to the Senate for their decision. Already, all the key people that Ford alleges were witnesses to the party and event deny it. This includes Ford’s friend who denies ever being at the party or ever seeing Kavanaugh! No prosecutor would ever bring this accusation to trial for the evidence is so flimsy.  Also, you claim she is not slandering Kavanaugh’s character! How exactly is she NOT slandering Kavanaugh’s character with allegations like these? A guy forcing himself on a woman attempting to rape her, does not soil his reputation? Where do you get your morality from?