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In defense of Justice Kavanaugh

The confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh marked a new low point in modern American politics. The fault for this can be found on both sides of the aisle, however, it is Kavanaugh’s opponents on the left, with their sanctimonious halo-polishing, who should be particularly ashamed of themselves. They deserve such criticism because they abandoned fundamental principles of fairness  that underpin the American Republic. Those principles indicated Kavanaugh deserved to be on the Supreme Court given the known facts.

Let's be clear, I am sympathetic to Christine Blasey Ford and thought her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was sincere, powerful, and a brave act by a woman who has had her life irreparably turned upside down. At the same time, I found Kavanaugh’s testimony to be equally compelling and persuasive. Was he angry and even sharp at times? No doubt, but that’s the kind of reaction one would expect from an individual who genuinely feels that they have been accused of something that they did not do. I watched the Thursday hearing in its entirety and walked away with the perceptions that both Ford and Kavanaugh were believable and, at least in their own minds, were telling the truth. Obviously, those two perceptions cannot both be correct. It is unlikely, however, that we’ll ever know for sure what happened due to the passage of time since the alleged incident and the inability of Ford, Senate investigators and even the FBI to find any evidence to support the accusation.

The Senate confirmation process is not a courtroom trial, but nor is it simply a job interview in which the slightest inkling of dislike or discomfort toward the President’s nominee would be sufficient to revoke the job offer. Kavanaugh should have been given the benefit of the doubt. Instead, he was vilified in the court of public opinion and painted, at best, as a drunken sexual deviant and, at worst, as nothing less than “evil” and a “threat to the lives of millions of Americans.” His guilt was assumed at the outset by Democratic senators, both left-wing and mainstream media outlets, liberal activists, and even by previous columnists in this very paper. We could have had a civil and level-headed debate. Instead, the process was weaponized in an attempt to not only sink Kavanaugh’s nomination, but it was unfairly extrapolated into a referendum on whether or not someone “believes women” and all other survivors of sexual assault. 

I have been told that to support Kavanaugh’s confirmation is tantamount to undermining women’s equality and categorically turning one’s back on victims of sexual assault. This could not be further from the truth. The belief that all sexual assault claims should be taken seriously is in no way mutually exclusive to supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation due to his qualifications as a jurist, his lifelong track record of ethical and honorable public service, and the lack of any compelling evidence to corroborate Ford’s allegation even in the wake of supplementary FBI investigation. Men who commit acts of sexual assault are heinous and should be held accountable, but rushing to judgement and excoriating men in the absence of evidence is heinous as well.

Perhaps even more troubling are the comparisons I have read in recent days that extended the guilty persona of Brett Kavanaugh to men more broadly on this campus. A columnist wrote that there are “hundreds of Brett Kavanaughs” on Duke’s campus who are “buoyed” by their privilege, “largely unbothered” by any harm they cause, and implored Duke’s male students to reconsider their priorities if they “may be a Brett Kavanaugh in the making.” This is a gross misrepresentation of Kavanaugh’s character and an unfair charge to level against a wide swath of Duke’s student body. Kavanaugh was and still is a man of outstanding character and achievement. He has served his country dutifully for more than two decades in the public sphere. He has gone out of his way to promote women in the legal profession by hiring a majority of female law clerks. And on a final note, he is reported to be a thoughtful husband and caring father by someone no less than former President George W. Bush. It takes a special kind of naivete and ideological entrenchment to ignore these components of Kavanaugh’s character. Duke would undoubtedly be a better place if more, not fewer, young men here aspired to be like him.

I welcome Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and, in the same breath, I support Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all others who come forward with serious claims of sexual assault. However, I do not welcome and am very disturbed by how fundamental principles of fairness, the bedrock of our republic, were thrown by the wayside for short-term political leverage. Ultimately, it was Senator Susan Collins, the even-handed moderate from Maine, who said it best: “…it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy.”

Matthew Noles is a Trinity junior. 

Editor's Note: This column was updated to correct minor grammatical errors.


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