The Difference Between Hearing and Believing

The idea that Christine Ford and Deborah Ramirez have nothing to lose by accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault is insulting. They have already lost more than any woman should be required to lose: namely their dignity and their self worth, both of which were stripped away by this man’s reckless behavior. It is not so much that I believe them as I do NOT believe him. I have been to enough 12-step meetings to know a bullshit artist when I see one. The manner in which he keeps insisting he’s innocent is reminiscent of that famous Shakespearean line, “Me thinks he dost protest too much.”

– Peter Fegan, September 25, 2018.

I remember writing those words during the Brett Kavanaugh Senate confirmation hearings, and I stand by them. To this day, I still believe Kavanaugh is guilty. His demeanor, his defensiveness over legitimate issues concerning his past raised a number of red flags. Given that he was up for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, a more thorough investigation was clearly warranted. Alas, Republicans on the committee elected not to proceed with one.

Compare and contrast how Kavanaugh handled his inquisitors to the way in which Joe Biden handled his. The former VP and seven-term senator, who has spent the better part of his career shooting from the hip, was measured and respectful in his first official interview regarding the allegation made by Tara Reade. The former clearly was hiding something; the latter seemed eager to have the matter investigated further.

Then there’s the credibility of both complainants. Christine Blasey Ford was reluctant to even come forward, wishing to remain anonymous. It was only when The New York Times outed her that she felt she had no choice but to testify. Though she was unable to recall every detail of the assault, she was remarkably consistent with the details she could remember. She was a sympathetic witness and had no political agenda other than telling the truth about what happened to her.

Tara Reade has changed her story several times, including the reason for why she left Biden’s employ. Her brother, when interviewed by The Washington Post, neglected to mention the sexual assault, then contacted the paper three days later to amend his account to include the assault. Reade in 2019, mentioned nothing about being assaulted despite contemporaneously telling several people. It was only after it became obvious that Bernie Sanders – the candidate she was supporting – wasn’t going to win the nomination that she came forward with the sexual assault allegation against Biden. She claims she filed a complaint with the Congressional Personnel Office after the assault, yet now says the complaint doesn’t mention that she was either a) assaulted or b) harassed.

Any objective reading of the facts of both cases would give a person pause. At the risk of dredging up a well-known and infamous quote, no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case against Biden based solely on Reade’s own words. And with the revelation that she backed out of an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace that would’ve aired Sunday morning, it’s “reasonable” to doubt whether the whole incident even happened. Whatever else you may think about Fox News, Wallace is considered to be an exceptional interviewer, a chip off his old man’s block.

But we all know what’s going on here. This has nothing to do with what a reasonable prosecutor would or wouldn’t do; it has everything to do with a movement that equates an accusation with an assertion of guilt and a party that – with the best of intentions – failed to consider what that could mean. And now it has backed itself into a corner; a corner where conservatives are understandably laughing their asses off at the predicament this puts Democrats in. Ironic, isn’t it? A party that hasn’t had moral standing over a relevant social issue since Abraham Lincoln was its president is now in the catbird’s seat on the one issue Democrats thought they had a monopoly on.

To be clear, the revelations of sexual assault by the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby were abhorrent and an example needed to be made of them. Likewise, the countless instances of sexual harassment in the workplace are unacceptable and must also be dealt with. That it has taken this long for women to be heard is one of the great shames of this country.

But as the old saying goes, one hundred eighty degrees from wrong is still wrong. There’s a big difference between hearing a woman out and believing everything she says. The former should be a given; the latter requires a higher standard be met. It is an axiom of any functioning democracy that there is a presumption of innocence afforded anyone accused of a crime. Even in the arena of politics, where accusations run as deep as the sludge in the Arthur Kill, a person should still get the benefit of the doubt.

For the record, I do not know if Biden is guilty of the crime for which he has been accused. What I do know is this: his accuser has some ‘splainin’ to do regarding the inconsistencies in her story. If it’s fair to criticize the media for its failure to question Biden over these accusations, it’s equally fair to hold them accountable for vetting the person who brought them. And if Reade refuses to reconcile those inconsistencies to their satisfaction, the American electorate, as with any jury, should be entitled to draw its own inference.

Author: Peter Fegan

Progressive but pragmatic. Lover of music, die-hard Giants' fan and reluctant Mets' fan. My favorite motto? I'd rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a dumb Christian.

What say you, the people?