Victims Of The Case
Thus far, the victims of this increasingly ugly Kavanaugh cause célèbre have been two: the good judge himself and Dr. Blasey Ford. By the end of this week, to this list we’ll add a third. The oft-beleaguered F.B.I will soon be another casualty of this endless American nightmare.
The Bureau finds itself this week in a most unenviable position. After having already delved into Brett Kavanaugh’s personal and professional history on no fewer than six occasions, it’s now being charged to do so once again—and this time, the stakes have been raised to their uttermost.
While it might’ve thought its job was done and done well, Senator Flake of Arizona proposed that its efforts be mobilized again. Sure, the Democrats had been calling for such a move for the better part of two weeks, but no Republican worth his name was willing to go along. Flake, putatively a Republican though obstinately “anti-Trump”, was the first and only to jump ship. He did so for two reasons: for one, he was emboldened. To become suddenly brave is a natural consequence of not standing for reelection as an incumbent. Come this fall, he’ll be deferring an admittedly unlikely chance at a second term. Relishing the liberation he doubtless feels and caring not a whit about his base, Flake has repeatedly cut against the du jour party lines. If not in action, he’s done so in rhetoric and in sentiment time and again. Usually, this entails him “standing up” to and “speaking out” against President Trump’s shortcomings. Needless to say, Flake’s been doing a lot of standing and his voice is understandably hoarse.
The second reason for Flake’s retreat from the Republican line is that he was emasculated. After a day’s worth of grueling testimony, tears, outrage, pathos, and bile, Flake was hesitatingly stationed in the “Kavanaugh camp”. Indeed, he was planning to vote in support of the besmirched judge’s confirmation, however disquieted his doing so might’ve made him feel.
The majority vote appeared all but secure until a veritable and, perhaps, an even literal deus ex machina arrived on the scene. Upon his return to the Senate’s meeting room where the final vote was soon to be cast, Flake’s elevator jammed. Those ever-so sensitive doors behind which we all hope to escape failed to close and Flake was left exposed. A better endorsement for taking the stairs, there’s likely never been.
Appreciating this fortuitous opening, a pair of sexual assault survivors leapt at the chance to confront the visibly anxious and troubled senator. They proceeded to commit one of my favorite fallacies of rhetoric, the argumentum ad misericoridam. Rooted in the final word of that rather foreign and scholastic phrase is the prefix “misery”. Putting together one and one, this type of argument is that to which pity and its sister sympathy are appealed. It remains among my favorite follies of argument because, by another name, it’s also known as the “Galileo Argument”. And while it’s unlikely that Aristotle of the Renaissance actually used such a mawkish response in answering his geocentric, Catholic inquisitors, anything that bears his name demands my applause.
But, from these two women, applause was not what Flake received. On the contrary, he was accosted at length and it was caught inevitably on film. Aggressively and lugubriously, the pair told Flake of its own struggles with sexual assault. Ana Maria Archila, an executive director of the left-wing Center for Popular Democracy, provided the overture to the scene. She accused Senator Flake of not taking seriously the plight of women like her—women who’ve been sexually abused. Maria Gallagher, the second of the two, then jumped in to further cudgel the senator with her own story of abuse. Far from cheap and crocodilian, her tears were plentiful and looked every bit sincere. She exhorted Flake to look into her eyes and make the claim that her story didn’t matter. Chagrined, the besieged senator wouldn’t or couldn’t meet her stare.
The lachrymose tongue-lashing spanned just a few minutes, but it was long enough to bend Flake’s usually pliable will. Not long after taking his seat back in the congressional hall, he announced that he’d be withholding his vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation until another F.BI. probe could be executed. However, its parameters would be clear: this last of investigations was to extend beyond no more than one week and its focus would be on the judge’s sexual past and nothing more. The investigation wasn’t to be given some unneeded plenary scope that might unveil every little innocent mischief into which Kavanaugh might’ve fallen as a frat boy or a young man.
At the end of the day, the Democrats got what they wanted; for at least one week more, the vote on Kavanaugh would be delayed. As for the Republicans, this is, if not an actual, then a visual defeat. The optics look bad. It seems as if their knees buckled just as the pressure began to mount. Forgetting the sartorial excesses of one of their own—a certain profligate Paul Manafort, whose costly wardrobe helped bring about his fall—ended up folding like a cheap suit.
Now, it’s time for the F.B.I to come on in and straighten things out. Yet as it is, the bureau is starting from a place of public suspicion, if not public loathing. For at least the past year and a half, or so long as President Trump has worn the title, the F.B.I has been aspersed at every turn. After all, it’s the F.B.I of Comey, McCabe, Page, and Strzok—by whose appellations we’re given more synonyms for “Obama” and “Clinton”. Granted, all have since been removed, but the presumption of partisanship afflicting the bureau remains.
If in the unlikely scenario the F.B.I unearths more “dirt” on Kavanaugh’s past, and, by so doing, precludes his becoming a Supreme Court Justice, half of the country will be in a rage. Civility will turn to apoplexy, trust into disgust. All of the president’s forewarnings about the corruption within the F.B.I’s “deep state” will be, for all intents and purposes, vindicated. Even if its findings ring true, the seeds of its inextricable corruption have already been planted. More than that, they’ve taken root, and all of the Republican base will henceforth disbelieve one of the nation’s most integral institutions—the F.B.I.
On the other hand, if in fact the F.B.I finds nothing more to add to Kavanaugh’s list of unsubstantiated calumnies, the left will be upset. It might claim that the “new” F.B.I, over which the Republican and Bush-era-holdover Christopher Wray presides, is on the side of the judge and of Trump. It might also add that the bureau, working within the confines of a single week, wasn’t given an appropriate amount of time to conduct a probe that would be sufficiently deep. The probe, it might claim, didn’t go far enough in exhuming all of his past alcohol-induced sins.
By whatever means this investigation ends, the F.B.I’s reputation is sure to suffer. And already, too many have been bled dry. The judge, the doctor, and now the investigators are to watch as their honor, their fidelity to this country, and their decency are criticized. Alas, the victims of this wrenching cause célèbre will soon be three.