Published 7:57 PM EDT Oct 1, 2018
Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation has brought to the fore some truly dangerous arguments.
Democrat Maria Cardona, a friend and frequent TV sparring partner of mine, exclaimed on CNN: "This isn’t a moment for due process!" She followed the thinking of Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare, who wrote: "Even if (Kavanaugh) truly believes himself innocent, even if he is innocent — the better part of valor is to get out now."
I cannot imagine a more dangerous sentiment than this, in which an American citizen is commanded to publicly admit guilt when he has sworn under oath he is innocent. To cross that Rubicon would put us on a mindlessly anarchical path in which the presumption of innocence is jettisoned to satisfy the political passions of an angry mob.
That is not to say that Christine Blasey Ford was not compelling, nor does it diminish the pain of sexual assault survivors. But, for lack of a better term, we must find a way to walk and chew gum at the same time, respecting victims while holding fast to the concepts of law and justice that set America apart from the world. And we should not be forced to believe the two are mutually exclusive.
Don't diminish this debate
A confirmation hearing is not a court of law, as Kavanaugh’s detractors remind us constantly. But neither is it a job interview. This confirmation is simultaneously an exploration of the character of a human being and of the larger issues that define the character of American justice. To call this a job interview in a world where people change jobs as often as they change the oil in their car diminishes the seriousness of the debate.
Already, there are calls on the left for Kavanaugh’s impeachment, whether he is confirmed or not. Democrats, who demanded the FBI look further into Kavanaugh, were predictably trashing the investigation a day after Republicans gave in. We are dangerously close to a moment in which a significant number of Americans simply stop accepting outcomes produced by our democratic processes.
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When you couple that with the idea that a citizen who believes himself to be innocent must submit to the passions of an angry mob, supposedly for the good of a movement, anarchy is not far behind.
Where's the presumption of innocence?
Defending the British soldiers accused of murder after the Boston Massacre, John Adams opened with an impassioned plea for the presumption of innocence:
But when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, it is immaterial to me, whether I behave well or ill; for virtue itself, is no security. And if such a sentiment as this, should take place in the mind of the subject, there would be an end to all security what so ever.
Why should anyone follow any laws if there is no guarantee that being innocent is an acceptable defense when you stand accused of breaking them? Kavanaugh, it seems, is to be damned if he did, and damned if he did not.
Many Americans — women included — are fearful of where this thinking takes us. An old friend texted me:
As a mother of a son … that a false accusation against an otherwise seemingly good person can ruin his life … scares the crap out of me. While I wouldn’t say that all over Facebook … there has to be some number of women who identify more as mothers in fear for their sons than as feminist women. If I feel this way — a lifelong Republican who didn’t vote for Trump — I have to think a lot of other people silently feel this way, too.
She fears a government too weak to protect her son from a false or unproven accusation, and a mob that would punish her for speaking this notion freely. Angry mobs cannot rule America. Voting to confirm Kavanaugh is not an endorsement of sexual assault, as some argue, any more than John Adams was endorsing British oppression in his defense of the Redcoats.
It takes courage for victims to come forward. It also takes courage to stand athwart an angry mob, especially one armed with the supportive megaphone of our largest news media outlets. But there is no virtue in tearing down American traditions of law and justice for the political aim of preserving Roe v. Wade, which is, if you listen carefully, what this fight is truly about. The mob should try winning an election to achieve its political objectives.
Kavanaugh deserves the benefit of the doubt until actual evidence emerges that he is guilty of anything, and he should be confirmed posthaste.
Scott Jennings is a CNN Contributor and Partner at RunSwitch Public Relations. This column first appeared in The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. You can follow him on Twitter: @ScottJenningsKY.