Scott Fitzgerald: The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
The Wikipedia definition of cognitive dissonance: “The mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a belief of a person clashes with new evidence perceived by that person. When confronted with facts that contradict personal beliefs, ideals, and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction in order to reduce their discomfort.”
My Cognitive Dissonance
I experienced a form of cognitive dissonance during the process that resulted in Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation as our newest Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS): I supported conformation for Justice Kavanaugh; I believed Prof. Christine Blasey Ford was sexually abused.
Confirmation for Justice Kavanaugh
I prefer SCOTUS justices to base their rulings more on the original meaning of our Constitution rather than making new laws arising out of concepts not explicitly stated in this noble secular document. That is, my predilection leans toward strict, rather than loose, Constitutional constructionism. My preference is not absolute, particularly when we must consider new data not available to the Founders. Even so, I favor the amendment process over loose Constitutional constructionism.
I supported the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh to SCOTUS. His rulings as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee suggested he would serve on SCOTUS primarily as a strict Constitutional constructionist. Seven FBI reports that found no detrimental problems buttressed my support for Justice Kavanaugh.
Support for Prof. Ford
While the manner in which Prof. Christine Blasey Ford was brought before the Senate Judiciary Committee smacked of outright political deception in which she apparently was not complicit, I believed her testimony concerning sexual abuse. I am reasonably confident Prof. Ford believes she was abused as a teenager, and that she continues to suffer from the sequalae of that trauma. I am markedly less confident that Justice Kavanaugh perpetrated the traumatic events.
We definitely must heed, and not disparage, women (as well as men) who claim to be victims of sexual assault, which has become endemic in our society. I have no resonance with claims of “boys will be boys” to excuse sexual assault. Nevertheless, assertions that all women who make such claims must be believed and the perpetrators punished absent corroborating evidence strikes me not only as objectively unfair but also as a violation of Constitutional principles. If belief, without evidence, becomes our major criterion of guilt, our democratic republic cannot long survive. We must understand that even the most heinous violators of laws are innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent. There is an old adage that it is better for guilty persons to escape punishment than for one innocent person to be declared guilty and punished.
Youthful, not Adult, Transgressions
For the sake of discussion, let me stipulate that the teenaged Brett Kavanaugh abused alcohol and, more likely than not, sexually abused Prof. Ford, albeit without any form of penetration. Even if no court is likely to find Justice Kavanaugh guilty of a 30-year-old assault based upon a “she said/he said” situation, we can certainly have great empathy for Prof. Ford and offer her our support in dealing with her trauma. Justice Kavanagh should not have been denied his position on SCOTUS without corroborative evidence of the assault.
I personally know numerous men—including myself—and women who drank heavily and otherwise were “wild” when we were teenagers. These men and women outgrew the idiocy of their teenage years and went on to become highly successful business persons, lawyers, physicians, ministers, scientists, and outstanding citizens. Accordingly, attempts to deny confirmation to Judge Kavanaugh despite his exemplary adult life were not only ludicrous but also obfuscated the real reasons for the objections to his confirmation: The Democratic Party fears a five-to-four conservative SCOTUS because of concerns the court will reverse progressive programs like Roe v. Wade. Accordingly, the controversy about Justice Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual abuse and drinking was merely a blatant pollical attempt at character assassination, which thankfully failed.
I think a detailed objective assessment of Justice Kavanaugh’s previous rulings would have been a much better mechanism for democrats to oppose his confirmation. I suspect the democrats thought an objective assessment and a non-polemic discussion of these rulings would not have been as effective as outright character assassination in attempting to prevent Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Another adage is pertinent, at least by analogy, to the democrats’ behavior during the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh: If you have the law on your side, argue the law; if you have the facts, argue the facts; if you have neither, pound the table. We saw a lot of democratic pounding the table to no good effect other than to foster the increasing polarization of our society, a condition that threatens ruin to this country.