So, I couldn’t resist buying a pass to watch and listen to the Ford hearing while I’m on this flight. My impression so far — 11:41 Eastern — is that she is a very credible witness. By “credible,” I don’t mean in terms of facts or logic (though she may be that; I’ll wait to hear all her testimony); I’m talking about in terms of emotional impact. Ford comes across as frightened and, well, human. When she talked about how she felt when Kavanaugh was allegedly pinning her down, and he and Mark Judge were (allegedly) laughing at her — that was very, very powerful. She sounds credible. It’s going to be extraordinarily difficult for Kavanaugh to refute this.

Keep in mind that this is not a legal proceeding. This is a political event. In that specific sense, it seems clear to me at this point that the Democrats are winning big … so far. But then, Rachel Mitchell, the lawyer questioning on behalf of Republicans has not been asking anything that might be regarded as hostile. We’ll have to see if she’s going to ask questions that undermine Ford’s testimony. It’s hard for me to see how even a precise legal dissection of her testimony of the sort that would be useful in a trial would do Kavanaugh any political good, in terms of persuading the senators who are on the fence about his nomination.

I actually appreciate what she’s doing here. It sounds like Mitchell is trying to get to the bottom of what happened. I’m glad we don’t have to listen to GOP senators grandstanding. Unfortunately, we do have to listen to gasbag Democratic senators grandstanding. It would be great if the Democrats had a prosecutor like Mitchell there to question Ford for them too. We might actually learn something about the claim. In fact, listening to Ford answering Mitchell makes her sound more credible to me than any time the Democratic senators speak.

I’ve been approving comments on the plane — over 250 of them! — and this one from a reader calling himself  “Chad Mulligan” stands out:

Long post, and I’m not going to use my usual handle here, because it refers to my IRL name and I don’t want to do that right now.

I’m a white male progressive who works as an attorney for a progressive union, which is to say that I’m knee deep in both the law and in liberal politics, and I’m OK with that. Nonetheless, I strive to be fair-minded, which is why I do things like read Rod’s blog. And in some ways I’m a Burkean conservative: I value process and tradition and slow change over radical transformations.

When Kavanaugh was nominated, I wasn’t happy for the simple reason that I would not be happy with any conservative. But–traditionalist that I am–I felt that his nomination should go through, because he seems competent to be on the Supreme Court, and I believe that a Justice should only be voted down if that person either lacks competent or is truly inimical to American constitutional values writ broad.

When the allegations came out, I felt complete, total despair, because it was clear that almost no one took a stance on the allegations based on their view of the available facts. (This blog was a refreshing relief.) Rather, every single person on my Facebook feed, liberal and conservative, had made their decision not based on the facts in front of them but based on what side of the aisle they identified with. (Not just my Facebook feed either; the divide on the allegations is more strongly correlated with party than even with gender.)

I gave up. I refused to take a stand. I decided that I was simply too biased by what I WANTED to believe to actually have a reasoned stance on the issue. I would occasionally tweak my conservative friends about this: ask them “Would they want Kavanaugh seated even if the allegations were true?” No one wanted to answer, because no one could admit that the truth or falsity of the accusations had anything to do with the result they wanted.

I kept on thinking, though, and finally considered: It’s a major part of my job to represent employees when their employment has been terminated. And if an employer wished to terminate an employee based on the evidence provided by Ford, my cries of outrage would ring to the heavens themselves. What I would say, and in a case I would win, is this: I think that Kavanaugh probably did the things he’s accused of. But you can’t prove it, not even to show it’s more likely than not. And without that, you can’t act on this allegation. So absent more damning proof, he should go through.

I felt great about this. I wanted to post it on Facebook.

And didn’t. Because to even suggest as a white guy that this white guy up for a Supreme Court seat and whose politics I generally detest should be given the benefit of the doubt when accused of attempted sexual assault on meager evidence would make me a pariah at my job and among much of my social circle.

That’s scary. That’s not right. And that means I have to reconsider some premises.

I still don’t have a lot of patience for the Right’s demonizing the Left on this. The Right needs to recognize that this is a backlash to years if not centuries of stuffing oppressive ideologies down others’ throats, and any–i mean ANY–support of Trump is literally a rejection of the belief that the Bill of Rights can be any more than a piece of paper and that the rule of law can ever be more important than one’s own selfish interests.

But it’s bad on this side of the aisle right now. Not because of the Kavanaugh story–we need to end the expectation that men being drunken boors towards women is harmless. But because the Left will no longer tolerate dissent. And toleration of dissent is the only way a free society can stand.

UPDATE:

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