I am a lawyer.  I have been trying cases for over forty years.  I cannot count the number of witnesses that I have prepared.  I tell each of them that their testimony is far more about credibility than it is about information.  So, I tell the witness, the best thing you can do to preserve your credibility is to give a direct answer to a direct question.  There are, I tell the witness, two things that a witness does that ruins his or her credibility.  The first is to not answer the question but to go on and on in some other direction.  The second, which is, aside from lying is the worst thing a witness can possibly do, is to argue.  Why?  Because it communicate to the listener that the witness doesn’t believe that a straight answer is not enough.  Nothing makes a witness look like a liar more than the witness arguing.

I listened to the testimony of Dr. Ford and of Judge Kavanaugh on the radio.  Later I saw bits of the testimony on television.  With one exception, in my entire experience I have never heard a worse witness than Kavanaugh.  He consistently did both of the things that indicate a lack of credibility.  He never answered a direct question with a direct answer.  Never.  Worse, he didn’t just argue.  He snarled.  He yelled.  He ridiculed.

Here is my single observation.  Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony was so bad that I find myself unable to believe a word he said.  He was evasive beyond virtually every witness I have ever had.  He was argumentative in the extreme.  By the time he got around to a substantive answer, it did not answer the question asked, and it sounded totally rehearsed.  He was, in sum, patently incredible.

I do not know what he did as a high schooler or college student.  No one ever will except those who were there.  What I do know is that we are putting on the Supreme Court a person who is dishonest and a person who has demonstrated himself absolutely incapable of being the impartial jurist that we so desperately need on the court.  The majority will likely succeed in putting him on the court, but in doing so they will risk doing more damage to our tripartite democratic government than anyone, including Trump, has ever done.

Someone once observed that the genius of the founding fathers was to create a system which, in the hands of the competent, is excellent, and in the hands of the incompetent, is adequate.  People like Trump and Kavanaugh are putting that observation to the most severe of tests.

















The case of Brett Kavanaugh is not the first time the country has been faced with the question of conduct disqualifying a potential appointee.  Clarence Thomas, of course, but many others.  The hard question is what to do with, for or to Mr. Kavanaugh.  I here offer the thoughts of an old white male.

First, the charge being leveled against Kavanaugh by his first accuser is very serious, so serious that, had he been found guilty of it at the time, he would, just about now, be getting out of prison.  Second, assuming arguendo that he did what he is accused of, the reason he was not charged with the crime, and the reason why his victim did not report the crime, was because, back in the 80’s, every woman in America knew that if she reported the crime she would be the one treated as a defendant.  “Wearing a skirt, were you?  OHHHHHH, A SWIMMING SUIT!  AT A DRINKING PARTY!  WELL DON’T WE KNOW WHAT YOU WERE LOOKING FOR!”

So, third, I would not be surprised if he did it, and I am not surprised that she didn’t report it.  The question, then, is:  should her report have any effect on his appointment to the court?  I have a slightly off-key opinion.  It is not the incident that should drive our response.  It is, rather, Kavanaugh’s reaction that should matter.

Imagine the following.  On hearing of the accusation, Kavanaugh calls a press conference and says, “I have no recollection of the events described by Professor Ford.  I did drink at under-age parties while in high school, and I may have drunk so much that I did this awful thing and I was so drunk that I can’t remember it.  If, therefore, I did it, then this is the first I have heard of it, and I am profoundly sorry for having caused Professor Ford so much grief.  I have lived my entire adulthood trying to respect the rights of others, and I can assure you that I have the deepest respect for the rights of others and particularly the rights of all women to be free from sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and most of all sexual assault of any kind.”

Imagine, I say, that Kavanaugh had said something like this.  I would imagine that all but the extreme would have said that he was appropriately contrite if in fact he did such things, and that he should, therefore, be allowed a vote on his ascension to the Supreme Court.

Here is the problem.  He didn’t say that.  Instead, he said that it never happened.  He categorically denied that he was at the party (a problem since no one can identify exactly what party we’re talking about), that he had never engaged in such conduct, etc.  His handlers, while assuring the public that no such thing ever happened, refuse to allow any kind of investigation into the alleged events.  They refuse even to allow the alleged witness to the events to testify, despite the fact that that witness seems to confirm that it never happened.

So I think Mr. Kavanaugh stands on shaky ground,  shaky largely in part because of his own conduct.  That being so, the obvious solution is for Mr. Kavanaugh to announce that he is withdrawing his name from consideration for the appointment.  Why?  In the interest of justice.  To save this country from yet another tortuous conflict.  To remove from the Supreme Court even the appearance of a shadow on one of its members (like the shadow that has hung over Clarence Thomas for all his time on the court).  To save his family further anguish and embarrassment.  Et cetera, et cetera.

There is, or at least should be, no room on our Supreme Court for politics.  By withdrawing his name, Kavanaugh will at least be making a step toward reducing what odor of politics there is.  As painful as it would no doubt be for him, it is the only decent thing to do.














Elections are less than a month away.  The TV and radio are full of political ads, mostly ugly.  Digital analysts are busy telling politicians what you — you — like and dislike.  Money flows like the flooded rivers of North Carolina through digital media.  Advisors are paying gigantic sums to learn what prejudicial buttons their political clients should push.

What is missing in this picture?  You and I.  No one, pretty much absolutely no one, is asking us to sit down and think out exactly what it is that we want.  No one is taking the time to explain things like gerrymandering and tariffs and taxation and debt.  No one is having an objective discussion of the best plan for health care or a safe environment or education.  Those who are running for office are being told that such objectivity doesn’t matter, or, worse, is actually antithetical to their chances for gaining office.  Feed the prejudices, they are told, and you can do all your goodie goodie stuff once you reach office, which is another lie.

Whose fault is this?  Everybody’s.  The real question is:  what are you doing about it?  If you are anything like me, busy with living, the answer is likely:  nothing.  Well, that’s not good enough.  Do you want this country run on prejudice or  on sound policy?  The choice is up to you, and the way to choose is to let the politicians know what you want.  That’s right.  You have to do that.  How?  Write to all the candidates about whom you are concerned.  Give them a list of what you want to see out of your government.  Tell them you don’t give a damn whether they hug babies or hand out food to the homeless.  Hand them your list, and tell them your vote depends on whether they agree to that list.

Here is my list.

  1. I want taxes raised, particularly on the wealthy, in such a way that our deficit gets paid down.
  2. I want a policy of military spending that saves the efforts to protect our country from foreign assault and that otherwise withdraws from foreign entanglements.
  3. I want a full-forward commitment to reduce the impact of our country’s activities on the environment and that encourages other countries to follows suit.
  4. I want a plan of universal basic health care that reduces the per-person cost of medical care, through the elimination of subrogation and the collective bargaining power of the nation against the manufacturers and distributors of medical products.
  5. I want an end to gerrymandering and the creation of an objective, non-partisan group of people to design voting districts based on publicly announced objective principles.
  6. Well, I want a lot of other stuff that nobody will give me anyway, so I won’t list any more.  Most of all, I want us, you and me, to vote in people based on real, achievable political goals, and not on the grounds of what my viewing habits are or even what the color of my skin is.

So.  Make a list.  Yours will likely differ from mine.  That’s great.  If your list wins, I’ll live with it.  But at least we will have voted people in for real reasons.  Go get ’em.




















The history of parties is a bit of a rollercoaster.  In fact, the very idea of parties in America was condemned by our first president.  Parties, however, have been with us almost from the beginning.   What makes it a rollercoaster is that the reason for two parties has changed throughout our history.  At first it was those who wanted a strong federal government versus those who wanted to limit federal control.  That latter party was the Republican party, ruled by Thomas Jefferson.

Somewhere over the years, the Republicans became those who wanted more federal power and the Democrats became the titular protectors of states’ rights, although it was really done to protect, first, slavery, and then the suppression of the rights of minorities.  Then Kennedy and Johnson came along to flip the whole thing, with Democrats becoming the party of minority rights and the Republicans those touting state’s rights.

In our times, however, nothing is quite as clear.  The South is neither as financially nor as socially conservative as it once was, and the North is not as singlemindedly committed to liberal views as it once was.  More importantly, what once defined the Republican party — anti-debt, pro individual rights, pro international alliances — is now apparently replaced with an odd combination of the purely self-serving.  It has endorsed tax reductions for the wealthy while actually increasing federal spending (although not on communal needs like health care or education).  Most of all, it sits silent while a person so incompetent as to endanger the whole country embarrasses us all on a daily basis.  Meanwhile the Democrats sit, out of power and with nothing to do but grouse about their impotence.

So we’re not exactly separated by fiscal conservatism or states’ rights  or even the rights of African-Americans.  So what is it that divides us?  Well, caricatures for sure.  Republicans ridicule the Democrats as loving abortions and wanting open borders and crime.  Democrats ridicule Republicans as self-absorbed know nothings who do nothing but shame themselves by either remaining silent about, or by even endorsing, the madness that is Donald Trump.

Beyond mere caricature, however, there really is one thing that is becoming more and more clear about the division between the two groups.  Let’s call them for the moment the Ins and the Outs.  (Let us also hope that those two titles remain relevant only until November.)  The difference, it seems to me, is between interest in the common good and unalloyed self-interest.  How, for instance, can one explain the difference in commitment to reversing the growing environmental disaster?  Or how explain the refusal to improve the increasingly ugly picture of health care in America?  More and more, it seems to me, the Ins appear to support only those things that feather their own nests regardless of the damage done to their fellow citizens, much less the citizens of the globe.

There are still true conservatives, reasonable people with the interests of the nation sincerely at heart.  They have been forced to tolerate the Trumpian outrages in order to effect some things they consider critical — the Supreme Court balance, reduction of federal regulation, etc.  To some great degree, they have achieved those things.  They have, however, paid two huge prices.  First, they have destroyed their own credibility.  Second, and consequent on the first, they have likely reduced themselves to a generations-long minority.

That will place a huge burden on the Democrats.  They will have to impose some pretty serious burdens on the nation — taxes to pay down our intolerable debt, regulations to improve the environment, new rules on health care to finally provide universal coverage and to control medical costs.  And more.  But if the Democrats do one thing, they must rout from the national worldview the primacy of self-interest.  Nothing is more destructive of the American ideal of the inalienable rights of all humans as a national policy based on self-interest.

The deadly disease that divides us is the commitment to self-interest over the needs of our communities.  Trump is no more than a personification of that disease.  It is we who need to reject that disease, and doing so will do no less than save American democracy.