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David Brooks, the very personification of fussy "moderate" conservatism, took a few weeks off from writing his stupid column to do a book tour, and when he got back he was quite appalled and disgusted to see how America behaved without him to remind us to be civil to each other. So he got right back to work, found a fence to straddle, and churned out Another Goddamned David Brooks Column. It's a classic of the genre. Brooks takes BOTH SIDES to task for the national disgrace of the Kavanaugh hearings, a disgraceful spectacle, nationally. Those would be the hearings in which a woman calmly offered her testimony alleging that Kavanaugh had tried to rape her when they were both in high school, and a man yelled, cried, accused Democrats of persecuting him, threatened retribution for that persecution, and pointedly mostly refused to answer any questions put to him. When there were questions, anyway; Republicans simply wailed about how horrible the whole thing was and then apologized. To Kavanaugh.


Here's David Brooks dispassionately explaining how both Christine Blasey Ford and Bret Kavanaugh offered competing but equally compelling "narratives":

What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life. At the heart of the hearings were two dueling narratives, one from Christine Blasey Ford and one from Brett Kavanaugh. These narratives were about what did or did not happen at a party 36 years ago. There was nothing particularly ideological about the narratives, nothing that touched on capitalism, immigration or any of the other great disputes of national life.

That's fairly true of Dr. Blasey's testimony, of course. She made it quite clear she had contacted her representatives and the Washington Post not because she wanted to stop a conservative from being named to the Court, but because one of the people on the short list had done things the Senate needed to hear about. You'd have to be wearing blinders the size of David Brooks to miss the ideological furor in Kavanaugh's half of the outing, when he insisted he was the victim of a political hit orchestrated by people who were unable to deal with Donald Trump being president and seeking revenge on behalf of the Clintons. Nope, no ideology there -- nor in the Right's utter refusal to think a woman's bodily autonomy is even a thing.

Oh, but never mind what was actually said at the hearings, which we'll just pretend were balanced in tone and content, because wasn't it all a matter of opinion anyway? No, what shocks Brooks is the horribly partisan reaction to the personal testimony on one side and the red-meat ranting on the other:

And yet reactions to the narratives have been determined almost entirely by partisan affiliation. Among the commentators I've seen and read, those who support Democrats embrace Blasey's narrative and dismissed Kavanaugh's. Those who support Republicans side with Kavanaugh's narrative and see holes in Ford's.

Why, yes, that's what political commentators do. Of course, there are also some crazy Republicans who thought Kavenaugh was an embarrassment and who noticed his "narrative" was a load of codswallop, like Charlie Sykes, David Frum, and Jennifer Rubin, but they're all on the verge of being excommunicated for anti-Trump heresies, so they don't count -- particularly since they're inconvenient to Brooks's own Both Sides narrative.

That's a narrative Brooks can only pursue, of course, by continuing to pretend Kavanaugh and Blasey presented virtually equal cases, and that the Senate Judiciary Committee was similarly impartial in its consideration of the two appearances:

These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person's adult life be defined by something he did in high school?

Errm. As it happens, there actually is corroborating evidence for Blasey, such as her therapist's notes and her husband's recollection of learning her alleged assailant's name long before Kavanaugh was a nationally recognized figure. Heck, had there been a thorough investigation, it's possible more corroboration could have emerged, like "asking Mark Judge under oath." Brooks also conveniently ignores -- as the Senate did -- the two other women who have accused Kavanaugh of disqualifying behavior in high school and college, because that would get in the way of his pretended "mystery." He touches on the accounts of other people who knew Kavanaugh, but only for the sake of discounting them:

If they couldn't take sides based on the original evidence, they found new reasons to confirm their previous positions. Kavanaugh is too angry and dishonest. He drank beer and threw ice while in college. With tribal warfare all around, uncertainty is the one state you are not permitted to be in.

It's really, really not about the beer, dude. And we're reasonably certain "angry and dishonest" are traits that one might reasonably find objectionable in a Supreme Court justice -- not just post hoc piling on.

Now, because this IS David Brooks, he does at least find something to object to in Republicans' partisanship, too. For instance, all the predictable party-line votes, and even this unfortunate herd behavior:

We've seen thousands of people lining up behind Kavanaugh because they know that there's this vicious thing called "the Left," which hates them.

Oh, who are we kidding? Those are virtually the only concrete examples of tribal behavior on the right, and heaven knows tribalism is the only possible reason anyone believes Blasey. Couldn't possibly be because her story rings true -- and is depressingly similar to thousands of narratives by victims who only came forward in this insane moment. And for all the Republicans insisting Blasey's accusation is every bit as fake as the accusations against the Duke lacrosse team, Blasey's story has virtually nothing in common with most proven false rape narratives. If she'd really made up the story, why would she claim only an attempted rape, and why on earth would she mention a doofus co-conspirator who jumped on top of Kavanaugh and gave her the chance to escape?

Oh, look at us being ideological instead of logical again. Shame on us. America, can't we all come together and not make a big deal about stuff? It really upsets David Brooks.

[NYT / Quartz]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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