Friday, September 28, 2018

Stop Being So Deferential To Christine Ford

Republicans and other supporters of Brett Kavanaugh need to stop being so deferential to Christine Ford. The evidence still suggests that she's been lying about Kavanaugh's alleged assault on her and other, related matters. The verisimilitude of her facial expressions, tone of voice, and such at the hearings yesterday is far outweighed by the other evidence suggesting her untrustworthiness. As David French noted in an article yesterday that, unfortunately, is too deferential to Ford:

Moreover, we also often have this mystical faith in our own ability to discern the truth by examining tone, demeanor, and likeability. She was “real.” He’s been “wooden.” These things impact us far more than we’d like to admit. Yet if there is one thing we know from our modern re-examinations of the impact of witness testimony on case outcomes, our faith in ourselves is deeply misplaced. We’re not very good at determining who’s correct and who’s mistaken by watching people talk. That’s one reason why innocent people go to prison, including for rape….

She has made her claim, there are no corroborating witnesses. No one else can place the two of them together at the party — not even the witnesses she’s identified. She is inconsistent or forgetful on a number of key points. She can’t even identify who brought her to the party or who took her home. He’s denied the claims and will deny them again.

That’s thin — very thin — evidence of sexual assault. The evidence is no stronger this afternoon than it was before Dr. Ford testified. When this controversy began, I said that her claims were serious enough that, if true, Kavanaugh should not be confirmed. Further, I said [that] she should only have to carry the lowest burden of proof — to establish that her claims were more likely than not. If you step back, look at the totality of the evidence and consider that she has brought no new evidence to the committee, I still don’t believe she has met that minimal burden.

For those who think the verisimilitude of Ford's testimony yesterday equals or outweighs the evidence against her claims, how do you explain the verisimilitude of Kavanaugh's testimony later in the hearing? We can think of possible scenarios in which both individuals are sincere (drunkenness distorting memories, etc.). But the issue is what's probable, not what's possible, and these alternative scenarios have problems of their own. The explanation that best fits the totality of the evidence is that Ford has been lying. Stop being so deferential to her, especially when she just recently has been caught making so many dubious claims, repeatedly contradicting herself, acting as if she doesn't have certain political motives that the evidence suggests she does have, etc.


  1. I'm glad to hear someone saying this. I think conservatives, both in government and in the punditry box, have immediately tried to take the "lying" option off the table simply because they know that has horrible optics. But that concern for optics comes at the concern for truth.

    With the lying option off the table, conservatives are left having to say that they believe "something" happened to Ford (some kind of sexual assault) but they don't know what or by who (ergo, she's misremembering). But this is the least likely option which leaves them having to defend the weakest position.

    Dr. Ford is, to my knowledge, largely right about how the memory works in traumatic or surprising events. And while it's possible to misidentify a person in a moment of trauma (and I could provide some anecdotal evidence here) that's most likely when the person is a complete stranger. It's highly improbably given that Kavanaugh and Judge were not complete strangers to her.

    Given that Dr. Ford has demonstrated that she is willing to use her allegation for outcome driven purposes rather than truth finding purposes (e.g., her lying about flying), the weight of evidence indicates that she's lying, not that she is misremembering or telling the truth.

    P.S. I don't think one needs to say that the entire narrative is a lie. She could be lying about the details which raise the event to the level of sexual assault (e.g., covering her mouth, trying to pull her clothes off, trying to muffle her screams by turning up music etc.)

    1. Also, why people find tears to be a mark of genuiness is a bit baffling. Have these people never taken a college or high school speech class? It's not uncommon for people, especially women, to cry in a stressful public speech or presentation. I've see multiple people cry (all women, incidentally) when giving a public speech not because they were reliving a memory that was so vivid or so painful, but because the stress of speaking in front of a large audience (especially one that might be hostile) makes one more emotionally vulnerable.

  2. I think the optics will be tuned as the Left sees fit, regardless of what conservatives do. There was an article by Forbes suggesting Ford had the chops to be a Supreme Court Justice based on her performance. Because having a story that does nothing but fall apart when people ask questions to anyone she claimed as a witness is a great sign. And any defense of Kavanaugh is by definition a defense of rape.

  3. She told two blatant lies: (1) she didn't like flying; and (2) she didn't know that the SJC offered to fly to Califorian to intwerview her.

    She also likely lied about the therapaist notes. The notes report that 4-5 boys assaulted her when she was in her late teens. She claims the therapist wrote these notes inaccurately. If she's lying about the notes she can't be telling the truth about the assault.

    VDH makes a good point:

    Finally, in a most non-empathetic fashion, Ford sought to refute the contradictory testimony of her close friend Leland Ingham Keyser (whose attorney had unequivocally stated, “Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford”) — in a manner that had anyone employed the same trope against Ford herself, he would have shamed as a condescending slanderer.
    Ford, albeit gently, sought to refute Keyser’s contradiction of her assault narrative by essentially claiming that Keyser was now ill and had needed help even to make a statement, and therefore apparently was non compos mentis: “Leland has significant health challenges and I’m happy that she’s focusing on herself and getting the health treatment that she needs, and she let me know that she needed her lawyer to take care of this for her and she texted me right afterward with an apology and good wishes and et cetera.” In other words, Keyser was supposedly not able to weigh in herself, according to Ford, due to alleged health issues. So she relied on her lawyer to report her testimony — but, according to Ford, Ford alone was privately assured that the ensuing official statement was apparently now inaccurate and therefore had earned Ford an rightful apology.
    The end result? We have no confirmation of whether such a characterization is true; but the nation is to know, thanks to Ford’s quite brazen insinuation, that Keyser is either apparently too ill to be credible or being manipulated by her lawyer or refuting her own statement. A cynic might infer that Ford referenced her close friend, Keyser, in expectation of confirmation, and when confirmation did not follow, impugned the credibility a fried.

    That she can lie about, say, flying, with the same "affect" (or whatever its called) likely indicates a rather severe personality problem.

  4. Of course it is possible that her attorneys didn't tell her that she had the option of being interviewed in California. THat would be a violation of legal ethics - an attorney has an obligation to tell his client about significant events in a case.

  5. You can refuse to be interviewed by the FBI, but Ford isn't in a position to do so after having called for an FBI investigation. They will be able to ask her all the questions that the prosecutor wanted to ask her but either didn't have the time or wouldn't have come across well on television, e.g., her drinking, partying, etc. I'd like to get the names of everyone she says may have seen her and Kavanaugh in the same event and question them. It could prove devastating for her. I imagine the press has contacted everyone in their respective school yearbooks (1980-1985). If there was a single witness to a mutual meeting I assume we would have heard it by now.