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2020 Dem hopefuls with a due-process problem

This concerns the way numerous Democrats assigned high levels of credibility to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's sexual-assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee (now Justice) Brett Kavanaugh.

To recap: Dr. Ford "remembers" her friend Leland Keyser at the supposed party in question as much as she "remembers" Kavanaugh being there; Keyser and the others named by Ford as having been at the party in question all stated under penalty of perjury that they don't recall this supposed party.  This fact is a basis for not affirming a belief in the truth of her testimony.  A reasonable takeaway is that, since human memory is notoriously fallible, her memory here is unreliable.

(In philosophic terminology, to believe X is to affirm the truth of X, to endorse X as being true; belief is usually -- save perhaps for Gettier problems -- a component of having knowledge of X, and knowledge is the subject of the branch of philosophy known (ahem) as epistemology.  In normative terms, epistemology answers such questions as: How should we, in aspiring to be virtuous or excellent reasoners, assess evidence?  What should we consider credible, i.e., worthy of eliciting belief?  In the legal context, proper assessment of evidence is part and parcel of principles of due process.)

I'll go down the list of declared 2020 presidential hopefuls on the question of the credibility of Dr. Ford's testimony, in the order that they currently appear in the betting markets:

1. Sen. Kamala Harris (former state attorney general of CA):

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: I think it's going to be about, it comes down to credibility...and it's going to about listening to what each party has to say, but I believe her... (source)
Harris is quoted as saying this on Sept. 18, 2018, although Ford and Kavanaugh did not testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee (of which Harris is a member) until Sept. 27, 2018.

In other words, this attorney and member of the Judiciary Committe had already determined that Ford's testimony was true.  On its face an attorney (edit: a prosecutor, no less; how would you feel about her prosecuting a case where you're the accused?) knows better than this.  This is evidence of intellectual dishonesty or negligence on her part, and it shows she was prejudiced on a matter that would come before her committee.

Does this sound like someone who is fit, character-wise, to be President of the United States?  More on Harris's epistemic and/or conceptual malpractice here.


2. Beto O'Rourke (businessman, former Representative from TX, and charismatic pretty boy):

Wisely, O'Rourke doesn't appear to have affirmed the truth of Ford's testimony, and further, he hasn't announced he is in the running for 2020 even though the betting markets are giving him roughly 8:1 odds.


3. Joe Biden (former Vice President and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee):

Biden is quoted (Sept. 28) as follows:

Biden says Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, “gave courageous, credible and powerful testimony” before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. He says he believed Ford and “the country believed her.”

My same observations and questions about Sen. Harris apply here.  Unlike the other examples covered here, there doesn't appear to be a direct quotation or recording from him.  His only "out" here would be if he were misquoted.


4. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA, former Harvard law professor):

This case is more egregious than those of Harris and Biden.  From Warren's facebook page:



Elizabeth Warren
September 27, 2018
I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. My heart broke watching her testify. She’s a hero – brave, compelling, credible – and she made it clear: Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t belong anywhere near the Supreme Court.
Based on the multiple, credible accusations against him from Dr. Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick – and based on his unhinged, dishonest performance in the hearing – it’s even more clear today that Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination must be withdrawn.
The same observations and question about Harris and Biden apply here, but also Warren asserts that the Julie Swetnick accusation -- that Brett Kavanaugh participated in druggings and gang rapes at multiple parties -- is credible.  This accusation isn't even credible on its face.  (As I said in a facebook comment at the time, if you believe this accusation is credible on its face, you might just be a Democrat.)  The accusation is lacking enough in credibility that the follow-up FBI investigation didn't even bother with Swetnick.  In her Oct. 1 interview, she backtracked on all of her key claims.  This was after Warren's Sept. 27 statement above, and so we can only conclude that Warren found Swetnick's pre-backtracked accusation credible.

If Warren finds that credible, what wouldn't she find credible?

Isn't this picture starting to look pretty pathetic?  These people are somehow slam-dunk, no-brainer preferable to Trump?


5. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT):

"I listened to Dr. Ford, and I listened to Judge Kavanaugh. I believe Dr. Ford. Brett Kavanaugh does not belong on the Supreme Court. (source)

Sanders believes one or more variants of socialism is a great idea.  He has a track record of poor epistemic judgment.


6. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI):

Gabbard's comments on the Ford-Kavanaugh matter are decent and responsible.  No due-process problem for Gabbard here.


7. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY, attorney):

"I believe her," Gillibrand said. "Her story is credible. If you listen to everything about it, the fact that she told her therapist about it five years ago." 
"A friend, most recently, she told a reporter before Kavanaugh was even named to be a nominee, this is a woman who has endured trauma and experts have said, this is what trauma looks like," the Senator continued. "You don’t remember everything. You remember the most poignant moments. You remember the things that are seared into your memory and has affected you your whole life." 
"I believe her. She is credible. She should be heard and this Senate should treat her with respect and dignity that she deserves," she said. (source, Sept. 19)

As with Harris, Gillibrand reached her conclusions before hearing both sides on Sept. 27.

The people bolded above have chosen to disregard -- to disbelieve -- Leland Keyser and others' sworn statements to the Judiciary Committee.  Why?

5 of the 7 Democrats assigned the highest betting odds for '20 have made it clear to the American people that they don't place a high value on assessing evidence carefully, conscientiously and scrupulously even when the reputation and career of an accused individual is at stake.

Why should we expect them to assess evidence carefully, conscientiously and scrupulously when it comes to anything else?

How on earth can these people rightly self-identify as progressives?

And how on earth could anyone of conscience ever willingly assist, enable, excuse, or attempt to normalize this kind of behavior?  How much intellectual bankruptcy in a culture or polity would it take for widespread enabling of it (including in mainstream media outlets) to occur?

(It should go without saying that if these people are using the term "believe" in some other sense than its normal and plain one, that doesn't reflect well on them, either.)

This is what happens when corrupt political practice clashes with philosophy.  Philosophy can and will lay the smackdown.

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