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Kavanaugh Column, News

“Time, Gentlemen….”

There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate….

T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1920)

The time is drawing to a close for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley insisted that she submit written testimony by 10:00 a.m. ahead of a scheduled Monday hearing date, when she would have an opportunity to tell her story in the presence of the committee members and Judge Kavanaugh. The morning deadline was extended to afternoon, then to late in the evening, but no resolution was reached between the committee and Ford’s attorneys.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair….
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

“There will be time,” say Dr. Ford’s lawyers, but insist that the proceeding be “fair” to her. After multiple revisions to her demands, Ford’s attorneys now say she would testify before the Judiciary Committee under three particular conditions: First, if the usual order of testimony is reversed and Kavanaugh goes first. Second, if Kavanaugh is not present when Ford testifies. Third, if Kavanaugh’s lawyers are not permitted to question her about her allegations.

The parties in opposition are so far apart they can no longer even agree on the fundamental terms of engagement. Dr. Ford stakes her demands on claims of “due process” and “fairness,” but after a lifetime of honorable service and a sterling reputation as an employer, husband, father and mentor to women, isn’t there just a modicum of process “due” Brett Kavanaugh?

In the frantic and anxious time shortly after the close of the First World War, T.S. Eliot obsessed about the passage of time and the denouement of civilized society he saw looming on the horizon. Dr. Ford’s lawyers are beginning to sound like the women in another of his poems, The Wasteland, talking nonsense in the bar as if closing time would never come… and Senator Grassley, like the impatient bartender, keeps calling out, “Hurry up, please, it’s time….” The Monday hearing has now been taken off the calendar, and Grassley has called for Ford’s “final answer” by Saturday afternoon. Perhaps it’s also time for us all to consider again some difficult questions the Framers of the Constitution considered foundational to a just and ordered society. Obviously, the looming Senate hearing would not be a criminal proceeding accompanied by the usual protections for the defendant (nor could it be, since – among other reasons – the accuser cannot remember when or where the assault allegedly happened), but in a hearing that could destroy a well-respected public citizen and change the course of American history, shouldn’t Judge Kavanaugh at least have the right to see his accuser face-to-face and respond to the specific allegations she makes?