Kavanaugh hearings put confirmation process on trial — and the verdict is guilty

I’ll just say it: I believe both of them.

In this climate, I’ll get hammered by loyal partisans on both the right and the left for reaching such a conclusion. But I don’t care.

We’re living at a time when a lot of people can decide whether testimony is believable even before hearing it. Don’t confuse us with facts, we’re too busy formulating an opinion.

But the truth is tricky. You might think there is only one version. You’d be wrong. The mind is a mysterious thing with the power to convince us something happened or didn’t happen.

Think of all the people who sit in jail right now, wrongly convicted and hoping to one day be exonerated by DNA evidence. Many of them are locked up because of one of the most unreliable forms of evidence: eyewitness testimony. You have all these people doing their civic duty who, it turns out, were 100 percent certain of identifications that were false.

Thirty years ago, I spent a semester back home in Fresno County working as a law clerk at the Public Defender’s Office. I spent the next semester seeing things from the other side of the table by working at the District Attorney’s Office.

One thing I learned: The criminal justice system is terribly imperfect, just like the human beings who created it. Mistakes are made every single day. Guilty people sometimes go free, while innocent people sometimes go to jail.

I believe that something terrible happened to Christine Blasey Ford at a house party in Maryland more than three decades ago, and that she sincerely believes — and has always believed — the culprit was Brett Kavanaugh. The same Brett Kavanaugh who is now a federal judge who has been nominated to the Supreme Court.

Ford was authentic, believable and effective in her testimony Thursday to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Only partisan Republicans, acting out of reflex, would say otherwise.

But I also found Kavanaugh authentic, believable and effective — especially when he talked about the enormous cost to loved ones, including his daughters, and how his family had been “destroyed” by these accusations and the spiteful way in which they were handled by members of the committee. Only partisan Democrats, acting out of reflex, could not see that.

This is not a repeat of what happened in the fall of 1991. In the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, you had to believe one narrative or the other. Either Thomas was obsessed with Hill, or Hill was obsessed with Thomas. I believed Hill.

This is not that. I believe — and I think many Americans now believe — that both Ford and Kavanaugh are telling their truth as they know it, and that each of these individuals has paid a high price for doing so.

What a disgusting system we have for confirming judges to the federal bench, including these high-stakes confirmation battles for seats on the Supreme Court.

Advise and consent has now degenerated into horrify and disgust, or insult and attack, or seek and destroy. More and more, it’s become painfully clear — no matter who is president, which party controls the Senate, and who sits on the Judiciary Committee — that the very last thing this process is about is the nominee.

My wife, who is foreign-born, is still learning about our system, and I sometimes have trouble explaining it to her. This was one of those times.

“You mean this whole thing isn’t about figuring out the truth and finally knowing what really happened?” she asked.

She believes Ford, and only Ford. She thinks Kavanaugh is lying to save himself, and that women don’t forget details of a sexual assault.

No, I told her, truth is not on the menu in these hearings. Elections have consequences. Presidents pick judicial nominees, and, usually, they’re confirmed. These hearings are mostly about giving senators a chance to preen, pontificate and perform. They get to have their “Spartacus” moments and collect “b-roll” footage that they can use to raise money and create campaign commercials when they compete for re-election or run for president.

“Oh, c’mon! Are you kidding me?” she exclaimed. Then she threw up her arms and stormed out of the room.

Given the salacious allegations leading up to these hearings, I assumed the program would be rated “TV-MA” — for mature audiences only.

But having binged on the hearings and watched what was probably an unhealthy amount of the proceedings, I would have labeled the spectacle “TV-BS” — for broken system.

What did you think I meant?

© 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Email: ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at SFChronicle.com/letters.