Editorial

Americans doing the right thing: FBI investigation should help to heal nation

Sunday, September 30, 2018

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Watchers of American politics would easily agree that few issues in recent times have so viscerally divided the United States as the allegations surrounding the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a seat on the Supreme Court.

If the politically partisan elements are stripped from the highly charged debate over whether Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr Christine Blasey Ford 36 years ago when she was 15 and he 17 years old, the issue comes down to her word against his.

Dr Ford has company in two other women who have come forward to say they were either sexually assaulted or witnessed inappropriate behaviour by Judge Kavanaugh when he was in high school or college.

Dr Ford has also bolstered her case by having submitted to a polygraph or lie detector test and stated her desire for an FBI investigation into her allegations. For his part, Judge Kavanaugh, while spiritedly declaring his innocence, would not call for an FBI investigation or volunteer to submit to a polygraph.

In the circumstances, people are lined up behind party positions, with the need to determine the facts of the case taking a back seat to the Republicans and the Democrats achieving their goal.

It seems fairly clear that the Republicans are bent on confirming Mr Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's pick to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, in the hope that should the time come, he would vote to strike down the legislation known as Roe v Wade — under which abortion is legal in the US — among other issues which have long divided Americans.

On the other hand, the Democrats are determined to block Mr Trump's nominee to get back at Republicans for frustrating former President Barack Obama's pick, Judge Merrick Garland, who was not given a Senate hearing by the Republican majority.

Moreover, Democrats appear to regard this current issue as fodder for the imminent midterm election which polls are suggesting they could win and put themselves in an even stronger position to block any of Mr Trump's future nominees and/or proposed legislation, such as on immigration.

Somewhere in the middle of all that are millions of Americans — and no doubt watchers from other countries who are riveted to the unfolding drama — who find it difficult to decide one way or another, after listening to the testimony of both Dr Ford and Judge Kavanaugh on Friday in the Senate.

America appeared ready to explode over the issue when a very conflicted Republican, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona insisted he would vote for Kavanaugh to go ahead on condition that there is an FBI investigation into the allegations, to attempt to provide facts on which credible decisions could be based.

That decision to give the FBI a week to do its work has allowed the parties to step back from the brink and provides a cooling-off period, during which it is hoped that the story of either the accuser or the accused can be corroborated or refuted.

Taking the long-term view, we believe the decision will help to heal the deep wound that has appeared in the American body politic, especially by reassuring women that their stories of sexual abuse will at least be properly heard.

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