During Senate confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the left scorned his combative tone, the only part of this national disgrace that seemed compelling.
I turned 16 years old on April 9, 1969, a rebellious teenager living in a rebellious time. At the end of that summer, still age 16, I would commence my senior year in an inner city public high school north of Boston. Like the tenor of the present day, the year leading up to my 16th birthday was explosive. In 1968, in the company of Walter Cronkite, we faced the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Inconsolable grief swept the South, and deep mourning enshrouded the streets of Boston.
The Beatles released “Hey, Jude” that summer and it hit number one in the pop charts. Pope Paul VI released Humanae vitae that same summer, and it bombed in the pop charts, pitting the papacy against tidal waves of dissent. The sexual revolution spun into high gear lending – though only in hindsight – much weight to the moral courage of a much-maligned pope. [Also see: “Padre Pio’s Letter to Paul VI on Humanae vitae.”]
The Catonsville Nine, led by Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan, went to prison for burning draft records. The Democratic National Convention exploded into riots in Chicago. O.J. Simpson won the Heisman trophy. Richard Nixon won the presidency. 1968 was a year from hell.
The war in Vietnam raged on that year. It escalated, and loomed ever larger on our horizons. The only thing that kept me from going to war was a mistake of math my parents had made 12 years earlier resulting in my enrollment in the first grade at age five instead of six. I graduated from high school just a month after turning 17 in 1970 and a full year before I could either enlist or be drafted.
In the summer of 1969, just before my senior year of high school at age 16, I fled Boston. I traveled alone to a village just north of St John’s on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland where I spent that summer with some of my mother’s extended family. While there, I did something entirely counter-cultural at age 16. I read Thomas Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain. It was long and tedious, and it spoke volumes to me.
As a result of that book, I alone among my family began to restore what had up to then been a dormant and grossly undernourished Easter and Christmas Catholic life. I was unaware at the time that Thomas Merton was also among the casualties of 1968. He died by accidental electrocution in Bangkok, Thailand on December 10, 1968, the same day he entered the Trappist Monastery at Gethsemane 27 years earlier.
No one could have predicted that nearly a half century later, Pornchai Moontri, sharing a prison cell with me, would also read Thomas Merton though quite by accident. Also unaware of the Bangkok connection, Pornchai then made a final decision to become Catholic. (I’ll link at the end to a post by Ryan MacDonald about Pornchai and Thomas Merton.)
In Newfoundland in 1969, the chaos of home seemed refreshingly far away. Then, on July 20 that year, at 10:56 PM Eastern Time (11:26 PM in Newfoundland) Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the surface of the Moon. The entire world – even in Newfoundland – was riveted to a television, again in the company of Walter Cronkite.
My teenage cousins and I were up for any excuse for a party. So well after midnight, we escaped to celebrate this one small step for man by heading into the city – hitchhiking, no less – for a night of raucous underage drinking. We turned this lunar milestone into total lunacy.
My cousins and I drank far more beer than we could handle, and more than a few shots of a substance called Newfoundland Screech. I was 16, a fact that today I feel a need to repeat, and my parents were 1,000 miles away in another country.
But I think I can safely say today that my lifelong value system and character is not defined by that one raucous adolescent night in Newfoundland. I certainly never gave any thought to the future then. There wasn’t one in 1969. It was all just a response to the present. That’s a common trait among 16-year-old males who find themselves 1,000 miles from their parents. It’s all about me in the here and now.
ON THE RIGHTS AND DIGNITY OF WOMEN
I never gave any thought back then to the teen years of people who grow up to be nominated to the Supreme Curt by Republican presidents. I certainly never considered that anyone like me could find himself 40 years later facing an FBI investigation of his adolescent consumption of beer for the ultra-left Puritan and pharisaical mob that has highjacked the Democratic Party to which I once belonged.
Other than the elements necessary for Mass, I have not consumed alcohol in any form since about 1982. But that did not stop my own detractors from declaring me to be a drunk. During the priesthood’s earlier moral panic in 2002, a member of New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful was quoted in a local news article saying that she read somewhere that I am an alcoholic, and therefore may not remember abusing the people that she felt certain I must have abused.
Some friends who have known me for forty years wondered where that could have come from. So they did a Google search to find a reference for the claim. They found the source in a published interview with actress Meredith MacRae about her famous father, a Broadway and Hollywood star of the 1950s and 60s. The interview quoted her: “My father, Gordon MacRae, was an alcoholic…” The Prosecution rests.
Bear with me, please, as I meander my way to the point. It was only later, at the end of that 1969 summer of lunacy when I returned to Massachusetts, that I saw news reports of something that happened just two days before Neil Armstrong’s milestone. On July 18, 1969 at 11:15 PM, Senator Ted Kennedy, brother of an assassinated president and an assassinated Democratic presidential nominee, drove his car off a bridge into the ocean at Cappaquiddick Island, Martha’s Vineyard.
Mary Jo Kopechne, one of six young women who had worked on Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign, drowned in that car while Ted Kennedy escaped. On July 19, 1969, waiting some ten hours before reporting the event, Kennedy sat in the office of the Chappaquiddick constable. He hand wrote a statement of events, leaving a blank after “Miss Mary” because he could not spell her last name. On July 20, the front page story was buried under Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind.
On July 25, Kennedy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident. He received a two-month suspended sentence. He wore a neck brace to the hearing for no other reason, he told his exasperated lawyers, than he thought it might look good for the media. His first words while telling his closest allies that Mary Jo lay dead in his submerged car were, “I’m not going to be president.”
Just before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh earlier this month, I happened to watch the film, Chappaquiddick recently released on DVD. I highly recommend it. Unlike so much of Hollywood, the film portrayed the events of that summer of 1969 with an honest journalist’s eye instead of the spin of political agendas. The film portrayed Ted Kennedy as a misogynistic narcissist more concerned for the story’s impact on his political ambitions than on the life and death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
In January of 1970, midway through my senior year of high school and still 16, a court inquest was held. A judge took strong exception to many of Kennedy’s assertions and descriptions of the events of that night. He had been drinking, a fact reduced in the media to “negligent driving which appeared to have contributed” to Mary Jo’s death.
Jump ahead to 1985. Despite Chappaquiddick, Kennedy was repeatedly reelected to his Massachusetts senate seat with little in the way of challenge or critique. The news media gave him an easy pass. Kennedy announced in 1985 that he would not seek the presidency. The party and media spin was that he had found a sense of accomplishment in the Senate. No one mentioned Mary Jo Kopechne or Chappaquiddick anymore.
Two years later in 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated legal scholar and former Solicitor General Robert Bork to the U S Supreme Court. The story to follow may seem painfully familiar. Liberal groups across the nation protested the nomination. The politicians and the news media howled incessantly that Bork would reverse Roe v Wade.
Senate Democrats criticized the nomination of Bork, accusing President Reagan of trying to pack the Court with allies for his conservative cause. Confirmation hearings took an ominous turn as Senator Ted Kennedy addressed the Senate and nation with “Robert Bork’s America.”
“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit in segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, and school children could not be taught about evolution. Writers and artists would be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is – and is often the only – protector of individual rights at the heart of our democracy.”
On October 23, 1987, the Senate rejected Bork’s nomination by a 58 to 42 vote. The rejection came after weeks of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee during which Judge Bork was robbed of his good name and a presumption of innocence against Kennedy’s charges.
Having rid the Supreme Court of Judge Bork, Chappaquiddick was erased from the American mind. The media and the Democratic Party rebranded Ted Kennedy as a national champion for women and their rights and causes.
The irony in this story has many tiers. As a result of the undoing of Judge Robert Bork, President Reagan had to present another nominee. He chose Anthony Kennedy whose retirement from the Court 31 years later resulted in the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. As Yogi Berra famously said, “It was déjà vu all over again!”
A NATIONAL DISGRACE
Over the last few weeks, These Stone Walls has been host to a four-part bombshell story of its own that began with “Pornchai Moontri. Bangkok to Bangor, Survivor of the Night.” It tells the story of devastating events that occurred in Thailand and Bangor, Maine between 1975 and 1992. The story resulted in the conviction of Richard Alan Bailey last month for 40 felony counts of sexual abuse that occurred between 1985 and 1987 – commencing 33 years ago.
It would be a fair to ask why these charges were any different from all the other #MeToo claims – many of them decades old – that have been surfacing against priests, politicians, CEOs, and now Supreme Court nominees. The difference is vast, and it is summed up in a single word: corroboration.
The problem in “Pornchai’s Story” was that despite a wealth of corroboration over three decades, nothing ever happened to bring the perpetrator to justice. It wasn’t until I became fully aware of this story, and conveyed that awareness to Australian attorneys Clare and Malcolm Farr, that inquiries drew the case out of mothballs and the deep cracks into which it had all fallen.
Pornchai’s story was not dependent solely on 33-year-old memories. What happened to our friend, Pornchai, has a trail of evidence and corroboration going back 33 years with written reports and statements from neighbors, counselors, social workers, and police. A parade of witnesses to these events came forward to testify. This is why Richard Bailey and his lawyer opted for a plea deal.
It’s a point I have made many times. The truly guilty often end up spending far less time in prison than the truly innocent because the latter cannot fathom taking a deal that would spare them prison at the expense of their good name.
But in the story at hand, I also believe Christine Blasey Ford. I believe that something happened to her as a teenager 36 years ago, but without corroboration it is only her memory – and no one else’s – that places Brett Kavanaugh in that scene.
I read recently about a study of memory by a research psychologist – which is also Christine Blasey Ford’s profession – who interviewed several school children who had visited Disney World. She questioned the children about their interactions with the Disney characters, but she included Bugs Bunny among the photos she displayed.
At some future date, she interviewed them again at a later age. All of the children had distinct memories of interacting with the various characters at Disney World, and many included Bugs Bunny in their recall One reported being molested by Bugs Bunny at Disney World. Bugs Bunny is not a Disney character and these interactions could not have taken place. This was an implanted memory.
I believe today that Dr. Blasey-Ford has now been seriously abused for the second time in her life. This time, it was by those who set out to exploit her story to score political points. She wrote a private letter about what she believed to have been a traumatic experience. The letter was held in secret for six weeks until a more politically opportune time. Then it was shamelessly and anonymously leaked.
This was a national disgrace. What started off as a routine inquiry of the Senate Judiciary Committee into Judge Kavanaugh’s voluminous court decisions descended into a self-righteous moral panic fueled by the screaming hysterics of special interest groups. When it failed, the screaming mob shifted its focus to Kavanaugh’s exasperated defense.
I have sat where Judge Brett Kavanaugh sat. I have been forced to listen in silence to false witness about forcible rape and fictitious sexual assaults – some even claimed to have occurred at gunpoint. None of these assaults ever took place at all. Brett Kavanaugh’s angry rebuttal before the Senate Democrats who orchestrated this disgrace was for me the most compelling part of this whole sad affair.
Since then, 1,700 university law professors have signed a petition declaring that Kavanaugh’s rebuttal reveals a judicial temperament that should disqualify him from the Supreme Court. This says more about these ivory tower hypocrites than it does about their target. This is why we need a Supreme Court that isn’t leaning from the socialist left’s precipice of civil rights destruction to which a once honorable political party has been dragged by activists.
In the Weekly Standard (Oct 5, 2018) Christopher Caldwell described where this all now stands “Just as there are people famous-for-being famous, now there are people guilty-for-being-accused. Justice Kavanaugh is one of them. So am I. For the first time in the history of this nation, we have a Supreme Court Justice who has survived the crucible of being falsely accused.
Editor’s Note: Please share this important post with your contacts and on social media. You may also like these related posts:
- Thomas Merton and Pornchai Moontri: A Prayer for the Year of Mercy
- Would St. Thomas More Be Fit for Public Office in America
- #MeToo & #HimToo: Jonathan Grover & Father Gordon MacRae
- A Catholic Scandal Molested by a Predatory News Media