Category Archive '“Advise and Consent” (1962)'

29 Sep 2018

“Advise and Consent” Meets “Rashomon”

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Rashomon (1950).

Lance Morrow found the Kavanaugh Confirmation hearing Thursday reminding him of some classic cinema

The story of the Kavanaugh affair had the elements of a black-and-white movie from long ago: “Advise & Consent” retold as “Rashomon,” a masterpiece of tabloid civics in the old Washington style. When the day was over, everyone was depressed about the country; some said this was a new low. And yet everyone had been richly entertained. Only Frank Capra, returned from the dead, could have done the day justice. …

After Ms. Ford finished her testimony, the audience voted, informally, and the verdict was all but unanimous. “Kavanaugh is toast,” a friend emailed from London. On Fox News Channel, Chris Wallace said the same. Blood drained from faces in the West Wing.

The #MeToo movement sensed victory and vindication. You can imagine what Capra would have done with the moment: a fast montage of jubilant American women’s faces, energized.

But then came a ferocious turning of the plot, a great reversal—the sort of thing they teach in courses called How to Write a Brilliant Hollywood Script.

Judge Kavanaugh—previously all judicial temperament, all gravitas and family man—came hot into the committee room, now almost weeping, now insulting the Democrats (who recoiled a little), his distinctively Murland accent (that’s Maryland) harsh and a little reckless, his figurative middle finger extended toward the Democrats, whom he acknowledged now to be his bitter enemies—a menace to his home, his family.

And on the other plane, we were deeply back in adolescence, in underage beer drinking, football practice and swimming at the country club, back in the time of intense studies and intense friendships, of class rankings, all-nighters and idiotic, salacious entries in the yearbook.

The hearing became a sort of séance. The year 2018 set up a quivering, gauzy resonance with the year 1982. Middle age (with all its experience and achievement—Brett, from Georgetown Prep, at the height of the American judiciary now, and Christine, from Holton-Arms, a successful professional woman with a doctorate in psychology and, for all one knew, a rich private life) established communication with a prior world—with adolescent youth and its hopes, follies and terrors, and the mystery of an assault that did or did not happen.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald challenge came into play. Judge Kavanaugh—passionate, indignant, his voice breaking, eyes tearing—denied everything Ms. Ford had said, at least the parts involving himself. He, too, was entirely credible. …

Part of the sympathy accorded him now emerged from what we knew of his ordeal in recent days—the sudden onslaught of sexual allegations, three of them now, the second being quite incredible and the third being unprecedentedly scurrilous and filthy. Judge Kavanaugh gained sympathy from his evident suffering and that of his family. His wife sat behind him in the hearing room wearing an expression of unutterable disgust.

Ultimately, there developed an interesting dialogue between two phrases—“her truth” and “the truth.” New Jersey’s sea-green incorruptible, Sen. Cory Booker, made much of Ms. Ford’s having “told her truth.” He meant that if she told “her truth,” it was enough. Except it was not enough. The question was whether her truth was the truth—or whether his truth was the truth. It wasn’t possible that the two truths, his and hers, could square with one another.

The country will take its pick in November. In a way, American politics, even its idea of reality, has sifted down to a choice between Brett’s truth and Christine’s.

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