September 17, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford

Senate Republican leaders in the hours after The Post’s article was published indicated that they intended to move forward with voting on him. Republicans planned to argue that unless corroborating information came to light, they had no way of verifying her story and saw no reason to delay the vote, according to a person involved in the discussions.
The New York Times, 9/16/2018
The United States Senate is facing a challenge. GOP senators have been moving at breakneck speed in their attempt to elevate Brett M. Kavanaugh to a seat on the Supreme Court. This is happening despite the fact that voters largely object to Kavanaugh, as do Democrats, almost universally. The appeals court judge has a record of favoring corporate interests over personal ones, showing little interest in the rights of women, and believing that the President of the United States should be above the law. None of these are mainstream American views.

Installing Kavanaugh would be a triumph for the president, to whose agenda (and whims) Republicans seem obsequiously committed. In their haste, they have prevented senators from gaining access to thousands of documents relating to Kavanaugh’s service in the executive branch.

It is ironic, but understandable, given the ultra-partisanship of today’s Republican Party, that a GOP Senate blocked even consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland on the flimsy excuse that a presidential election was “close,” more than half a year away. Kavanaugh’s nomination is being considered on an expedited basis despite being even closer to what may be the most significant election in the nation’s history.

Now comes an allegation of a sexual impropriety—seemingly, an attempted rape—against the Supreme Court nominee. What was, only a few days ago, an anonymous charge is now an assertion made by a respected psychologist willing to submit to questioning by the Senate.

Not surprisingly, Kavanaugh has denied sexual improprieties with Ms. Ford—then Christine Blasey—or with anyone else. Such a denial might be expected whether or not the allegations are true. Clearly, they would be hard to prove. Kavanaugh may well believe in his innocence, given that Ford has provided him with an excuse for forgetting the incident and for failing to follow through with the rape—he was falling-down drunk at the time. (He seems to have been proud of his drinking in high school.)

Ford’s charges against Kavanaugh cannot but bring to mind the allegations that Anita Hill brought against Clarence Thomas when he was being considered for a seat on the Supreme Court. Like Hill, Ford, assuming that she is the rational human being she seems to be, has no reason to expose herself to Republican hatred and ridicule other than a concern for her country and its judiciary. There is no apparent reason to disbelieve Ford’s narrative, just as there was no apparent reason to disbelieve that of Hill. Persons of goodwill may legitimately quibble about the relevance of Hill’s story, as well as Ford’s. What is likely, however, is that Ford, like Hill, will be publicly pilloried and, ultimately, ignored.

It would be easy to dismiss Ford’s story as less significant than Hill’s. Hill described relatively recent actions of an adult nominee; Ford told the story of an adolescent that happened many years ago. On the other hand, attempted rape is more serious than mere harassment. And victims of sexual assault commonly attempt to suppress its memory, a fact that helps explain Ford’s not having brought forth her charges earlier, perhaps years ago.

In this age of #MeToo, one might hope that Republican senators would reconsider how the charges against Clarence Thomas were handled and tread lightly in the present circumstances. After all, if Kavanaugh’s nomination is derailed, President Trump will get another chance to name a Supreme Court justice. (But, should the Senate change hands, will Democrats pull a Merrick Garland? Who knows?) In any case, there is strong evidence that Kavanaugh lied under oath when he was being considered for his present judgeship, and his recent answers before the Judiciary Committee have been, at best, guarded. Can he really be trusted to tell the truth? No one has a right to be a Supreme Court Justice. Surely there are better candidates—even Republican candidates—available.

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