The mixed reactions, on many aspects of the way we approach Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, track either politics or ideology in a way that should give every one of us pause.
At one end of the spectrum is Senator Mazie Hirono, who told men to “shut up and step up … do the right thing, for a change,” after Dr. Chrstine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh came to light. Blasey Ford released her story weeks after her allegations had been sent to Senator Dianne Feinstein, and days after the Senate finished its hearings on whether to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Senator Hirono’s view is that, despite the impossibility of gathering meaningful statistics on how many reports of sexual assault are false, a woman is automatically to be believed regardless of evidence, and men, by virtue of their membership in a particular group, are all guilty by association and cannot contribute to meaningful dialog on this topic.
At the other end of the spectrum is Senator Mitch McConell, who wants to “plow through” with Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation despite a credible accusation of sexual assault, who appears to categorize Dr. Blasey Ford’s coming forward as a partisan tactic to delay Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote until after the midterm elections, who sees no need for further investigation on this topic. And, of course, there’s Donald Trump, who essentially called Dr. Blasey Ford a liar for failing to report her allegations 35 years ago, to either “her loving parents” or law enforcement.
Democrats claim the Republicans are “bullying” a survivor of sexual assault, pressuring her to testify with artificial deadlines so as to discredit her and advance Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as soon as possible, where he will undoubtedly make important decisions about women’s bodies. Republicans claim that Dr. Blasey Ford, through her lawyer, is strategically manipulating the Senators, claiming she wants to be heard and then retreating from that position, despite the fact that Senators have tried to accommodate her in so many ways, offering her private or public hearings, and that Dr. Blasey Ford purposely wants male Senators questioning her to make it look like she is being oppressed by men – essentially, exploiting her alleged trauma to gain a strategic advantage in any hearings in which she would testify.
Many claim the burden of proof to rebut the allegations and redeem his honor is on Judge Kavanaugh, as this is his job interview. Others worry about the precedent set by allowing one uncorroborated allegation to derail a man’s career and destroy his reputation, especially where the balance of the evidence appears to favor Judge Kavanaugh and there are true inconsistencies in Dr. Blasey Ford’s story.
People divide on what to do about the fact that no other women have charged Judge Kavanaugh with any instances of even minor sexual improprieties. Usually a sexual predator acts repeatedly, some argue, while others claim that just because Judge Kavanaugh didn’t sexually assault all his female friends does not mean he didn’t sexually assault Dr. Blasey Ford.
Ed Whelan, conservative commentator, apologized for identifying a classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s on a theory of mistaken identity that blamed a classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s for the alleged assault. A former classmate of Dr. Blasey Ford’s had to essentially retract a Facebook post where she informed readers that Dr. Blasey Ford had told others about the events at the party.
And there are complexities in this case that take on no political valence. People on the left and the right have argued that, even if true, claims from almost four decades ago, levied against someone who was so young and intoxicated at the time, who has likely never repeated the behavior, are not disqualifying. Others on both the left and the right have argued that, if true, these claims exhibit a dearth of moral character unbefitting a member of our nation’s highest court.
I can tell you where I fall on these issues. I have my own ideological biases, which I try to overcome, and I have my own principles, which I try to apply consistently. I do not think, at this point, that there is probable cause supporting Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations. Probable cause is the standard necessary to arrest someone, and I do not believe the police could currently arrest Judge Kavanaugh for attempted sexual assault. I do think this matter is worth investigating, and there should be an FBI investigation, but I worry that the delay tactics are a way to punish Republicans for failing to vote on Judge Merrick Garland’s confirmation. Everyone’s behavior appears quite unseemly. It’s hard to find a single figure in this entire matter who doesn’t appear to be engaging in gamesmanship.
I think Judge Kavanaugh’s age at the time of the offense is a mitigating factor, and, as a result, I would need to get to at least a preponderance of the evidence that these events occurred exactly as Dr. Blasey Ford describes in order for the allegations to be disqualifying. I think Dr. Blasey Ford has no reason to lie, and my presumption is that she is an honest person, but events can be remembered very differently over time, and can look different from different people’s perspectives. I think it is entirely possible that Judge Kavanaugh engaged in this behavior while blackout drunk, and I’m not sure how to think about any of this if that is the case.
Mostly, I wish there were a way to discuss these issues without the naturally strong emotions inextricably attached to these issues clouding all of our judgments. I wish there were a way to look at serious allegations of this nature without the baggage of our nation’s history of ignoring sexual assault claims and our present of dismissing the risks of false allegations. I wish this case wasn’t perverted by Republicans’ desire to expedite the vote and Democrats’ desire to delay the vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Right now, we cannot examine this case logically, reasonably, and fairly, allowing our approach to be informed by facts and uniform principles; there are too many reasons why we cannot. I continue to try, and I hope you will too.