By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the accusation being laid at the feet of Judge Kavanaugh during the Senate’s Confirmation hearings for his nomination to the Supreme Court. Namely, that at age 17, while “stumbling drunk,” he attempted to rape a then 15 year old young woman.
As we know, the Republicans are crying “Foul” because this accusation was revealed at almost the last minute before the Committee was to vote on whether to recommend that the Senate as a whole approve Kavanugh’s nomination.
Democrats have been saying all along that the process the GOP is using (what there is of it) egregiously flouts both the written and unwritten rules and guidelines that have always guided the process: shutting out all opposing or questioning voices from the process in a rush to get another conservative seated on the Court while Republicans still have control of the Senate.
As I (and many others) see it, it is more than a bit disingenuous for the GOP to call “foul” at the Democrat’s attempt to throw a wrench in the process when the GOP did exactly that with wild aplomb with regards to the nominations of hundreds of Judges for years – until they had control of both the Senate and the White House. A case in point being President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
So, the GOP will get no sympathy from me on this. To put it another way, “What goes around comes around.”
That being said, the real heart of the matter is how one should respond to Professor Blasey Ford’s claim of Kavanaugh’s attempted rape of her.
Now, I am a little sympathetic to Kavanaugh’s predicament, because no matter what he says or does, and even if he is eventually proven to be completely innocent, the label of “potential sex abuser” or “possible rapist” will always pop up wherever and whenever his name is mentioned. There really is no good way out of this for him in that regard. The suspicion that he is a sexual abuser, now that it has been raised, will follow him for the rest of his career.
And, he has done himself no favors in this regard by acquiescing to the flawed process that is being used for his confirmation. Because he has not objected to a process that deliberately excludes all opposition from having any substantive part in the review of his nomination, he has already shown himself to be partisan to the core: willing to bend or ignore truth and fairness in the attempt to attain greater political power for himself and the special interests that support his nomination. Because of this, we will always – rightfully – question whether he is a fair and balanced jurist; and so, will rightfully question whether his denials of having attempted to rape a 15 year old girl are to be trusted.
My stance is this: when someone with less power (in this case, Professor Blasey Ford) makes such accusations against someone with greater power (i.e., Judge Kavanaugh), one must first act to protect the accuser, and also – at least at first – take their claims at face value.
Blasey Ford would not have made these accusations unless she believes them. She well knew how the conservative press and those in power would treat her for making such charges against a prominent and powerful man. She knew she would be called a slut, an opportunist, crazy, – the list goes on.
She knows there will be death threats. She knows people will accost her in the streets, in the stores, at restaurants, and likely even in her classroom and at home. She knows this will have a huge (and probably very negative) impact on her career and reputation. Yet she still came forward. Her narrative must be taken seriously, and not brushed aside.
But that does not mean her claims must be accepted blindly. Yes, she must be protected from attack or retaliation, and treated with respect. She must be allowed to speak, and we must respectfully and thoughtfully hear what she has to say. But then we must verify her story as much as is possible. Only then can a good judgment as to the veracity of her claims be made; and only then can we decide whether this should influence Kavanaugh’s Confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Currently, the GOP is planning on holding a public hearing in a few days where both the accuser and accused will speak. This is a good start. She will be heard, as will he. But such a hearing, absent a thorough investigation, is meaningless. Further, the interrogators will all be male: a troubling level of thoughtlessness and/or tone-deafness on the part of the leadership of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, the body conducting the hearing.
Because of this rush to judgment, the hearings will almost certainly will be a case of “she said … he said” with a few testimonials as to the worthiness of each individual, with few if any verified, or verifiable, facts as to what really happened at that party, decades ago.
It takes time to investigate such things – especially after such a long period of time since the incident in question. Witnesses need to be tracked down, testimonies verified, grey areas identified and examined. And yes, because of the gap in time, the answers we get from such an investigation will very likely not be clearcut. Those deliberating on this will need to exercise patience and care as the sift through all the testimony and evidence to come to a conclusion, and determine a course of action, that is just and fair. Rushing to get through it – as the GOP is attempting to do – will solve nothing, and will make things worse. The “optics” of this freneticism and the entire flawed confirmation process make the GOP look very out of touch, paranoid, arrogant, and unwilling to be a fair or reasonable player. In other words, they are doing nothing that shows any respect for the processes and principles that are vital to making our Democracy work.
Judge Kavanaugh is hoping to become a Supreme Court Justice. He is a well known and skilled Jurist. He knows how the legal process works. He is a Constitutional Scholar. He should therefore expect, and demand, that when such accusations are made: no matter who makes them, and no matter who they are made against, that the Rule of Law and respect for due process must come first. Throwing mud to undermine and humiliate Blasey Ford, as I suspect is part of the GOP’s plan, is the worst possible approach – unworthy of a future Supreme Court Justice; and likely to further alienate a citizenry who despise not just the GOP, but the entire political system centered in Washington DC.
If this continues as it has so far, and Kavanaugh and the GOP leadership should know this: his confirmation process will be proven to be a sham. They know that if Professor Blasey Ford’s accusations are “swept under the rug” then his appointment will significantly undermine the public’s trust and respect in the very institution he hopes to become a part of.
Unless we all work together to honor and maintain the integrity of these most central institutions of our democracy; our judicial and political systems will be neither respected nor trusted, and will not be effective, let alone relevant, any more.
Copyright (c) 2018, Allen Vander Meulen III.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.