When it was nothing more than the anonymous taint of a 35-year-old claim of sexual abuse, entirely unmentioned until after hearings were concluded and only raised by the beleaguered Senator Dianne Feinstein in a “secret” letter to the FBI unceremoniously leaked to the public, it was a desperation tactic, unworthy of anything more than a blanket denial. After all, if it was real, if there was anything worthy of the Senate’s or public’s attention, Feinstein’s failure to mention it before would have been outrageous.
Would the senator who failed to get the endorsement of her own party neglect to mention that a nominee to the life-tenured post on the Supreme Court tried to rape a woman in high school? Would she say nothing that he lied to the Judiciary Committee?
Feinstein’s claim was that she sought to respect the accuser’s desire for anonymity. After all, isn’t that more important than vetting a Supreme Court nominee, particularly after the efforts to falsely smear him with vapid cries of perjury? The Dems were beyond desperate to find some way to derail this nomination. Desperate people do desperate things.
Feinstein tried to game both sides of the accusation, revealing its existence while concealing the identity. Get the benefit of the taint while getting the benefit of being supportive of the “victim.” It was the best she could do under the circumstances. It wasn’t working, and the accusation was going nowhere.
Then Palo Alto University clinical psych prof Christine Blasey Ford came out.
Now, Ford has decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.
This “reason” has received very little scrutiny. It would have been a fine reason years ago, months ago, even weeks ago. Now, after the close of the hearings, it’s inadequate. If she didn’t want “her story” told, she shouldn’t have brought it up. And if she wanted to be the one to tell it, she shouldn’t have demanded anonymity.
But to seek to have her story used, to seek anonymity and then flippantly flip because “reasons” after all else failed, and then her anonymous story failed, doesn’t cut it. It’s a disingenuous reason. It smells. Like Feinstein, she tried to have it both ways, enjoy the benefit of the accusation while enjoying the benefit of anonymity so she wouldn’t be taken to task and subjected to scrutiny for this claim.* Who did she think was going to tell her story?
There is a process that confirmation hearings go through, a witness list, preparation, an opportunity for the nominee to know what will be claimed against him such that he can prepare his response, and of course, his opportunity to respond. It’s a reasonable process, not quite due process as this isn’t a trial, but a confirmation hearing. It’s not a legal process but a political one.
Still, sandbagging the nominee undermines the essential fairness of the process. In a hearing so disgracefully replete with the deceitful gamesmanship of the desperate, it’s fallen to new depths.
But now that Ford’s allegations are out there and she’s provided sufficient information to raise a taint, if substantially less than sufficient to prove her claim**, the question must be confronted: what to do about this next act in this shitshow of a hearing.
David Lat, a Kavanaugh supporter (whereas I am not***), writes at the New York Times that the vote should be delayed.
The way in which Ms. Ford’s allegations came to light was, to put it charitably, deeply unfortunate. These claims should have been thoroughly and discreetly investigated weeks ago, by nonpartisan F.B.I. agents and bipartisan Senate investigators, in a way that protected Christine Ford’s privacy and Brett Kavanaugh’s good name. But here we are.
For all the legitimate cries of foul against what’s happening, Lat is right. Here we are. Deal with it.
But Ms. Ford should at least be heard, and not just because the #MeToo movement has made the importance of hearing out victims of alleged sexual misconduct even more obvious than it already was. The alleged perpetrator and witness should be heard from as well, and everyone involved should be placed under oath and subjected to aggressive questioning.
Lat, however, contends that the delay should first involve an investigation.
Considering the small number of witnesses involved — perhaps Ms. Ford, Mr. Kavanaugh, Mr. Judge, Ms. Ford’s husband and her therapist — an F.B.I. investigation followed by hearings wouldn’t take very long. The process might not be complete before the start of the Supreme Court’s new term on Oct. 1, but it should easily be able to be done before the midterm elections, if that’s the concern of Senate Republicans.
If these allegations aren’t aired, now that they’re “out there,” both Kavanaugh and the institution of the Supreme Court, the “least dangerous branch,” will suffer terribly for it. Progressives, like Linda Greenhouse, have been crafting the “partisan hack” narrative about the Court since Trump’s election, and this only feeds the insanity. The integrity of the Court demands the hearing be reopened and Ford be called to testify. She can put up or shut up. And the Dems, as well, can have their moment to show they have something real or it’s just a last-minute desperate attempt at character assassination.
Is there anything to “investigate”? That time has come and gone. Delay the vote for a day or two, let the Ford witnesses testify, let Kavanaugh and the other man accused, Mark Judge, testify, and then get on with it. Delay is the Democrats’ goal here, to push confirmation over beyond the midterms in the hope of taking the Senate majority. The Democrats should not be rewarded with empty delay**** because they gamed the process with this last second Hail Christine.
And then, should the testimony of Ford prove credible and sufficient, one final question remains: Is a drunken sexual assault by a high school boy 35 years earlier reason to reject a person whose life and career since have been exemplary from the Supreme Court? That’s another political question for the Senate to decide, one that puts many of the current conflicts as to responsibility, sexual assault and redemption in issue. But until Ford’s testimony is aired, no one knows whether the question is even raised.
There are a great many reasons why this accusation, and the Dems handling of it, are dubious and disgraceful, but it doesn’t change the fact that “here we are.” Deal with it and then take the vote. Let the chips fall where they may.
*Without question, Ford’s entire life will be subject to scrutiny and, no doubt, exceptionally harsh attack.
**Her testimony is legally sufficient, in itself, to “prove” her claim. This doesn’t mean her testimony will be found to be credible or sufficient, but that it could be. There is also corroboration, although it’s quite weak, factually conflicted and so vague as to not mention Kavanaugh among the “four” men her therapist’s notes state she claimed, now reduced to two men. Then there’s the polygraph she took, more a palliative for the masses, as it’s worthless to establish the truthfulness of her accusations.
***Whether Kavanaugh will prove to be terrible or merely bad on crim law issues remains to be seen, but he certainly isn’t the justice a criminal defense lawyer would want on the Supreme Court. That said, the integrity of the Court, and the process, is a stand alone virtue if the Court is to serve it’s institutional function in society.
****Lat argues the investigation “wouldn’t take very long.” On the other hand, it wouldn’t take any time now at all had this been raised prior to the hearings, and how long is “very long” when it comes to a “full investigation” is a perpetual mystery. A day? Month? Until next November?