It wasn’t too long ago that Lara Bazelon wrote a great post about the difficulties women trial lawyers face, which makes it all the more surprising to find her arguing against the use of a woman doing the questioning.
Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee’s chairman, and his Republican colleagues have proposed ceding that important responsibility to an outside female lawyer or female aides.
I could have sworn that I saw a scold screaming about how it’s misogynistic to use the word “female.” “They’re women!”, she cried. Does that make Bazelon sexist? Well, the title of her op-ed doesn’t help, Man up, Grassley? I’m literally shaking.
Dr. Blasey and her lawyers have pushed back, demanding that Mr. Grassley and his colleagues question her themselves. They are right to do so. The Republicans’ attempt to outsource the questioning of Dr. Blasey is cynical, sexist and cowardly.
It’s always curious to hear someone “demand.” Or what? Light Grassley’s hair on fire, or maybe call him mean words like “cynical, sexist and cowardly,” and expect that to change anything? Well, Bazelon played the card in the same paragraph, but will she cause Grassley to writhe in pain and be goaded into changing his mind?
The chairman knows the optics are bad for him. Mr. Grassley and his 10 Republican colleagues on the judiciary committee are all white men. Their median age is about 60; Mr. Grassley and his colleague Orrin Hatch of Utah are in their mid-80s.
They don’t want to be seen grilling Dr. Blasey in front of tens of millions of Americans.
This is the optics problem, and it’s certainly a very real problem, particularly given the mood of a certain segment of society these days. Old white men challenging a “survivor’s truth”? Is there any way this could come off tolerable?
But the solution isn’t to remove men from the script. It’s to ask that they embody different characters: people who can pose respectful, probing questions, rather than bullies intent on shaming and demeaning the witness.
This would be a fine solution, but for a few of the inherent baked-in vagaries. Respectful? Bullies? “Shaming and demeaning”? None of these words provide any meaningful guidance. Each reflects the feelz perspective, as one person’s “respectful” is another’s “bullying.” But more to the point, you can’t demand the “search for the truth” while simultaneously demanding that “but only with questions that conform with my feelz so they aren’t too, you know, uncomfortable.”
Even if Bazelon had gone the next step, offered some examples of questions that met her personal standard of “respectful” but not “bullying,” would they become the standard for all people, for all women? Just because it aligns with Bazelon’s feelz doesn’t mean it’s good enough for the most delicate woman in America. That’s a problem. Bazelon either fails to recognize it, or prefers to ignore it. Maybe she hopes you won’t notice.
But there remains a second issue, entirely aside from the optics problem: senators excel at sucking the air out of a room when bloviating at great length, but they suck at asking well-framed incisive questions. This isn’t a partisan problem: they all suck at it. It’s not part of the politicians’ skillset. It should be part of the prosecutor’s skillset, but as conclusively proven by Kamala Harris, that ain’t necessarily so.
For the sake of that portion of the populace that’s not bound by their passionate emotions of love or hate, who might actually want to hear something beyond confirmation of their bias, a skilled examiner would be the best bet to gain some serious insight, including meaningful scrutiny, into the merits of Ford’s accusations. We want to hear what Ford has to say, but by solid and incisive questions. Is that cowardly?
Which brings me to my final point. Cowardice.
Republican senators have no problem trying Dr. Blasey in the court of public opinion.
This is disingenuous on every level. If Ford wanted to prosecute Kavanaugh, she should have done so. If she wanted her testimony to be heard in private, Grassley offered her the opportunity. She wants to testify in public at a confirmation hearing. She can do so.
Come on, gentlemen. Man up.