The current imbroglio brought on by Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation of sexual assault by Judge Kavanaugh during his high school days has shaken Republican plans for a quick confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice before the mid-term elections. Setting up an artificial and unworkable timeline for Dr. Blasey Ford to give testimony before the committee is both insensitive and unwise.
The echoes of Anita Hill are striking and as I watched the videotape of the hearings, I was struck again how demeaning her questioning was. The inquisitors were all men. Professor Hill was asked to repeat multiple times (“for the record”) the embarrassing moments of Clarence Thomas’s vulgar and sexualized exchanges with her. Today, despite the lessons of the #MeToo movement, the addition of scores of female legislators and a new vigor among women voters and office-seekers, we seem to have learned little. Some of the same Senators that participated in the 1991 hearings are still on the committee. Sen. Orrin Hatch has gone so far as to say that Dr. Blasey Ford must be “mistaken.” Others are accusing her of seeking publicity or timing the release of her accusation for political ends. No one has leapt to her defense.
This reveals how little the men on the Judiciary Committee—and maybe men in general—understand about what was at stake in Dr. Blasey Ford’s going public with her story. In addition to the profound trauma reliving this incident evokes, she has been castigated on social media, threatened in person. Her family has moved out of their home for their own protection. She is forced to replay the incident for inquiring reporters and curiosity seekers. Her life is forever changed.
Men need to listen to women who come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct, malfeasance and assault. Men must honor the story-tellers and seek the truth, no matter which “magnificent man” may be implicated. And then, as a society, we must insist upon appropriate redress.
There is only one course of action that can lead us out of our current entanglement and Republicans should lead the charge in advocating for it: The vote on Judge Kavanaugh should be delayed until an acceptable formula is worked out for testimony by both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford after a full, fair and respectful investigation. We must free this case from the hyper-partisanship that so infects us today. Only a thorough investigation has the potential to eliminate suspicion that the findings will be orchestrated by one side or the other.
Such an investigation takes time. A potential short-term loss for Republicans in the mid-term elections or the upcoming Supreme Court calendar calls for a speedy end to the process; but it is the long-term damage to the Republican Party, to the Supreme Court and to Judge Kavanaugh himself that should be most concerning. Let’s consider the two possibilities: First, Dr. Blasey Ford is telling the truth. Given the relentless nature of reporting, the pervasive power of social media, the appetite for scandal and conspiracy ripe in our country today, it is highly likely that evidence will turn up eventually. When this happens, Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility will forever suffer—as much for his repeated denials as for his original sins, committed decades ago. Imagine how the public will view any Supreme Court decisions as long as Judge Kavanaugh is on the bench.
Or, Judge Kavanaugh is telling the truth. Waiting for a full investigation may create some hardships—maybe even losses—for Republicans in the mid-terms, since it removes one of their strongest campaign points—President Trump’s selection of conservative Supreme Court Justices. But, dispelling lingering suspicion allows Judge Kavanaugh to assume a position on the bench without this cloud over his head. His integrity—whatever one thinks of his views—would be intact as would the integrity of the Court itself.
The loss of a few weeks, even in an election cycle, will pale in comparison to the generational gains that the Republican Party, the Supreme Court and the entire nation will make if an investigation is allowed to go forward and we are all able to hear both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford’s account of this incident.