September 17, 2018 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Not Just a Men’s Club
Amid new and credible allegations, confirming Brett Kavanaugh would now send a clear anti-women message before the midterms.
As I write this, Brett Kavanaugh is on his way to the White House. That’s a bad omen for the appeals court judge. It could mean the president has changed his mind about nominating him to the US Supreme Court (though given that Donald Trump is Donald Trump, that seems unlikely). What happened? On Sunday, a psychology professor by the name of Christine Blasey Ford came out publicly as the author of a letter accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teens in the 1980s.
Specifically, Ford alleged that Kavanaugh and another boy, both drunk, pulled her into a bedroom during a house party. Kavanaugh appears to have attempted rape. He tried to pull off her clothes. He covered her mouth when she screamed. The other boy, Mark Judge, jumped on them, sending them all to the floor. Ford escaped, locked herself in the bathroom, and finally fled the house. Her story is corroborated by notes taken in 2012 by Ford’s therapist. The Washington Post confirmed the notes.
The United States Senate has been here before. As you know, law professor Anita Hill, in the 11th hour before Clarence Thomas was confirmed in 1991, accused the future justice of sexual harassment. Back then, Thomas cast himself as the victim of the “old order,” but instead of being “hung from a tree,” he was “lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the US Senate.” Things are very different now.
Aside from the fact that Kavanaugh isn’t black, he’s up for confirmation in the middle of this great period of purging, in which 219 mostly white men in positions of social and political power are being held to account, at long last, for their crimes. Kavanaugh can, and has, said he didn’t do any of the things he’s accused on doing. That might be enough to quiet the nerves of Senate Republicans eager to confirm him. Meanwhile, all 10 Democrats on the judiciary committee have called for a delay on the vote Thursday. Three Republicans agree. And now, Kavanaugh is on his way to visit Donald Trump.
If Trump pulls his nomination, it will be a rare instance in which this unwise president did something prudent. But this president has responded to this present #MeToo moment about as well as you’d expect him to. My gut tells me he will do what he’s done with previous white men, himself included, who have been accused of sexual crimes. He’ll say, more or less, “I asked him if he did it. He said no. That’s good enough for me—on with the confirmation process.” If he’s smart (which is a debatable point), Trump will cut Kavanaugh off, present his administration as friendly to the demands of women around the country, tap someone else equally conservative, safe in the knowledge that he’ll rule in ways favorable to the Republican Party’s agenda.
If the Republicans stick with the schedule, they risk deepening a feeling I have been writing about lately—the desire for political revenge. As I wrote last week, it isn’t all that surprising, when all is said and done, that thousands of women (most women of color) are running for offices high and low. On Friday, I wrote: “They saw what happened to the most competent presidential candidate in modern memory and said to themselves: that’s wrong, that so wrong that I’m going to do something about it.”
Put another way, many women already fear, with good reason, that Kavanaugh’s nomination will spark a wave of state laws banning abortion, laws that will wind up in front of the Supreme Court, laws that the court will most likely uphold.
But that was before these credible claims.
It’s one thing for the GOP to go all-in for man who will strike down a precedent protecting a women’s right to privacy. It’s another for the GOP to go all-in for a man who will strike down Roe while having gotten away, scot-free, with a sexual crime.
That’s like telling the country that the GOP is not only a men’s club.
It’s anti-women, too.
There is a species of argument out there that goes something like this:
The weaponizing of allegations for political reasons was perfected by Republican Newt Gingrich. He coined the phrase “politics of personal destruction.” His first victim was Jim Wright. Gingrich led the call for an investigation into his alleged corruption. With Wright destroyed, Gingrich took the speakership in 1994.
Allegations against Kavanaugh are at least credible. But credible allegations weren’t necessary for Kavanaugh to investigate any kooky conspiracy theory against Bill Clinton. As a key aide to Special Investigator Ken Starr, Kavanaugh used any crazed notion he heard on conservative talk radio to justify months of investigation into the suicide-death of former Clinton aide Vincent Foster.
It’s things like this that make me wonder why anyone takes any of these right-wing mooks as serious political thinkers. So Democrats would do the same thing as Republicans, right? Sure, except that the Democrats got rid of US Sen. Al Franken within a weak of hearing allegations of his sexual misconduct.
Finally, people like Erickson and others worry out loud that if things done as a teenagers can bring down men seeking high office later in life, what will become of us? To which I say: Ha! Bring. It. On. Not only do I see nothing wrong with formerly distinguished careers ending after everyone sees crimes committed as teenagers; I think of such revelations as being categorically beneficial to society. If justice did not prevail then, it can prevail in other ways now. Thank God.
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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.