Yves here. I am loath to have to discuss Kavanaugh at all, but this seems to be the controversy of the week and so readers no doubt want to talk about it.
I’m not at all keen about Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice, but I am uncomfortable with him being tried in the press. The evidence presented by the alleged victim, Professor Christine Blasey Ford, would not pass muster in court. She not only didn’t make any sort of official complaint at the time, but she has no contemporaneous witnesses. All she has is therapist’s notes, and those were made years after the incident. The other man who was depicted as being there with Kavanaugh says nothing of the kind happened.
Unfortunately, passing a lie detector test is not dispositive even before you get to issues about the accuracy of the test (70% to 90% even expert claims re accuracy vary greatly). What it establishes at best is that the person believes their statements.
By contrast, Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct was far worse than the allegations made against Kavanaugh, and there was much vastly stronger corroborating evidence, ranging from multiple contemporaneous witnesses (and a lacerated lip) in the Juanita Brodderick rape accusations. And that’s before getting to the fact that Kavanaugh was a juvenile when the misconduct occurred, and juveniles are generally cut more slack than adults because they are seein as not having a mature level of judgment.
Now there is what I think is a better argument, from Current Affairs:
….Kavanaugh has denied that he did it. That means that the truth or falsity of Ford’s allegation is not just important for assessing what Kavanaugh did in high school. It’s important for assessing what he is doing right now. If Ford’s allegation is true, then Kavanaugh has lied to the public. He didn’t just assault a woman in the 1980s, but he is gaslighting a woman in 2018 and trying to mislead the public and the United States Senate about a crime he committed.
However, unless some new evidence either way surfaces, we still have the original problem: The evidence presented by Ford would not pass muster in court. How do you resolve the “he said, she said” problem?1
Having said all that, when you throw this into the mix, as UserFriendly says, Kavanaugh is probably toast:
Damaging to Kavanaugh.
His alleged accomplice and character witness, Mark Judge, wrote the following in a review.
See for yourself how Judge describes “the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion,” how “every man who’s fit to live has his own stories about the time.” pic.twitter.com/vEVqHs0iec
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) September 16, 2018
By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny
“Frat fun” or rape culture in action? Signs on a frat-connected house near Old Dominion University in Virginia (source)
This is Brett Kavanaugh’s #MeToo moment. An accusation of attempted rape (a crime) against Brett Kavanaugh has been lodged against him.
Initially the accusation came via a letter given in July — at separate times and under request of confidentiality — to the Washington Post, to House Rep. Anna Eshoo, and to Senate Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein.
Senator Feinstein, as a member of the Judiciary Committee sitting in hearings on Kavanaugh, was the only person in position to act. Here’s what she did (or failed to do):
- For two months, failed to reveal the existence (not the contents, just the existence) of the letter to fellow Democrats
- Then, when its existence was leaked to the public, refused to reveal its contents to fellow Democrats
- Finally, after coming under fire for withholding the letter, sent the letter only to the FBI, who will not investigate further
End of matter, or so Ms. Feinstein thought.
The woman who wrote the accusatory letter has now come forward to tell her story in her own voice and for attribution. It’s quite an explosive tale, and the bomb it contains threatens not just Kavanaugh and committee Republicans, but Democrats as well. Parallels to Democrats’ handling of Anita Hill and her accusations against Clarence Thomas are obvious and striking.
First the accusation. Part of it is contained in a New Yorker piece by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, which maintained the woman’s anonymity (at her request). The full story comes from this piece in the Washington Post (my emphasis throughout):
Earlier this summer, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a confidential letter to a senior Democratic lawmaker alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than three decades ago, when they were high school students in suburban Maryland. Since Wednesday, she has watched as that bare-bones version of her story became public without her name or her consent, drawing a blanket denial from Kavanaugh and roiling a nomination that just days ago seemed all but certain to succeed.
Now, Ford has decided that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.
Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.
While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.
A timeline of events:
Christine Ford is a professor at Palo Alto University who teaches in a consortium with Stanford University, training graduate students in clinical psychology. Her work has been widely published in academic journals.
She contacted The Post through a tip line in early July, when it had become clear that Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of possible nominees to replace retiring justice Anthony M. Kennedy but before Trump announced his name publicly. A registered Democrat who has made small contributions to political organizations, she contacted her congresswoman, Democrat Anna G. Eshoo, around the same time. In late July, she sent a letter via Eshoo’s office to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
In the letter, which was read to The Post, Ford described the incident and said she expected her story to be kept confidential.
According to the Post, Ms. Blasey took and passed a polygraph test in August: “The results, which Katz provided to The Post, concluded that Ford was being truthful when she [that] said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.”
There’s more in the Post account, which should be read in full.
This new information raises a number of questions.
About Kavanaugh, Mark Judge and Christine Blasey Ford:
1. Did Brett Kavanaugh commit the crime of which he’s accused while attending an elite academy, Georgetown Preparatory School, in the Washington D.C area?
2. If he did, does that disqualify him for a seat on the Supreme Court?
3. Will any further investigation, by anyone, take place?
4. Both Kavanaugh and Judge have denied the incident happened at all — i.e, that this isn’t a he-said, she-said story, but a complete fabrication. Will Kavanaugh and Judge stick to their denials if other corroboration emerges?
5. Mark Judge has written a book about his life as a teenage alcoholic (Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk). This plays into a narrative that “something may have happened but we don’t know what” — not a narrative of “she’s flat out lying.” In addition, The Post says this about Kavanaugh:
In his senior-class yearbook entry at Georgetown Prep, Kavanaugh made several references to drinking, claiming membership to the “Beach Week Ralph Club” and “Keg City Club.” He and Judge are pictured together at the beach in a photo in the yearbook.
And later in the article, notes that:
[In his book] Judge … described his own blackout drinking and a culture of partying among students at his high school, renamed in the book “Loyola Prep.” Kavanaugh is not mentioned in the book, but a passage about partying at the beach one summer makes glancing reference to a “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” who “puked in someone’s car the other night” and “passed out on his way back from a party.”
In Ms. Ford’s telling, both men were “stumbling drunk.” Will the optics of heavy drinking undermine all the denials?
6. Is there something we don’t know about Kavanaugh’s current drinking?
7. Judge has since implied that this could have been an incident of “rough-housing“: “I can recall a lot of rough-housing with guys. It was an all-boys school, we would rough-house with each other … I don’t remember any of that stuff going on with girls.” Is his story starting to drift?
8. The accuser has taken and passed a lie detector test. Will Kavanaugh submit to a lie detector test? Will Mark Judge? How will the public respond if both refuse?
9. Will Christine Blasey Ford, the accuser, hold up under the pressure of a story this explosive, with the stakes this high?
About the politics:
1. Republicans called this a “late hit” and a “last ditch smear.” (If you google “Kavanaugh late hit” you’ll find the phrase everywhere on the right, suggesting coordination.) How else will they respond?
2. Will Republicans attack Ms. Blasey Ford’s character as they did Anita Hill’s? Through an operative (David Brock) they accused Anita Hill of being “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” How will they attack Ms. Blasey?
After the Thomas hearings concluded, it emerged that Senator Joe Biden, who was the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the time, had failed to call three additional women to the witness stand who had been willing to offer testimony confirming Hill’s complaints about Thomas’s inappropriate behavior toward women. Last December, Biden, who may run for President in 2020, publicly apologized for failing Hill, saying, “I wish I had been able to do more.”
Edit Biden’s quote to read “I wish I had decided to do more” and the statement fits the facts. Democrats made a calculation that put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. Only their own cowardice, self-interest, or complicity prevented them from calling the corroborating witnesses they had available.
4. Will Democrats take maximum tactical advantage of this new information, or will they continue to go through the motions, treating this confirmation fight as hopeless while making strong speeches?
5. Will any Republican men stand up for Blasey Ford?
About Dianne Feinstein:
1. What were Dianne Feinstein’s motives in keeping other committee Democrats in the dark about this letter?
Sources who worked for other members of the Judiciary Committee said that they respected the need to protect the woman’s privacy, but that they didn’t understand why Feinstein had resisted answering legitimate questions about the allegation. “We couldn’t understand what their rationale is for not briefing members on this. This is all very weird,” one of the congressional sources said. Another added, “She’s had the letter since late July. And we all just found out about it.”
Feinstein had the letter since July, yet confirmed its existence only in September, when the story leaked. She was clearly trying to control the way the rest of the committee handled the nomination: “Feinstein also acted out of a sense that Democrats would be better off focussing on legal, rather than personal, issues in their questioning of Kavanaugh.”
Was she trying to help Kavanaugh deliberately or just inadvertently?
2. Will Dianne Feinstein, up for re-election in 2018, pay a price with voters, especially with women voters, for her apparent sabotage of Democratic efforts to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation?
3. Will Dianne Feinstein pay a price with Senate women for her part in what looks like a #MeToo cover-up? Al Franken, let’s not forget, was driven from the Senate by Kirstin Gillibrand and others based on a #MeToo accusation and prior to any investigation.
4. If not, why not?
About Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski:
1. Will this revelation affect the Kavanaugh confirmation votes of senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski?
2. Or will Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly and Doug Jones make it easy for them both by voting yes to confirm, allowing Collins and Murkowski to vote no “on principle”?
3. Will Maine voters give Susan Collins another term in the Senate anyway? After all, she’s been silent on Kavanaugh since the nomination was announced and the threat to Roe v. Wade became apparent.
Finally, next steps and the future:
1. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh on Thursday, September 20. Will Republicans accelerate the schedule in order to fast-track the confirmation?
2. If Democrats are ineffective in handling this story — if they look like they’re just “going through the motions” — will it affect the anticipated blue wave of 2018? Will Democrats continue to be seen as heroes of the anti-Trump resistance, or will enough voters give up on them to reduce the wave to a large and interesting ripple?
3. Will Republicans pay a price in 2018 with Republican women if this story evolves badly for them?
4. At what point will the illegitimacy of the Supreme Court rend the fabric, the American social contract, beyond repair?
Much to consider. Much to watch.
And if this plays out as it looks like it might, much to respond to when the dust has settled and the bipartisan deed has been done.
1 I have trouble with the current vogue for, “The woman must be believed.” I hardly get around all that much, yet I personally know of three cases where women made false sexual abuse/harassment claims against men. Absolutes on a topic this fraught are unwise.