I was pretty set against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination from the start. He was part of the right-wing hit brigade in the days of the Clinton impeachment – chasing Vince Foster murder conspiracy theories, leaking Ken Starr investigative matters to the press, and fixated on maximizing the focus on the most salacious details of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. Wrote Kavanaugh about Clinton, “It may not be our job to impose sanctions on him, but it is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear — piece by painful piece.” He then went on to suggest that Starr ask questions about, among other things, where Bill Clinton may have ejaculated when Clinton and Lewinsky were having sex. This didn’t have anything to do with the legal issues in question, Kavanaugh just wanted it to be painful for Clinton. I’ve said before that I think Gingrich and his group of partisans have been damaging to this country. Kavanaugh is from that group. If conservative judges are your thing, I think there are plenty of them without this level of baggage.
But, I think after today’s hearings with Professor Christine Blasey Ford, the opposition has deepened into something altogether stronger. This is true for me to some extent. Her testimony was credible while his demeanor was altogether unsuitable for a judge — particularly one with a lifetime appointment to the most powerful court in the world. He indulged his anger and mused about a Clinton-revenge conspiracy. This was, at the end of the day, a job interview.
But my thinking is a little abstract when I compare it to the women I know. Their reaction to these hearings has been visceral. (And, no, I’m not implying women are more emotional — Ford had much better control over her emotions than Kavanaugh. It’s just that today’s events hit more women where they live.) Ford’s testimony squares completely with a level of abuse that is pervasive and mostly invisible to a lot of men, including myself. Their reaction to Professor Ford was raw. I can’t speak for them, but I got the sense that, as she testified, they re-lived the gropes, the catcalls, the rapes, the attempted rapes, the coerced sex, the men laughing at their discomfort, the times they were told to smile, the times they were judged for what they were wearing, and on and on and on.
Then, in contrast to the very credible testimony from Professor Ford, a person who seemed like she was kind, honest, and trying to do the right thing; there were angry denials and claims of conspiracy. There was a resolute refusal to probe further. The absence of Mark Judge — a man who was allegedly in the room when Ford says that Kavanaugh forced himself on her and covered her mouth as she attempted to scream — spoke loudly about the Committee’s interest in fact-finding. The Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoena power. The committee could easily have compelled Judge’s testimony. They are evidently afraid of the clarity Judge’s testimony could bring.
Judging from what I’ve seen among many women I know, the familiarity of the sexual assault described by Professor Ford, Kavanaugh’s attempt to avoid consequences by deploying anger, and the Committee’s determination to look the other way in the face of Ford’s allegation will, I think, turn mere political disagreement into implacable opposition on the part of those women.
I have in my drafts, a post I never finished entitled “Donnelly’s dilemma.” At the time of the nomination, I thought he’d have a difficult decision to make. As a Democratic Senator in a conservative state, what to do with a Republican Supreme Court nominee can be a difficult balancing act. I think it’s easy now. Given how the Ford hearings played out, Sen. Donnelly might lose if he votes against Kavanaugh. However, I think he certainly will lose if he votes for Kavanaugh. Most Democrats will forgive a lot to keep a Senate seat, but not that.