Who to believe?
The sexual assault allegations leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are yet another stunning shock to an administration that is already shell-shocked from revelations in the last 10 days: Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear” which details an out-of-control president; an anonymous insider who confirms an out-of-control president; and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s unexpected “flip” to now cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The allegations against Kavanaugh began with a letter five days ago and the succeeding days now play out like a chapter drama.
Chapter I –
“A secretive letter,” The New York Times writes (Sept. 14), “shared with senators and federal investigators by the senior Democrat [Sen. Dianne Feinstein] on the Senate Judiciary Committee charges that a teenage Brett M. Kavanaugh and a male friend trapped a teenage girl in a bedroom during a party and tried to assault her, according to three people familiar with the contents of the letter.
“The letter says that Mr. Kavanaugh, then a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Washington and now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, had been drinking at a social gathering when he and the male friend took the teenage girl into a bedroom. The door was locked, and she was thrown onto the bed. Mr. Kavanaugh then got on top of the teenager and put a hand over her mouth, as the music was turned up, according to the account.”
While the young woman said she was able to remove herself from the house before anything else happened, she said that she considered the incident an assault. However, she declined to publicly identify herself and asked Sen. Feinstein not to publicize the letter.
Things in Washington don’t remain private for long, and when news spread of the incident, Kavanaugh responded immediately:
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”
Chapter II –
On Monday, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the former anonymous high school student who alleges that Kavanaugh attacked her, said, through her attorney, that she would be willing to testify before Congress regarding the assault allegations. Further, her attorney says she passed a polygraph and shared details of the incident in couples therapy in 2012.
Kavanaugh’s response: “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone, because this never happened… I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”
Chapter III –
Republican Senators have called for showdown (accent on the “show”), in a hearing room next Monday. Judge Kavanaugh says he’s ready. Dr. Blasey has yet to confirm her appearance.
Anita Hill, the last woman to testify against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas offered some salient advice to the Judiciary Committee.
“Select a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases that will investigate the incident in question and present its findings to the committee. Outcomes in such investigations are more reliable and less likely to be perceived as tainted by partisanship. Senators must then rely on the investigators’ conclusions, along with advice from experts, to frame the questions they ask Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey. Again, the senators’ fact-finding roles must guide their behavior. The investigators’ report should frame the hearing, not politics or myths about sexual assault.”
However, in these ultra-partisan times, can we expect anything like “A fair, neutral and well-thought-out course”? And when will Dr. Blasey respond to an offer to appear before the Senate Judiciary?
Chapter IV –
The answer came last night.
Dr. Blasey, “Speaking through her lawyers,” The Times reports (Sept. 18), did not explicitly rule out appearing Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify along with Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. … she said that an investigation should be ‘the first step’ before she is put ‘on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.’ ”
“…one of the lawyers, Lisa J. Banks,” The Times says, “seemed to suggest that Dr. Blasey would not show up.
“ ‘She’s not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday,’ Ms. Banks said. Even if Republicans agreed to an F.B.I. investigation, it would take time to complete, she added. ‘No legitimate investigation is going to happen between now and Monday.’ ”
“ ‘If she does not come on Monday, we are going to move on and vote on Wednesday,’ Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the committee, told Fox News on Tuesday evening.”
In an earlier draft of this commentary, before news that Dr. Blasey would only appear after an investigation, I wrote, “absent any other witnesses, Dr. Blasey has everything to lose and nothing to gain from testifying in what would essentially be a ‘he said/she said’ debate.”
What happens in Chapters V, VI and VII?
There are just too many variables, too much partisan fervor and not enough investigative facts to speculate.
One thing I believe is certain: women are no longer willing to sit still for accusations like those of Dr. Blasey’s, accept 15-minutes of humiliation and media coverage with no investigation and no consequences. Add to that an intractable Senate which has not created adequate protocols to deal with the issue since Anita Hill’s testimony twenty-one years ago.