We Americans have all been “treated” to an unprecedented spectacle this past week during the extended confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s presidential nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States.
I should start from the premise that, after years of getting to know personally and reading about numerous victims of sexual abuse, I tend to be much more sympathetic to victims than to their alleged victimizers. Abusers and predators tend to be people who show one face in public and quite another in private. Serial killer and serial rapist Ted Bundy, for instance, was considered by many to be not only handsome, but also highly charismatic. And these were traits that he exploited to win the trust of his victims—at least a dozen of whom he decapitated, many both before and after sexually desecrating their bodies.
Abusers are often regarded as model citizens. And their defense almost always seeks to make the victim seem vindictive, confused, promiscuous, deranged or all four. Predators seek to turn the tables and convert themselves into the victims, saying they’ve been falsely accused and have no idea why their alleged victims are trying to ruin their lives.
The guilty verdict handed down in the case of “America’s Dad”, famed and once beloved actor and comedian Bill Cosby, right at the height of the Kavanaugh hearing, is a case in point. And for many it was a huge “holy crap” moment as they realized that there was enough evidence to convict this iconic figure of drugging and raping at least one victim (although another several dozen women—five of whom testified during Cosby’s retrial—made similar claims that weren’t admissible because the statute of limitations had passed). Andrea Constand, who Cosby mentored and then groomed in 2004, before drugging and raping her, said that she had come forward because she considered it her “civic duty” to end Cosby’s reign as a serial rapist.
That said, before I knew any of the details of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault that allegedly occurred over three decades ago, I’m embarrassed to say that my first assumption was that it was a set-up. I immediately assumed that it was, pure and simple, part of a concerted political strategy to keep Kavanaugh from being confirmed by the Senate as a Supreme Court justice.
Since then, however, Dr. Ford has managed to change my mind. After seeing what she has put herself through—death threats, having to move from her home, having to go before an obviously hostile and utterly skeptical Senate committee to testify on the intimate details of the alleged assault, and having to expose to the general public both her family and a traumatic experience that she has sought to repress from early adolescence to the present day—I can now only assume that Dr. Ford felt, like Andrea Constand, that it was her civic duty to denounce what happened to her all those years ago, before the alleged perpetrator was appointed for life to a Supreme Court where his influence on women’s rights and women’s issues will likely be major for a generation to come.
|Dr. Christine Blasey Ford|
There were other reasons that convinced me of Dr. Ford’s sincerity: The fact that she willingly submitted to (and passed) a polygraph test, and that she not only said she would submit to, but demanded an FBI investigation into her allegations ranked high among them.
It is important to recall that all we have up to now are the conflicting testimonies of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh before the Senate Confirmation Committee, which finally deigned to hear testimony from the two this past week—though not from other women who have come forward with similar stories that might well corroborate what Ford told them. It seems clear that the idea of leading Republicans was to merely provide Dr. Ford with a soapbox from which to make her accusation (tossing a bone to the #metoo movement in the process), then to politely thank her for her visit and move on, post-haste, to the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. But so compelling was Ford’s testimony, and so underwhelming Kavanaugh’s performance, that the committee finally had to heed the eleventh-hour change of heart by swing-vote Republican Jeff Flake, who said he wanted an FBI probe before he cast his vote.
Even though a week-long limit has been placed on that probe to see if corroborating evidence can be turned up to back either Ford or Kavanaugh’s stories, it is at least something more akin to due process than the sham that would have had Christine Blasey Ford testifying one day and Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed for the Supreme Court appointment the next. While, as I say, nothing has yet been proven with regard to the testimony of either witness, Dr. Ford did a lot better job of making her story believable than did Judge Kavanaugh—a highly experienced jurist who came off to many looking like an hysterical amateur with little idea of how to defend himself without coming completely unglued.
|Judge Brett Kavanaugh|
In this regard, much has been made of the rage that Kavanaugh must surely have been feeling because of how he was being “victimized” and his reputation left in tatters as a result of Dr. Ford’s accusation. But it should surely be taken into account that Ford is being victimized and accused every bit as much as Kavanaugh is. She's being accused of being a liar and a Democratic shill, for which, it might be added, there is absolutely no evidence. The great difference, as I see it, is that she took a lie detector test and called for the FBI to investigate (clearly nothing to hide), while Kavanaugh (who, as a federal judge, should believe in due process, especially if he's going to sit on the Supreme Court) has been dragged kicking and screaming to an investigation, has refused to submit to a polygraph, and has shown a comportment unbecoming of a Supreme Court justice in questioning before the Senate committee.
During the questioning by Democratic senators, he was often hostile, rude and uncooperative. And he voiced personal conspiracy theories, blaming Democrats and “the Clintons” for what he called “a hit job” to keep him off the Court. Many of his outrageously hostile and inappropriate statements during testimony seemed to many reminiscent of the vitriolic tweeting style of President Donald Trump, and hardly the cool, level-headed, professional response that most of us would have expected from a federal judge, let alone a candidate for the Supreme Court.
No matter what the practical outcome of the testimonies and subsequent brief investigation might be, I feel that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has done a service to the nation by demonstrating a side of Brett Kavanaugh’s personality that the rest of us surely never would have seen within the context of a majority “good ol’ boys” confirmation process in which the judge would have been a Republican shoo-in.
Instead, we have gotten to observe a Brett Kavanaugh who, when cornered, immediately cracks and demonstrates his virulently anti-Democratic, violently anti-liberal and inappropriately biased leanings—something that hardly speaks well of his qualifications for the life-time appointment that he is seeking.
In the end, Judge Kavanaugh would surely have been well-advised to remain “sober as a judge” during the questioning, and to have submitted to whatever process was necessary to corroborate his innocence, instead of giving vent to his uncontrolled rage, no matter how incensed he might have been at having his place of privilege questioned by “a mere woman.”