The sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh: Editorial Board Roundtable

September 20, 2018

The sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh: Editorial Board Roundtable

It’s uncertain whether there will be a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday on research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations that, in the early 1980s when they were both teenagers, a drunken Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in the bedroom of a Maryland home during a party.

After GOP committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley postponed a vote on Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination and scheduled the hearing, Ford through her lawyer has said she wants an FBI investigation first of her accusation that Kavanaugh tried to tear her clothes and bathing suit off and held his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t call out, and that she escaped only after Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep friend Mark Judge leapt on top of the two of them, unbalancing all three. Grassley has set a 10 a.m. Friday deadline for her to provide documents preparatory to Monday testimony.

Kavanaugh said the incident didn’t happen. Judge says he has no recollection of it, but Ford, who initially provided her accusation confidentially to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said she first disclosed the matter in 2012 during therapy.  She came forward to reveal herself as the accuser after word of the accusations leaked out, and since then her lawyer says she has been targeted by so many threats, she’s been forced to move out of her home.

To many, the accusations have a familiar feel, 27 years after Anita Hill swept into the national consciousness with her sexual harassment accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed anyway. Her harsh questioning by a then all-male Judiciary Committee led, many people believe, to what some call the Year of the Woman, as women were swept into the Senate in November 1992 elections. Among them was Dianne Feinstein.

Is this a political foul, a last-minute attempt to derail Kavanaugh by raising he-said, she-said accusations that are more than three decades old? Or is it revealing about Kavanaugh and his credibility and integrity? Is Kavanaugh likely to be confirmed regardless? Or does the Judiciary Committee have an obligation to investigate Ford’s accusations fully before voting on Kavanaugh?

The editorial board roundtable offers some thoughts and we welcome reader reactions in the comments.

Ted Diadiun, editorial board member:

Dredging up an unprovable allegation from Kavanaugh’s high school years is despicable political mudslinging and character assassination of the worst sort. Worse than Robert Bork; worse than Clarence Thomas. The Democrats have known about this allegation since July. If they were sincerely after the truth, they would have released it far earlier. Instead they waited until it could do the most damage ... when just one GOP senator who failed to resist the pressure could torpedo this nomination. What’s next? They will “find” somebody who was peering in the window?  If the Senate allows this tactic to work, it will be a stain on the body forever.

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

Messrs. Grassley et al. had to be pushed into it, but they’re doing the right thing by offering to hear Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh in public, assuming that happens, given Dr. Ford’s quest to have the FBI investigate her statements before she testifies. Meanwhile, this is certain: By stepping forward, Dr. Ford changed her life forever. And that required enormous courage.

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

Well, one of them is lying. I’m willing to bet that it’s not Christine Ford, who has been talking to her therapist about the alleged incident for the last six years and reluctantly revealed her identity after being outed, knowing that she will be savaged in the court of public opinion. In their haste to ram his confirmation through before the election, did Kavanaugh’s GOP supporters simply overlook this, or did they know and hoped to contain it? Why did the Democrats sit on Ford’s letter for two months and force her into the open now? There are no good answers, but it brings up critical questions about Kavanaugh that must be answered before the confirmation vote. 

Victor Ruiz, editorial board member:

Another shameful situation added to a long list of atrocities by members of President Donald Trump’s circle.  While I don’t believe that this will derail the Kavanaugh nomination, it is certainly a test of the Grand Old Party’s values and consciousness. Brett Kavanaugh is responsible for his actions; however, it’s up to the Republican members of Congress to stand against immoral and illegal behavior. My question is, how does the Republican Party of today want to be remembered in the future? 

Mary Cay Doherty, editorial board member:

Dr. Ford has a right to tell her story, and Judge Kavanaugh has a right to defend himself. A Senate Judiciary hearing accomplishes both. The FBI completed Kavanaugh’s background check, and absent a federal crime, has no reason to investigate the allegations. And shame on Sen. Feinstein; her flagrant disregard for Senate procedures and for constitutional processes that protect the rights of the victim and the accused is inexcusable.

Eric Foster, editorial board member:

It’s undeniable that the #MeToo movement has had an effect on how society views and deals with sexual harassment.  However, as far as some might argue we have come, this Kavanaugh confirmation is proceeding almost exactly like Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation in 1991. This does not appear to be a quest for the truth, but a quest for a win.

Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, cleveland.com: 

Sadly, this is just another case of posturing by senators whose views on Kavanaugh long ago were locked in stone. It’s depressingly likely that on the GOP side, many senators want to appear interested in hearing Ford’s story just to avoid an electoral backlash, and that many Democrats are reaching just as shamelessly for any stall available to them. The facts don’t matter. But if it’s Kavanaugh who’s lying, and he’s confirmed anyway, it will be another body blow to the Constitution and its protections.

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