AP NEWS

‘Teaching moment,’ but was lesson learned

October 7, 2018

Teaching moment?

“You have given America an amazing teaching moment ...” Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Greenwich resident, offered in praising Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for her courage during the Sept. 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at which she recounted her experience as a 15-year-old sexual assault victim.

The accused, “stumbling drunk” at the time, was 17-year-old Brett M. Kavanaugh, now 53, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit nominated by President Donald Trump for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lesson learned?

“You have inspired and ... enlightened ... and given courage to women to come forward ...” said Blumenthal. “And you have enlightened men ... to listen respectfully to women survivors, and men who have survived sexual attack, and that is a profound public service, regardless of what happens with this nomination.”

Regardless?

Almost all who listened to Dr. Ford — millions upon millions watching in real time — were impressed by her courage, credibility, pain, and pureness of motive in coming forward to serve the public good. The personal risk she took was enormous in making public this private story she’d kept secret for decades,

Inspiring victims of sexual assault, she enlightened everyone about the fear, shame, and self-blame that cause victims to suffer in silence. As we listened, we also gained insight into the complicated nature of memory. What Ford didn’t remember added credibility to the vivid recollections she did have.

And she did remember with certainty that Kavanaugh had assaulted her. How sure was she about this?

“One hundred percent,” she replied.

But ...

“I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time, but I have never done this to her or to anyone ...”

In his opening diatribe before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh was bellicose. He angrily berated the Democratic committee members.

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election,” he asserted, his demeanor belligerent, voice raised, face twisted. “Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

Regardless of political persuasion, many were in shock, horrified to think someone of such injudicious temperament might serve on the Supreme Court. But partisan supporters swiftly redefined Kavanaugh’s tirade as the righteous indignation of a man wrongly accused. It was as Sen. Orrin Hatch had already concluded days before the hearing: the man is believable and the woman “mixed up.”

Blumenthal, already opposing Kavanaugh for his views and judicial philosophy, expressed concern now about his ability to be an impartial and objective justice.

“His views still are disqualifying for me,” Blumenthal said. “But his character and fitness ought to be a reason for everyone to vote no.”

Teaching moment? Lesson learned? Regardless?

Ford’s most vivid memory: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter ... at my expense.”

This week, at a Mississippi campaign rally, Trump cruelly reopened that wound, mocking her before a jeering crowd.

And Sen. Mitch McConnell prepared to ram through the nomination regardless. Republicans would confirm Kavanaugh regardless of his obvious dissembling and injudicious demeanor, regardless of Ford’s testimony, regardless of the questions raised and unanswered. There was no need to uncover the truth through further FBI investigation until Sen. Jeff Flake had a temporary crisis of conscience.

A severely circumscribed FBI investigation — handcuffed by the White House — produced a report early Thursday, and Friday morning the Senate voted 51-49 to proceed to a final vote. What lesson would be learned from Dr. Ford’s teaching moment? Friday morning, there was still hope it would be a positive message. But by Friday afternoon, with Kavanaugh’s confirmation a done deal, the lesson was clear: raw power had prevailed over justice, and a male dominated power structure continues to slap down the woman who confronts it.

Regardless, Blumenthal’s statement to Ford’s two sons will always be true.

“You should be proud of your mom. She is a profile in courage and her name will be in the history books long after ours are gone.”

Alma Rutgers served in Greenwich town government for 25 years. Her blog is at blog.ctnews.com/rutgers/

AP RADIO
Update hourly