Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Professor Christine Blasey Ford, who has said Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her when both were in high school, spent hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. After their testimony, both were met with questions, rants and showboating from members of the committee.
So, what did we learn from the lengthy hearing?
Ford is a courageous woman. She overcame the threats that forced her family to leave their home and hire security. She overcame her own terror. And then she sat for hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee sharing details and answering questions about an event that she said “drastically altered my life.”
Her courage inspired women who have long been silent about their own abuse to share their stories. Katherine Cassidy, a former state representative from Washington County, for example, for the first time told, via Facebook, of being assaulted at the age of 14 by a boy in a tree house while his friends watched, an experience that scarred her — literally and emotionally — for decades. Long after Thursday’s hearings America will be reconciling our treatment of survivors of sexual violence.
Kavanaugh is entitled, angry and highly partisan. In a long and defiant opening statement, Kavanaugh chronicled his conservative bona fides while decrying the smears against him that are “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
He drew clear lines between the women he values and respects — those in his rarified orbit, such as law clerks — and those he does not — including women like Ford, who he made clear went to an inferior high school and, therefore, wasn’t in his social circle.
He smugly asked Democratic senators about their drinking habits. He complained that his life has been destroyed, but if he is not confirmed to the Supreme Court he will remain a justice on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the country’s second highest court.
Kavanaugh was absolutely right to call his Senate confirmation process “a national disgrace,” but he wrongly placed all his blame on the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein may have mishandled Ford’s letter about Kavanaugh. Republicans, who withheld thousands of documents and rushed the confirmation process, including scheduling a Judiciary Committee vote less than 24 hours after Thursday’s hearing concluded, certainly share in that blame.
We also learned that some male senators are clueless. Asked if Ford was credible, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch responded that she was “attractive.” What, millions of American women (and plenty of men) wondered, did her appearance have to do with her credibility?
And, most important, we learned that a fuller investigation of Ford’s allegations and Kavanaugh’s denials is needed before senators make a decision on whether to install the judge on America’s highest court. The American Bar Association, which Kavanaugh touted for giving him its highest rating as qualified for the Supreme Court, has called for an FBI investigation before further Senate action. A national Jesuit organization that had endorsed Kavanaugh called for his nomination to be withdrawn.
In a quick analysis just after Ford testified before the committee, Washington Post reporter Philip Bump strung together pieces of evidence. Ford testified that she couldn’t remember precisely when the alleged assault happened but that she saw Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge at the Maryland Safeway where he worked about six to eight weeks later. Ford said Judge, who she has said was in the room egging on Kavanaugh during the alleged assault, turned white and looked ill when he saw her.
Using information from Judge’s book, “Wasted: Tales of A Gen X Drunk,” Bump confirmed that Judge worked at a local supermarket to earn money for football camp, which happened in late August 1982. The book also details lots of heavy drinking and partying, sometimes with a character named Bart O’Kavanaugh.
Working backwards, six to eight weeks would include July 1. On the calendar he provided to senators, Kavanaugh has this entry: “Go to Timmy’s for Skis w/ Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, Squi.”
Bump logically concludes that “skis” means “brewskis” or beer and notes that Ford again indicated on Thursday that Judge and “PJ,” short for Patrick Smyth, were at the gathering where she alleges she was assaulted.
If Bump can string together this information (which is not confirmation that the assault happened) in a matter of hours, imagine what trained investigators, from the FBI, could uncover that would corroborate either Kavanaugh’s or Ford’s narrative.
We may never know for certain what happened, but there are clearly more details that can — and should — be uncovered before Kavanaugh is either deemed a fine addition to the Supreme Court or disqualified from serving there.
Ford, and the other women who have come forward to say he assaulted them, deserve a full investigation. So does Kavanaugh. And so do the American people.
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