Friday Reads: What isn’t the matter with Brett Kavanaugh?Posted: September 21, 2018
The unraveling of Brett Kavanaugh’s privilege bubble continues. Can those ugly old white male Republicans rescue him from all the women that want his heads on a platter. Yes, both of them!
Okay, where to start …
How about something written by Jia Tolentino for The New Yorker to get our day started. Here’s the headline: “After the Kavanaugh Allegations, Republicans Offer a Shocking Defense: Sexual Assault Isn’t a Big Deal”. I’m actually thinking they’ll NEVER learn.
Ever since the professor Christine Blasey Ford revealed that she was the woman who had accused the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaughof sexual assault, in a previously confidential letter, the conservative attempt to protect Kavanaugh from her story has been, to put it mildly, forceful. Ford claims that, in the early nineteen-eighties, when they were both attending prestigious private high schools in suburban Maryland, Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a party. Republicans have framed this story as a craven act of character assassination rather than an account worth investigating before Kavanaugh receives a lifetime appointment to make pivotal decisions for the future of the nation—including decisions about, for example, the options that will be available to women if they get pregnant after being raped.
Kavanaugh says that Ford’s story is not true. He told the Washington Post, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation.” Some of his allies appear to have settled on a strategy of insisting that Ford is simply mistaken—that she may well have been assaulted, but that it must have been someone else. (This theory quickly reached “Twin Peaks” levels of absurdity, with a conservative Post contributor writing a column titled “Is There a Kavanaugh Doppelganger?”) Other Kavanaugh supporters believe that Ford is outright lying, for political purposes. The conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who tweeted that he does not find the allegations “credible in any way, shape, or form,” later wrote, referencing Roe v. Wade, “Y’all, I’m sorry, but I have little patience for a group of people willing to destroy an innocent man so they can keep killing kids. And that’s exactly what this is about.”
But a startling number of conservative figures have reacted as if they believe Ford, and have thus ended up in the peculiar position of defending the right of a Supreme Court Justice to have previously attempted to commit rape—a stance that at once faithfully corresponds to and defiantly refutes the current Zeitgeist. These defenders think that the seventeen-year-old Kavanaugh could easily, as Ford alleges, have gotten wasted at a party, pushed a younger girl into a bedroom, pinned her on a bed, and tried to pull off her clothes while covering her mouth to keep her from screaming. They think this, they say, because they know that plenty of men and boys do things like this. On these points, they are in perfect agreement with the women who have defined the #MeToomovement. And yet their conclusion is so diametrically opposed to the moral lessons of the past year that it seems almost deliberately petulant. We now mostly accept that lots of men have committed sexual assault, but one part of the country is saying, “Yes, this is precisely the problem,” and the other part is saying, “Yes, that is why it would obviously be a non-issue to have one of these men on the Supreme Court.”
Go read the long form for a round up of all the rape apologia going on among white male elites who just want to be able to do the fuck what they want with women.
And, yes … some dude came up with an entire conspiracy theory just to prove Kavanaugh’s accuser was likely dazed and confused. This is from Margaret Hartmann writing for New York Magazine. Here’s the headline: “Kavanaugh Backer Presents Bonkers Theory: Christine Ford Was Assaulted by Judge’s Doppelgänger”. Try not to scream too loudly.
The sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh has put Republicans in quite the jam. On the one hand, they think failing to put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court in the next few weeks will hurt them in the midterms, and maybe even prevent them from putting another conservative on the Court. On the other hand, it’s no longer acceptable to dismiss women alleging sexual misconduct as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.”
A few more moderate Republican senators successfully pushed to let Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, while rejecting her request for an FBI investigation into her allegation. Meanwhile, Kavanaugh backers have already come up with a theory that exonerates him, without calling Ford a liar. Earlier this week, Senator Orrin Hatch said Kavanaugh told him “he didn’t do that, and he wasn’t at the party,” so clearly Ford must be “mistaken.” The same possibility of mistaken identity was floated by The Wall Street Journal editorial board, and by the Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, who mused, “Could there be a Kavanaugh doppelganger?”
Ed Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and the president of a think tank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center, took this theory to a new, wildly irresponsible place on Thursday night, actually identifying a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep, and suggesting that he, not the future judge, might have attempted to rape Ford.
The tweetstorm showed the results of Whelan’s internet sleuthing. The supposed evidence (which we are not embedding because there’s no reason to think the classmate was actually involved) includes:
• Real estate photos of the home where Whelan thinks the incident might have occurred, based on Ford saying the house was “not far from” the Columbia Country Club.• A floor plan that shows that the upstairs bathroom is across from a bedroom in this house, just like Ford described.
• And finally, the big reveal: 35 years ago, this was the home of a Georgetown Prep student who looks kind of like Kavanaugh and was also friends with Mark Judge (who was allegedly present during the assault). Yearbook photos and a current photo of the classmate are provided for comparison to Kavanaugh.
As Twitter users discussed the irony of the head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center possibly being sued for defamation, Whelan added a disclaimer…
Jonathan Swift of Axios reports that the entire White House is trying to sit on Trumpers to make sure he doesn’t attack Dr. Blasey Ford. It must be a Herculean effort.
A source who has been talking to President Trump throughout the Kavanaugh crisis told Axios that “you have no idea” how hard it has been to keep him from attacking his Supreme Court nominee’s accuser.
A White House official said yesterday: “Hopefully he can keep it together until Monday. That’s only, like, another 48 hours right?” It didn’t last that long: this morning, a few hours after this story posted, the president cast doubt on Ford’s allegation on Twitter.
- At a rally in Las Vegas last night, Trump praised Kavanaugh and added with rare restraint: “I’m not saying anything about anybody else. … So we gotta let it play out. … I think is everything is going to be just fine.”
Be smart: Kavanaugh’s Republican strategists are holding it together, but are still nervous about the unknowns — and nervous about additional stories.
- There’s a constant rumor mill that X publication has more female accusers. (Yesterday’s rumor circulating Trumpworld was that it was the WaPo. Over the weekend, the rumor was Ronan Farrow.) Just very feverish.
Testimony in limbo: Lawyers for Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that it’s “not possible” to appear Monday (“and the Committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event”), but that she could testify later in the week, CNN reports.
- “Ford’s lawyer made clear that at no point … could Ford be in the same room as Kavanaugh.”
- “There was also a request that Kavanaugh testify first at the hearing — which a … source said … committee Republicans were unlikely to grant.”
More stuff spins off as the rumors spun yesterday about The Tiger Mom grooming female law clerks to look like models for Kavanaugh caused Yale Law School to open an investigation.
The dean of Yale Law School on Thursday responded to reports that a prominent professor at the school had advised students seeking judicial clerkships with Brett Kavanaugh on their physical looks, saying the reported allegations of faculty misconduct are “of enormous concern” and calling on anyone affected to come forward.
According to reports in The Guardian, the Huffington Post and Above the Law, Amy Chua, a professor at the law school, would advise students on their physical appearance if they wanted to seek a clerkship for Kavanaugh. Specifically, Chua would help potential applicants to have a “model-like” appearance.
In a letter Thursday to the law school community, Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken wrote that she wanted to “address the press reports today regarding allegations of faculty misconduct” and that “the allegations being reported are of enormous concern to me and to the School.”
Polls show Kavanaugh’s popularity is giving the Bork bottom a run for its money. Even Conservative Women don’t like or trust Kavanaugh.
THE BIG IDEA: The nationally syndicated conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager argued passionately that professor Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her and covered her mouth when she screamed for help during a party in the 1980s “should be ignored.”
“Even if true, they tell us nothing about Brett Kavanaugh since the age of 17,” Prager, 70, wrote for National Review. “When my wife was a waitress in her mid teens, the manager of her restaurant grabbed her breasts and squeezed them on numerous occasions. She told him to buzz off, figured out how to avoid being in places where they were alone, and continued going about her job. That’s empowerment.”
The intense blowback to this piece from women across the ideological spectrum, especially younger women on the right and even at the magazine, has put into stark relief the chasm in attitudes toward sexual assault that continue to exist across generations and genders.
“Conservatives can never advocate ignoring allegations of sexual assault or diminish the importance of protecting women from abuse,” writes National Review staff writer Alexandra DeSanctis, who is in her mid-20s and two years out of college. “No moral society can overlook, downplay, or otherwise dismiss behavior as grave as what Ford alleges Kavanaugh did … To suggest otherwise is deeply perverse. … Prager’s argument in defense of Kavanaugh is destructive to the conservative movement. It is uniquely wounding to conservative women.”
There are a lot of washed up old white men that need to retire and doter their way to retirement and out of the news cycle. I’d like to include Joe Biden in that one. Doesn’t this just enrage you? From NBC News: “Biden: Senate must treat Kavanaugh accuser Ford better than Anita Hill”. This from the man of the no apology apology,
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday cautioned senators to treat the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault better than the Senate treated Anita Hill 27 years ago.
“Anita Hill was vilified when she came forward by a lot of my colleagues,” Biden said during an exclusive interview with NBC’s “Today.” “I wish I could have done more to prevent those questions and the way they asked them.”
“I hope my colleagues learned from that,” he said. In 1991, Hill came forward with sexual harassment allegations during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. At the time, Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and oversaw the hearings. Biden faced criticism for the way he handled the hearings, and for letting senators grill Hill with questions about her encounters with Thomas.
“I hope that they understand what courage it takes for someone to come forward and relive what they believe happened to them,” he said.
You’re free to draw your on conclusions on this but my bottom line is I will never vote for this man because he kept other women from telling similar stories that could’ve shown Anita Hill as one part of a pattern. That’s just the first of my complaints about Mister “Grabby Hands” on the campaign trail Biden.
I want to read more of this: “The Case for Impeaching Kavanaugh, If the Democrats win the House this fall, they can investigate the charges against him, should he be confirmed” by Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr., a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. writing for NYT.
Of course, even if the House impeached Mr. Kavanaugh, it would still take a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict and remove him from the Court. But the Senate vote would surely have at least something to do with the merits of the House’s case: If a full and fair investigation shows that Mr. Kavanaugh has lied regarding the incident — he has denied it categorically and says nothing even remotely like it ever occurred — Republican senators may find it hard to vote “no” in the #metoo era. It would be a terrible blow to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, of course, but this is the risk that Senators McConnell and Grassley seem willing to take.
Moreover, an impeachment investigation could also encompass allegations that Mr. Kavanaugh has committed perjury before the Senate, twice, related to his work on the nomination of District Judge Charles Pickering to be a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Under oath, both in 2006 and in 2018, he said he had no involvement with the White House strategy sessions associated with Judge Pickering’s nominations. Subsequently released emails, involving these sessions, suggest that these answers were at best misleading and at worst totally false.
Attending a strategy session as a White House staffer is not a crime. Lying under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee, on the other hand, is. Perjury would be a perfectly justifiable, and constitutional, basis for impeachment.
An important caveat: Congress must take care to maintain the constitutional convention that has existed since the failed impeachment of Justice Chase. Federal judges, including members of the Supreme Court, should not be impeached based on their judicial rulings or philosophy. Accordingly, if the House were to initiate impeachment proceedings against Justice Kavanaugh in 2019, such proceedings should be strictly limited to questions associated with his alleged intentional and deliberate efforts to mislead the Senate about his character and fitness to serve.
We do not know the truth of the troubling allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. But, before someone is confirmed to the Supreme Court, good faith efforts to discover the truth should be made. And if the Senate won’t conduct a credible investigation now, the House should offer its assistance next year.
So, let me end with this from CNN: “Where negotiations stand between Kavanaugh’s accuser and Republicans”.
The impasse is broken — sort of.
After days of communicating through sternly worded letters and media appearances, all the relevant parties — Debra Katz, the lawyer representing Christine Blasey Ford who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, and both the majority and minority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee — are now negotiating the details of a public hearing.
Congressional aides briefed on the process say there is still a lot of detail to iron out, but all agree that after last night’s call between the parties, a hearing next week is more than likely.
Bottom line: Keen observers this week have predicted this was coming — that much of what we were seeing, the back and forth, the letters, the silence at times, was part of an overall strategy to set the best terms for each side.
That appears to be the case. Nothing is set yet — and nothing will be set until Senate Judiciary Chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, gets sign off from the other 10 Republicans on the committee. But all signals are pointing to a hearing in the latter half of next week.
The conditions — and where they stand
These are the key conditions laid out by Katz, per multiple sources with direct knowledge, or briefed on, the call last night. Of note: those sources said they didn’t view all as red lines — just a few. That is why most believe they are on the road to the hearing.
- The hearing cannot be on Monday. That’s not negotiable and is a red line. Katz proposed this Thursday; it’s possible, but not by any means set at this point.
- Ford will not ever be in the same room as Kavanaugh. This also wasn’t negotiable, but it’s not a huge ask — witnesses can be separated and enter/leave at different times. It’s not an extraordinary request.
- Safety. This was the other key non-negotiable. Ford must be made to feel safe, which, given the threats that Katz laid out that have been directed toward Ford since this was all made public, is understood by all parties.
- Kavanaugh must testify first, before Ford. This, according to congressional aides, is a non-starter. It’s not how the committee works, and given Kavanaugh would need to respond to Ford’s testimony, will not occur.
- No outside counsel to ask questions. Republicans on the committee agreed to hire outside counsel — a woman, with experience on these issues — to ask the bulk of the questions at the hearing. This is due to both optics (all 11 GOP members are men) and order (concern that the hearing would be deemed too quickly a political circus). Katz said this would make the hearing appear too much like a trial. This wasn’t viewed as a red line by Republicans, according to the sources, and wasn’t agreed to. It will be discussed amongst committee members and staff.
- The possibility of a subpoena for Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge, who Ford alleged in her letter was also in the room at the time of the alleged assault. This is a non-starter for Republicans, who are firmly against allowing anyone outside the committee dictate who or what to subpoena.
- It was made clear that it is still the preference of Ford and her legal team that the White House order an expanded background investigation. Republicans have not — and don’t plan to — agree to that, countering that their staff has been doing that work the last few days. Sources familiar with the call didn’t view the request as any sort of red line — just a preference. One that, at this point, won’t be accepted.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?