Thursday Reads: Horror Show on the HillPosted: September 27, 2018
Today beginning at 10AM, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a brief hearing in which one of the women who has accused SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, will tell her story and Kavanaugh will respond by lying and obfuscating.
I can’t imagine anything useful could come out of the hearing, since each questioner will have only 5 minutes to address complex issues. At best, the spectacle of 11 white men hiding behind a woman prosecutor might lead to more public outrage against the GOP and their deeply flawed nominee. It’s not clear what how Democrats will handle the questioning; they’ve kept their plans close to the vest.
I wanted to get this post up early so we can follow the hearing and aftermath together. I hope people will join in. Here are some reads to check out today.
The Daily Beast: ‘Disaster’: Trumpworld Starting to Sweat Over Brett Kavanaugh’s Mounting Sexual Assault Allegations. Excerpt:
Going into this past weekend, the Trump White House was sounding self-assured about Kavanaugh’s prospects, with senior aides saying they felt he could weather the allegations and horrifically bad press. Since then, two other female accusers have come forward, and the swagger from Team Trump has been replaced with, at best, a shaken confidence.
Officials inside the White House, as well as outside advisers, told the The Daily Beast that mood has become less bullish. Senior aides fear delivering Trump a major failure and humiliation that he can—and likely will—pin on those around him and squeamish Republican lawmakers. There is palpable fear that the party’s base will turn on Republicans should the Kavanaugh nomination fail.
Top donors, meanwhile, have said that they will continue writing checks out of a growing fear that the party could lose the Senate in addition to the House this coming fall. But one major contributor warned that lawmakers had to show them that they had put up a sufficient fight to get Kavanaugh on to the Court or else the checks wouldn’t come….
At this point, Trump’s team and Kavanaugh’s camp are publicly maintaining calm and privately encouraging allies to do the same. On a Monday conference call with White House surrogates, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, had insisted that the “president and this White House continue to stand strongly behind Judge Kavanaugh,” according to a person on the line. By Wednesday, a senior West Wing official said that the president’s posture remained unchanged.
But aides also acknowledge that Kavanaugh’s prospects were growing more endangered. “Thursday could be a disaster or it could be…a victory, we don’t know,” one aide said, referencing the planned testimony Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford plan to give to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Yesterday during his deranged press conference, Trump seemed to suggest that he could decide to dump Kavanaugh. But he was all over the map in his embarrassing, manic performance. Todd Purdum summarizes Trump’s 81-minute rant at The Atlantic: President Trump’s Surreal News Conference Didn’t Do Kavanaugh Any Favors.
In more than 80 surreal minutes of what seemed less like a news conference than a public free-association session on a therapist’s couch, the president of the United States dismissed accusations of sexual misconduct against Judge Brett Kavanaugh as “all false to me,” then insisted he wanted to hear Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony because “I can be convinced of anything. Maybe she will say something.”
He portrayed Kavanaugh’s Democratic Senate opponents as the organizers of a “big, fat con job,” then acknowledged without missing a beat that he would withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination “if I thought he was guilty of something like this, sure.” He praised Kavanaugh as “one of the highest-quality people that I have ever met,” then suggested that the judge’s life was not so spotless, allowing that even George Washington may have had “a couple of things in his past.” [….]
Who can say whether Trump’s apparently unbridled, even unhinged, display of id amounted to just that? Or to a free-form, last-ditch effort to defend the nomination on the eve of crucial testimony from Ford and Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday? Or to a calculated trial balloon for withdrawing it (“I could pick a woman, and she could have charges made from many years ago also,” he said at one point)? Or to some combination of all of the above? The assessment of Nicolle Wallace, the former George W. Bush and John McCain aide, was succinct, and indisputable.
“I suspect,” she tweeted, “that the 25th Amendment might be discussed more widely if there were daily press conferences.”
Yesterday, Morning Consult released a news poll on the Kavanaugh nomination: Republican Women Lose Faith in Kavanaugh — and Trump — After Week of Accusations.
Public support for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat has dropped to its lowest point since President Donald Trump nominated him in July, driven in large part by a sector of the president’s base: Republican women.
A new Morning Consult/Politico poll, conducted Sept. 20-23, found support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation is underwater among registered voters for the first time since his nomination, with 37 percent opposing the Senate confirming him and 34 percent supporting it.
The new finding marks a 5-percentage-point drop in net support since a poll conducted last week, after Christine Blasey Ford detailed her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while the two were in high school, a charge he has repeatedly denied.
Read more at the link above.
Important reads from women writers:
Lili Loofbourow at Slate: Brett Kavanaugh and the Cruelty of Male Bonding.
For what it’s worth, and absent evidence or allegations to the contrary, I believe Brett Kavanaugh’s claim that he was a virgin through his teens. I believe it in part because it squares with some of the oddities I’ve had a hard time understanding about his alleged behavior: namely, that both allegations are strikingly different from other high-profile stories the past year, most of which feature a man and a woman alone. And yet both the Kavanaugh accusations share certain features: There is no penetrative sex, there are always male onlookers, and, most importantly, there’s laughter. In each case the other men—not the woman—seem to be Kavanaugh’s true intended audience. In each story, the cruel and bizarre act the woman describes—restraining Christine Blasey Ford and attempting to remove her clothes in her allegation, and in Deborah Ramirez’s, putting his penis in front of her face—seems to have been done in the clumsy and even manic pursuit of male approval. Even Kavanaugh’s now-notorious yearbook page, with its references to the “100 kegs or bust” and the like, seems less like an honest reflection of a fun guy than a representation of a try-hard willing to say or do anything as long as his bros think he’s cool. In other words: The awful things Kavanaugh allegedly did only imperfectly correlate to the familiar frame of sexual desire run amok; they appear to more easily fit into a different category—a toxic homosociality—that involves males wooing other males over the comedy of being cruel to women.
In both these accounts, Kavanaugh is laughing as he does something to a woman that disturbs or traumatizes her. Ford wrote in her letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, “Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with [Mark] Judge, who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh’s hand over my mouth, I feared he may inadvertently kill me.”
“Brett was laughing,” Ramirez says in her account to the New Yorker. “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants.” She recalled another male student shouting about the incident. “Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she said.
If these allegations are true, one of the more shocking things about them is the extent to which the woman being mistreated exists in a room where the men are performing for each other—using the woman to firm up their own bond.
Please read the whole thing if you haven’t already.
Alexandra Lescaze, also at Slate: We Didn’t Call It Rape. Lescase writes that the allegations against Kavanaugh are very familiar to her as a graduate of a DC-area private school.
I wish I were surprised. A week ago Sunday when Ford first shed her anonymity, detailing her sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh to the Washington Post, I wrote a note in the Facebook alumni group of my high school, National Cathedral School. I told my 1988 classmates that Ford’s story was bringing back disturbing high school memories. Apparently, I was not alone. A lot of women now in their 40s and 50s, who went to these single-sex D.C. prep schools in the 1980s, have been reaching out to each other in fraught emails and chats over the past week. Not only did the Holton-Arms alumnae start a petition in support of Ford, their fellow alum; there’s also one for anyone to sign who survived that toxic time and place.
I don’t personally know Ford now, and I didn’t know her in high school. But as the Holton women wrote, what Ford is alleging is “all too consistent with what we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.” And what Elizabeth Rasor alleges Mark Judge told her is not foreign to me, either. Whether and how the nation comes to hear more about these specific stories, they have evoked a collective scream.
A large part of my high school experience were the parties at cavernous houses with multiple bedrooms, huge dark basements with enormous sofas and yards, and lots and lots of beer. No parents—thinking back on it now, as a parent myself—were ever around. We traveled in groups and knew never to leave a friend alone at a party, but there was so much drinking that we sometimes lost track of each other. It could be difficult to know where your friends were and—if they were in a room with a boy—what was going on in there.
Every June, we had Beach Week—a tradition also described in a Washington Post piece about Ford—in which teenagers actually rent houses to party at the beach, something I still don’t quite comprehend. I distinctly remember being at a Beach Week party with my then-boyfriend when it dawned on us that there was a drunk girl in a room down the hall, and boys were “lining up” to go in there and, presumably, have their way with her. We didn’t know for sure, but my boyfriend and my friend’s boyfriend went to interrupt it and sent her on her way down the stairs. All I remember about her is that she was in the class above us and had dark hair. My friend has told me she remembers boys saying, “I’m next,” which was why our boyfriends went to stop it.
More to check out, links only:
Emily Jane Fox at The Atlantic: “I Was Ashamed”: After Ford’s Accusation, Holton-Arms Alumnae Wrestle With Their Own Truths—Together.
Jessica Valenti: How Very Bad Men Get Away With Rape. “It takes one person to commit a rape, but a village to let them get away with it over and over.”
Kate Manne at The New York Times: Brett Kavanaugh and America’s ‘Himpathy’ Reckoning.
If you watch the hearing, I hope you’ll share your reactions in the comment thread below.