January 18, 2020

Will Republicans Come to Regret Brett Kavanaugh?

“We’re approaching the anniversary of one of the nastiest political battles it has been my misfortune to witness—the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault and his shockingly partisan and untruthful statements at his hearing. His confirmation was pushed through thanks in part to a sham FBI investigation, the absurd limits and constraints of which continue to emerge as people come forward to say no one wanted the information they had to offer. Those of us who would have liked to know the full truth—through a thorough FBI investigation that questioned all the relevant parties and witnesses, including the principals—remain unimpressed by angry claims that accused men like Kavanaugh aren’t getting “due process.” Republicans devised the very process they went on to angrily condemn, but it was Christine Blasey Ford (and Deborah Ramirez) who were cheated of anything like real fact-finding. No process was followed here. This was domination theater, and it was a bad gamble. The stakes were too high for the GOP to make this play. It would be one thing if the egregiousness of Kavanaugh’s confirmation didn’t last—if it had flared during those awful September days last year and then faded just as quickly. But this will not fade. Kavanaugh’s bizarre fibs and self-serving lies under oath; his tantrums and threats; the odd effort to cast the allegation as a case of mistaken identity; the inexplicable refusal to subpoena the one witness to Blasey Ford’s accusation, Mark Judge, who went into hiding—these things happened a year ago, but their effects are permanent.

We are learning more, but hindsight cannot correct what was done and not done during those awful weeks. Bizarrely handled reporting at the New York Times over the weekend revealed that Deborah Ramirez’s allegation had corroboration. It also revealed that Republicans and the FBI knew of at least one other allegation: A former Yale classmate, Max Stier, remembered a drunken Kavanaugh revealing his penis at yet another gathering, though the inebriated woman into whose hand his penis was allegedly “pushed” declined to be interviewed and said she does not recall. We know now, as the Los Angeles Times reports, that the FBI “did not interview other classmates who said they had heard at the time of either the incident Stier reported or the one involving Ramirez.” Limiting the investigation hurt the Republican case too: Blasey Ford’s friend Leland Keyser, for instance, now says she doesn’t think the pieces of her friend’s story “fit.”

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If Kavanaugh’s defenders hoped that no other details would come out, or that they wouldn’t matter once he was confirmed, they were wrong. It’s hard to imagine a more injurious way for this story to unfold. Kavanaugh’s alleged alcohol-fueled “youthful indiscretions” were awful on their own, no matter how long ago they happened. The claim that investigating them would have risked unfairly penalizing responsible adults for embarrassing behavior omits that Kavanaugh did not admit to this conduct or claim he has grown wiser over the years. Then there is the deeply offensive irony that his appointment takes us closer to criminalizing abortion, including for girls the age Kavanaugh was when these events allegedly occurred: Only for girls should the consequences of youthful indiscretions be life-altering and permanent. Lastly, and most importantly, the conduct Kavanaugh was accused of, which our culture has long excused as “harmless fun,” to paraphrase a now-deleted New York Times tweet, can be life-changing for its victims—as Blasey Ford testified. These are serious matters, and in the ensuing year, they have not been successfully hand-waved away, because they were not treated with the seriousness or gravity or thoroughness they deserved. We now know that the FBI contacted only nine people, all of them from the list Republicans submitted. None from the alleged victims’ lawyers. Not one of the many people who have since said they approached the FBI hoping to speak to Kavanaugh’s past got to share what they knew. The result is the civic equivalent of a wound that became infected because it got covered up too soon. And sepsis has reached the last place Americans would have wanted it to: the Supreme Court. That is a tragedy, and not a short-term one.”

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