A Review of Kavanaugh’s Scandal
By Henry O’Donnell
There lives a perception amongst the majority of Americans that the office of Supreme Court Justice is of sacred ground, unencumbered by the climate of the time. There is good reason to perceive it this way, as many past cases have held such importance in that court that they still affect our lives today. Consider Brown vs. Board of Ed., Cooper vs. Aaron, Roe vs. Wade, Mapp vs. Ohio, and many, many others.
It is the highest court of the land, the one that champions and interprets the Constitution, the one that asserts the inalienable truths from the lips of the forefathers of 1776 to the ears of Americans of 2018. The Supreme Court is comprised of nine justices, nine exceptional lawyers who are entrusted and appointed by the President and the Senate (and the public) to rule on exceptional cases that are unbefitting for lower courts.
Frequently, the President usually appoints prospective justices pursuant to the President’s own party. For instance, in 2009 then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat, appointed Sonia Sotomayor, a Democrat. Thus, stakes run especially high amongst “red” and “blue” Americans; their desired justice represents them. Therein lies the foundation for this particular debacle: the Kavanaugh debate.
On July 9th, 2018, President Donald Trump tapped Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Court of Appeals circuit to become the Supreme Court Justice to fill the seat left by Antonin Scalia. Of course, no nomination is without some resistance by the opposing party; however, this resistance reached new, unprecedented heights when the allegations against Kavanaugh surfaced on September 12th.
What Americans knew about Kavanaugh up to that point was his shining legal career: the American Bar Association (ABA) rated him the highest rating, “well-qualified”; he served on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for more than twelve years and heard more than two thousand cases; he published multiple articles in many leading law reviews and is the author of a successful book on legal precedents; he has been a professor of Law at Yale, Harvard, and NYU; and he served for five plus years as a Staff Secretary and as an Associate White House Counsel. To many before the allegations surfaced, he was the quintessential judge, a voice for reason and hearing multiple sides before rulings. Before the allegations, there wasn’t a huge movement like there is now to unseat and impeach Kavanaugh.
On September 16th, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh were published by The Washington Post in which Ford came forward officially and told of her experiences with Kavanaugh. The very next day, Ford’s lawyers said that Ford would be willing to speak publicly on her allegations. What also followed in that same day was Kavanaugh’s statement denouncing the allegations, denying them, and stating that he would be willing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to clear his name and these allegations. After these allegations surfaced, it would take a week before Ford’s legal team worked out conditions of testifying before the committee and for the hearings to finally begin.
The hearings officially started on September 27th, and members would go on to vote on whether or not Kavanaugh’s nomination should advance to the full senate. Dr. Ford testified in the first part of the day, while Kavanaugh testified in the latter part of the day. In Dr. Ford’s testimony, more of the details of the alleged sexual assault were clarified. She stated who was with her, alleged that it took place at a party, and identified which boys sexually assaulted her and who was in the room with her when the assault took place. She supplied more grueling details of a sexual assault all too grotesque for any person to experience. Above all, the most salient detail to come out of her testimony was the reaffirmation that it was her perception that it was undeniably Brett Kavanaugh who had sexually assaulted her.
Ford received praise for her steadfast resolve under sometimes tense questioning, her courage to come forth with these allegations, and the manner and tone in which she explained her answers and responded to questions. Interestingly enough, President Trump named Ford a “very compelling” and “credible” witness. Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony was intense; Kavanaugh vehemently denied the allegations against himself. His opening statement, while tense and emotional, told of the toll the allegations had taken on his “good name” and family and essentially explained and asserted that no such party took place and no such sexual assault between himself and Dr. Ford took place. He did not deny something of the sort happened to her, rather he fervently contended that it was not him who assaulted Ford.
From one perspective, Kavanaugh has been crucified and slandered. He is a man whose reputation, now made a mockery of by a Democratic conspiracy, was unduly vilified on the basis of baseless allegations. Dr. Ford has named four people who were allegedly at the party, one of whom she considers to be a lifelong friend. All four people have submitted four sworn written testimonies declaring that none of them had any knowledge whatsoever that a party like this took place on the date alleged, not to mention that none of the named even remember a sexual assault occurring. Some claim that while there is little doubt that Dr. Ford was sexually abused, the attacker was not Kavanaugh. Some ask why this woman waited, courageous as she may be, for some thirty years up until this point? Why now? Was it the fact that because Kavanaugh’s name was in the press due to the nomination, Dr. Ford misidentified the true boy who sexually assaulted her those thirty something years ago?
Many of those supporting Kavanaugh believe that he has been wrongly accused and that the intimate and grotesque nature of this sexual assault does not excuse unwarranted, baseless, and uncorroborated claims that have the potential, as Senator Lindsey Graham mentioned in Kavanaugh’s hearing, to stain Kavanaugh’s career for the rest of his life. Some believe that it is almost as if Kavanaugh’s impeccable legal career and moral aboveboard character, attested to by many women throughout his life, has been steamrolled over by a movement that has allowed social media and the will of protestors and Twitter accounts to become the judge and jury of those accused: #MeToo. There was a time where one was judged on the presumption of innocence, where one was not guilty until proven innocent, and where one was given due process away from any political motivation manifested in hearings or trials. It is from this very perspective that many mourn this time.
Through a very different view, Ford’s testimony is a watershed moment for #MeToo. Ford has become the face of many women who have been sexually assaulted over time and her harrowing journey to testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Time and time again, women’s stories of assault and other things alike have been shunned by a society rooted in deep patriarchal sentiment. It takes an incredible amount of fearlessness to make yourself vulnerable, to recall a night that has shaped your life. Through this lens, Kavanaugh represents yet another man who has gotten away with hurting a woman, the abetting of a problem that finds its roots in the systematic silencing of women.
In many ways, this time of women sharing their stories could have only happened because of social media. Social media has allowed the unrestricted flow of story-sharing, hence the hashtag in #MeToo. Criticisms drawn against Ford and women who have been sexually assaulted for their spotty memories when it comes to details do not take into account the grotesque nature of the actions and the trauma of the event. Therefore, a more thorough FBI investigation should have further investigated the alleged event that took place during the years of 1982-1983. Perhaps one should still be executed to clarify and ease concerns about Kavanaugh’s character; and should he be implicated in the events alleged and a very different narrative from the one he told on Capitol uncovered, punishment and justice need to be served. He cannot get away with such assault and harassment of a woman as many powerful men have before him. This is the time of #TimesUp and #MeToo. Supreme Court Justices must reflect good values and morals, none of which would allow for sexual assault.
It’s positively undeniable that the allegations against Kavanaugh have shaken America to the core; they have created a seemingly non-mutable divide in America between Democrats and Republicans.
A further divide that has come out of these allegations and testimony is the divide between generations. Generations ten to twenty years after the fifties and sixties grew up in a time certainly where, although sexual assault was of course looked down upon, many instances of sexual assault happened, and justice was not served.
Whether or not these allegations are true, an interesting question arises when the skeletons in the closet of prospective Supreme Court Justices are exposed: To what extent does the necessary infallibility of these justices need to reach?