Saturday, September 15, 2018

Very Curious

What is there to do when the incident itself isn't the issue? The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer on Friday revealed

The woman, who has asked not to be identified, first approached Democratic lawmakers in July, shortly after Trump nominated Kavanaugh. The allegation dates back to the early nineteen-eighties, when Kavanaugh was a high-school student at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and the woman attended a nearby high school. In the letter, the woman alleged that, during an encounter at a party, Kavanaugh held her down, and that he attempted to force himself on her.

She claimed in the letter that Kavanaugh and a classmate of his, both of whom had been drinking, turned up music that was playing in the room to conceal the sound of her protests, and that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand. She was able to free herself. Although the alleged incident took place decades ago and the three individuals involved were minors, the woman said that the memory had been a source of ongoing distress for her, and that she had sought psychological treatment as a result.

But the issue isn't what occurred over three decades earlier, among three high-schoolers, notwithstanding the seriousness of the charges. Don't take it from me, but from Hawaii Democratic senator Mazie Hirono, hardly a stout defender of a patriarchical, sexist culture. 

At Kavanaugh's recent confirmation hearing, Senator Hirono inquired "Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?" (Kavanaugh replied "no.") Inclusion of "since you became a legal adult" was not accidental.

Nor is it the candidate's denial of the allegation, whence he stated  “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time."  It is too much to expect that an individual who has exhibited such a low level of integrity to respond "The claim made against me is accurate- also, over thirty years ago, when I was immature and acted in ways for which I now profoundly regret, especially when I drank." "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible" may not work anymore.

Yet, there is something creepy about the GOP's response to the scandal.

At 5:24 p.m. on Thursday The Intercept reported existence of a letter which they knew only "describes an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school." The following morning, the spokesman for Judiciary Committee chairperson Grassley (R-Iowa) stated that his boss "is aware of Senator Feinstein's referral (to the FBI (but has not seen the letter in question."

White House counsel Don McGahn received the letter from the FBI "around noon" on Thursday, then relayed it promptly to Capitol Hill. Less than 24 hours later, on Friday morning,  Grassley released a letter signed by 65 women who claimed

We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983. For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect. We strongly believe it is important to convey this information to the Committee at this time.

Brett attended Georgetown Prep, an all-boys high school in Rockville, Maryland. He was an outstanding student and athlete with a wide circle of friends. Almost all of us attended allgirls high schools in the area. We knew Brett well through social events, sports, church, and various other activities. Many of us have remained close friends with him and his family over the years. Through the more than 35 years we have known him, Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity. In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect. That was true when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day.

The signers of this letter hold a broad range of political views. Many of us are not lawyers, but we know Brett Kavanaugh as a person. And he has always been a good person.

The letter was highly favorable, but also highly generic. It refers to the character he allegedly displayed through the years- but does not refer to the incident in question.

This was awfully quick work. Possibly, one or more of the signers knew of the incident contemporaneously or had heard about it shortly thereafter, suspect(s) the account is legitimate, but for their own reasons support Kavanaugh's nomination. ("Many of us are not lawyers" suggests many are, and may have a professional interest in approval of the nomination.)

More likely, they knew little of the alleged incident, and the letter had been written weeks or months before. And if it was, there are two questions which need to be asked: "why did the GOP believe a letter like this would have to be written," and "what other similar behavior has Brett Kavanaugh been involved in?"

There are better reasons to oppose Kavanaugh's nomination, including his determination to gut reproductive freedom, habit of lying to Congress, skepticism toward questioning presidential power, and financial improprieties.  But either the account from the female accuser is mostly fallacious- very unlikely- or there are things crawling under the rock that is Brett Kavanaugh.

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