What to make of the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford about Bret Kavanaugh?

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend -- both "stumbling drunk," Ford alleges -- corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh's friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

Kavanaugh and Judge categorically deny that any such event ever happened.

So what do we do with this claim? First off, it's worth pointing out that there's zero likelihood of prosecuting Kavanaugh for this alleged offense. Whatever happened happened over 35 years ago. There's no way to prove anything, and we're way beyond the statute of limitations. So the real question is, how should this accusation affect the confirmation process?

1. Kavanaugh has no right to join the Supreme Court. He suffers no injustice if his confirmation is derailed. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" isn't (and can't be) the standard for rejecting a political candidate -- and that's exactly what a Supreme Court nominee is. We The People have the right to reject aspiring politicians for any and all reasons, both high and low. Each of us is free to weigh the credibility of Kavanaugh and Ford and reach whatever decision seems best to us. It would be unjust (at this point) to demand a criminal prosecution, but it's perfectly reasonable to demand that he not be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

2. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is too high to be the standard for rejecting a political candidate, but what should the standard be? Must a person be so guiltless that no accusation of wrongdoing is brought against him? Or no "reasonable" accusation (whatever "reasonable" means)? Or no accusation of a certain category or severity? We're each free to have our own standards, but it might be helpful to make them explicit in our own minds.

3. It's also useful to think systemically -- beyond any specific case. Do we want a system whereby opponents can derail a political candidate with a single uncorroborated accusation? What about two independent accusations, or three? There's probably some number of independent, uncorroborated accusations that would convince each person to withdraw political support from a preferred candidate. For example, Bill Cobsy had 60 accusers, which is quite convincing even though only three counts were proven at trial. I, personally, am quite comfortable shunning a person who has been accused of sexual assault by 60 people -- and I bet my real number is much lower than 60.

4. Does it matter than the alleged event occurred when Kavanaugh (then 17) and Ford (then 15) were both children? It could matter in at least two ways. A) You may consider the alleged behavior less offensive because Kavanaugh was young. B) You may consider that adult-Kavanaugh shouldn't be judged for what young-Kavanaugh did so long ago. In this specific case, 17-years-old isn't particularly young, so (A) may be less relevant than in the general case.

5. None of the blog posts or news reports that I've seen have mentioned it, but neither Kavanaugh nor Ford would be in this mess if they had followed the Pence rule (a.k.a., the Billy Graham rule. Aspiring politicians take note.

Update:

What the heck? Brett Kavanaugh's mother was the judge in in a 1996 home-foreclosure case in which the defendants were the parents of Kavanaugh's accuser Christine Blasey Ford. Here's the docket.

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