As Yale alum Deborah Ramirez joins Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in claiming Brett Kavanaugh sexually attacked her and Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti says he has a so-far unnamed third accuser, Republicans have settled on three lines of attack: 85-year old Sen. Orrin Hatch’s idea that the women may be “mixed up;” Sen. Lindsey Graham’s that it’s on Ford (and now Ramirez) to prove that Kavanaugh’s not the good man he says he is and always has been; and then President Donald Trump’s “question” about why Ford didn’t file charges 36 years ago if it was “as bad as she says.”
To Hatch, you are the one mixed up; to Graham, a man doesn’t accost every woman; and to the president, the closed minds on the Judiciary Committee, and men in general asking why Ford didn’t rush to the authorities, many women would like to ask you: What world are you living in?
Have you forgotten the prevailing culture, the secrecy about matters sexual, and how shame in those matters was something for the woman but not the man? Do you believe women now?
If you answer honestly, you will know why Ford and others didn’t say anything then.
Chief among Ford’s questioners is Charles Grassley, chair of the Republican all-male band on the Judiciary committee who could barely hide his annoyance with the effrontery of this pesky woman who negotiated timing like many Capitol Hill witnesses do. She’ll appear Thursday.
Republican men would all be less annoyed with Ford and her “loving parents” (as Trump sarcastically called them) if they looked at statistics. As it remains today, sexual assault back then was the most under-reported crime in the country. Sen. Susan Collins—who would like to vote yes on Kavanaugh despite his obvious willingness to do Trump’s bidding on Roe v. Wade—reminded the president of this on Friday. To wonder why the 15-year old and her parents didn’t run to the authorities is like asking why rain is wet.
The mostly Irish Catholic high school I went to had much the same culture as that of Georgetown Prep. Parties like the one Ford described were common: at private homes where busy parents were conveniently out and the liquor cabinet conspicuously open, others where distracted adults were present, but not really. I remember dances at the Knights of Columbus hall where volunteer members chaperoned, which was like having a substitute teacher overseeing study hall.
Whatever the gathering, the boys drank and the girls didn’t, or very little. Drinking, pre-Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was tacitly approved as how a 16-year old became a man. An open keg and a full shot glass could turn a wallflower into a dancer and embolden others to lure a girl to the hallway or the parking lot and try to have his way with her. If called on his behavior a boy would say the Budweiser made him do it, and then insult the girl for being such a bad sport. “You’re no fun” was the kiss-off. On Monday, she might find herself sitting alone in the cafeteria pushing around her steam table Salisbury steak.
To tell meant ratting on Graham’s “good” boy who passed you notes in trig class and admitting to your trusting folks that you were not actually at the movies but with friends at a rogue event. You might be dragging into the mess other parents who your parents liked or, worse, looked up to. There would be the teenage version of “He’s always been such a great guy,” said of so many in the #MeToo Hall of Shame: “No, it can’t be. Such a nice boy and (fill in here) on the football team, in the marching band, or, trumping all, an altar boy.”
That, for those “mixed up” about it, is how a girl could leave an evening abused, sad, but silent—until the moment when the drunken man who pinned her down and nearly smothered her is about to be elevated to the Supreme Court. Then fury overcomes decades of shame and can no longer be contained.
It comes too late to avert this disaster but Georgetown Prep president Rev. James Van Dyke just wrote a letter vowing to “work with the guys on developing a proper sense of self and a healthy understanding of masculinity… to talk with them honestly and even bluntly about what respect for others, especially respect for women… means.”
This advice comes too late for the only purported witness, Kavanaugh classmate Mark Judge. Before he realized black-out drinking and molesting women was no longer cool, Judge wrote about his debauched years where tapping kegs was a varsity sport in a novel, “Wasted,” which featured the protagonist’s drinking buddy “Bart O’Kavanaugh.” Memorably Judge wrote about how a man should “allow himself to feel the awesome power, the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion.” Judge says he remembers nothing about the party Ford can’t forget, and the committee refuses to issue a routine subpoena to have him testify.
If anything, the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were more evolved in 1991, when they granted Anita Hill a three-day reopening of Clarence Thomas’s FBI background check. Now in cahoots with the president, they tell the lie that no such action is possible. The plan now, Sen. Mitch McConnell proclaimed last week, has been to “plow on through” to victory.
There will be as short a hearing as possible, one that as of now will have only Ford and Kavanaugh. It will be: He (powerful man with the White House and Republican majority behind him) said; She (none of these things) said.
Women have to watch their step around Republicans who, to be cliched about it, still don’t get it. Whenever they extemporize, they expose a misogyny so profound, they lose elections that were in the bag. The list is long but in the tradition of “legitimate rape” and “just relax and enjoy it” add last Thursday night’s rib-splitting joke by South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman about how Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, had been groped by Abraham Lincoln.
An even more laughable moment came when Edward Whelan, a former adviser to District Court nominee Kavanaugh and a Supreme Court clerk who sits at the red hot center of the conservative establishment, went on an O.J.-like search for the real attacker, or attackers. He pointed the finger for the assault on a different classmate, recklessly providing his name, photo, and, to show his forensic cred, the floor plan of his house.
While Whelan apologized for being mistaken about his gambit to prove mistaken identity, it’s an arrow in the committee’s quiver along with questioning the timing of the allegations, and if three women are too many to blow off, those were the youthful mistakes of a good man. Under heavy but misplaced criticism from Republicans for not releasing a letter from Ford until after the hearings ended (Ford being rightfully afraid to have it revealed), Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Grassley Sunday night for an “immediate postponement” while the FBI, not partisan committee staff, investigate all the charges.
Whelan, the committee, Graham, McConnell and others are not outliers but the best and brightest Republicans and the GOP wonders why women don’t trust them. After a top aide to the committee (and former colleague of Whelan) resigned abruptly Saturday over allegations of his own sexual wrongdoing, slightly woke Republicans upped their effort to find a woman to ask their questions for them. How about if they call in sick and leave the questioning to their female colleagues on the other side of the dais?
Friday afternoon, Sen. Mitch McConnell assured an evangelical gathering that they could count on Kavanaugh taking his seat on the court as he’d been planning since he blocked Merrick Garland for over a year.
With the brute force of the majority, Republicans may successfully steamroll another suspected molester and perjurer onto the Supreme Court. They’re in charge, for now, but possibly not for long. When Thomas was confirmed, there were two women in the Senate; that tripled in 1992. The way Republicans treat women is no laughing matter. See you in November.