I’m a Republican and support Trump’s judicial strategy but the perceived legitimacy of the court is more important than one man.
When President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, I was thrilled. The judge has a resume that makes him unquestionably qualified to sit on the highest court in the land.
Further, I have found the attacks on him made by Democrats until now to be unfounded or pure spectacle made by politicians engaging in theatrics simply because they knew there were cameras on.
The sexual assault allegations by Christine Blasey Ford are different: After reading them, I can no longer support Kavanaugh’s nomination and have concluded that for the good of the country, he must withdraw.
It might be impossible for a court of law, let alone the court of public opinion, to definitively determine the truth of what happened on that night in 1983, but Ford’s story is disturbing. She alleges that Kavanaugh, then 17, locked them both in a room with his friend Mark Judge, pinned her to a bed with the weight of his body and proceeded to attempt to remove her clothes while grinding against her. When she screamed, she says, he put his hand on her mouth to stifle her. It was not until Judge jumped on the two of them that she was able to escape and lock herself in a bathroom.
Both Kavanaugh and Judge have denied the allegations, the latter’s denial coming in an interview with The Weekly Standard on Friday and the former in an updated statement on Monday.
My inclination has alway been to believe women who are victims of sexual harassment and assault, but like other Republicans, the highly-politicized and partisan nature of a Supreme Court confirmation process certainly gave me pause before Ford’s public statements. The fuller story demonstrates that there are some aspects of her story that lend great credence to this not being a partisan attack.
First are the 2012 notes kept by the Ford’s therapist, which show that she first made the allegation against Kavanuagh, who was not specifically named, in couples therapy at that time. As Caroline Court pointed out on Twitter, “The therapist notes are not a police report; the absence of any names is not the compelling response you think it is.” While the psychiatrist’s note lacks names, it is difficult to believe that Ford raised this in therapy six years ago as part of some master plan to stop Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination before Obama’s re-election.
Further, Mark Judge’s own memoir, “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” does not help Kavanaugh’s case. Instead, it paints a portraitof an environment rife with alcohol abuse and misbehavior. Kavanaugh is not directly mentioned in the book, but it does note that a character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh” took part in that aspect of Judge’s teenage years, once apparently vomiting in the back of someone’s car and passing out. Yes, it talks about his experiences at an age where most of us engage in stupid behavior and excessive drinking, but it does not put Judge or Kavanaugh in a good light — especially since Ford said that both boys were “stumbling drunk” at the time of her alleged attack.
Some Republicans have pointed to the timing and circumstances of the release of Ford’s allegations to question their veracity. Their questions are valid and should be answered. Senator Feinstein, who first learned of this through a letter provided by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, sat on Ford’s accusations since July and did not raise them at the confirmation hearing. Ford had also contacted the Washington Post at that time, but ultimately had decided to stay silent, fearing the repercussions in her own life. It’s unclear whether Feinstein sat on the letter at the behest of Ford, though its existence eventually leaked to the press after the hearings were complete and it was only last week that she referred a redacted copy of the letterto the FBI for inclusion in his background check file. Feinstein has some explaining to do.
But the political shenanigans around Kavanaugh’s nomination do not give us a pass to take Ford’s allegation of attempted sexual assault lightly.
Judicial appointments are the area where I have, to this point, given the president the most praise and support, but many of those who still support this nomination and dismiss the sexual assault allegations are seeing their judgment clouded by the hyper-partisan nature of the entire confirmation process.
Trump could easily replace Kavanaugh with another nominee like Judge Amy Coney Barrett — who would thrill conservatives. Yes, Democrats would likely engage in the same ridiculous attacks of Barrett (or any other replacement), but the likelihood that that another nominee would be facing a sexual assault charge (particularly Barrett) is minimal and the public would not have a tainted view of whomever is confirmed.
This entire sad ordeal is reminiscent of a scene 27 years ago when Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. While Americans were split on whether or not to believe Hill that Thomas sexually harassed her and he was ultimately confirmed, the accusations follow Thomas to this day — and Ford’s allegations will follow Kavanaugh, too.
Were the Senate to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a large portion of the American people would likely view him as illegitimate and challenge the validity of his appointment because of Ford’s accusations. Others, like me, would feel uncertain that his was a worthwhile appointment.
Such a situation is not healthy for our republic.
I am truly pained to say this, but Kavanaugh must put the integrity of the Supreme Court and its future rulings first, and withdraw his nomination. Trump can then replace him with a nominee with stellar credentials and no controversy.
This column was originally published in NBC News Think on September 17, 2018.