I believe that Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth when she claims that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party in the early 1980s, when she was 15 and he was 17. I believe her husband, Russell Ford, who has told the Washington Post that in 2012 his wife had recounted her experience during a couples’ therapy session, and named Kavanaugh. And I believe the story that Kavanaugh’s friend Amy Chua advised her female students that if they wanted to win a clerkship with him, they should dress like a model.
All of which this leads me to conclude that Kavanaugh is not right for a seat on the Supreme Court.
As Roger has written, the Democrats are doing everything they can to exploit Ford’s accusation for political ends. As Jacob has written, Ford may even be an active participant in that gamesmanship. As Dan has written, the collapse of Kavanaugh’s candidacy could seriously damage conservative judicial philosophy. They may well all be right, and I defer to them all in their expertise on American politics. But dismissing Ford’s accusation on any or all of these grounds would be a wrong. That cannot make a right, however good Kavanaugh obtaining the swing seat on the Supreme Court’s bench might be for the right.
No sane person exposes her sex life to public enquiry without good reason. No sane person puts herself through the media wringer, death threats and all, without good reason. Especially when, as in Ford’s case, she knows that her claim cannot be substantiated. Ford is a clinical psychologist and a peer-reviewed professor. She makes small donations to the Democrats and supports progressive causes. The last time I checked, none of these activities were grounds for insanity.
It’s true that plenty of teenage boys behave despicably at house parties after drinking too much, whether they attend ‘elite private schools’ or not. That said, I heard and saw plenty of boorishness as a teenage boy at a not-so elite private school in England, but I never heard or saw anything like Ford’s story. After that, I worked in the music business. I went to a lot of parties and saw a lot of out-of-control behaviour, but I never heard or saw anything like Ford’s story in those years either. What Ford claims is not jock oafishness, but violent criminality.
It’s also true that many people, men and women, regret the errors of youth, even violent and criminal ones, and do their utmost to become decent adults. Certainly, Brett Kavanaugh has contributed to the lawful function of the judiciary. But there are grounds, solid enough for the Guardian to have printed them, that Kavanaugh’s character has not matured enough to justify a seat on the Supreme Court.
Amy Chua, who endorsed Kavanaugh as a ‘mentor to women’, is alleged to have told her students that it was ‘not an accident’ that Kavanaugh’s female clerks all ‘looked like models’, and that, if they wanted to win a clerkship, they should dress in an ‘outgoing’ way. Chua’s husband, Jed Rosenfeld of Yale, is alleged to have used similarly euphemistic language. Kavanaugh, Rosenfeld is alleged to have advised a female student, ‘hires women with a certain look’.
This is significant circumstantial evidence. To me, it suggests that Kavanaugh, however he may have behaved as a teenager, does not act at work like an ethical adult should. I can’t say what I think is best for the country at the moment; given the toxicity of our politics, perhaps nothing can make the Court anything other than a weapon. But as a father of three girls, I don’t want Kavanaugh on the bench.
Do we want our daughters to be told by their professors that they can get a job if they dress to please the boss, which is what Chua and Rosenfeld are alleged to have told their would-be clerks?
Do we want men who only hire ‘model-like’ women to coach our daughters’ sports’ teams?
Do we want our sons to grow up in the assumption that their sex gives them a lifelong privilege to select and grade women for their entertainment?
The Republicans will pay for this episode one way or the other. They will pay more and for longer if they become the exclusive party of sexist old white men. That segment of the electorate hasn’t been a majority since women got the vote. The schism here isn’t just one of gender, but also of generation. Too many Boomer men — and Kavanaugh, born in 1965, is in their final cohort — don’t seem to see anything wrong with men putting their hands on women, or working their job for sexual kicks. Just about everyone younger does.
The Republicans may yet force Kavanaugh’s candidacy through. But that would be a Pyrrhic victory. The Supreme Court may tip right for a generation with Kavanaugh on the bench, but the electorate will not.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts Editor of Spectator USA.