Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings to be the second appointee by President Trump to the Supreme Court were derailed by the accusation by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh held her down and tried to force himself upon her in the early 1980s, when they were high school students.
Let’s break the “he said, she said” deadlock and grant that events unfolded as accused. How did the two of them get together? They were at a party; they were friends; they knew each other. They apparently rather liked each other, to the point where they wanted to be alone with each other. But when Kavanaugh asserted himself, she resisted, and ultimately, he thought better of it and backed off.
If this had happened last week or last month, or even ten years ago, I’d agree this is a serious concern: I don’t want a Supreme Court justice who runs around attacking women. But what about an accusation from two-thirds of a lifetime ago, when the participants were both teenagers, with their brains not yet fully cooked? Moreover, Kavanaugh, as a serving Federal judge rising through the ranks, has repeatedly been background-checked by the FBI, and nothing of this nature came up.
While it may have been a sexual assault under the legal definition, more practically it was a case of botched consent. (If there had genuinely been an assault, the proper course of action, even in the early 1980s, would be to call the police. But that didn’t happen.) Today, one is supposed to ask and receive permission every step of the way, giving a romantic encounter all the charm of an ICBM launch. But this was another time.
We’re told that we need to believe the survivors of sexual assault. OK: I’ll believe her. We have an event that happened two-thirds of a lifetime ago, which, at the time, would have been deemed a youthful indiscretion.
Since then, repeated background checking over Kavanaugh’s adult life found nothing of concern. The inescapable conclusion is that Kavanaugh grew up, became a responsible citizen, husband, and father, and the events of his adolescence shouldn’t be held against him.
What’s chilling is that the tale of Christine and Brett is hardly unusual. Very few people are so pure of heart that nothing could be dredged from their past. If this is the standard to which future Supreme Court justices and others subject to advice and consent will be held, we’re going to have trouble finding people who can meet that standard.
Then again, this could all be a put-up job.