#DONTBEFOOLED Senator Susan Collins:  Regarding the Accusations Against Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/09/26/dontbefooled-senator-susan-collins-regarding-the-accusations-against-judge-brett-kavanaugh/

To the Honorable Susan Collins:

I write with grave concerns about recent press reports on Christine Blasey Ford’s claims of sexual assault by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. At present such reports are central to the issues at hand. I specifically write to you because I believe the political and rather cynical intent of these reports is to provide you, and others in the United States Senate, an apparently justifiable reason to vote against Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. (I am not suggesting Ms. Ford is culpable for how these stories have been presented.) 

Allow me to enumerate my concerns.

1.  Ms. Ford’s story, told to The Washington Post and also outlined in a letter to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, contains details that, if true, seem contradictory. Ms. Ford states Mr. Kavanaugh, during a summer in the early 1980s, along with his friend Mark Judge, “pushed” her into a bedroom when the two teenage boys were “highly inebriated” and “stumbling drunk.” She says the two boys “locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help,” which is quite adroit, in a grotesque way, for two stumbling drunks to do in an unfamiliar house. I note Ms. Ford doesn’t mention whether she screamed outside the bedroom, nor does she describe how and exactly when the boys started the music and what was happening seconds before the volume was boosted. But, more importantly, Ms. Ford adds two details that need explanation in the context of thunderously loud music:  A) Mr. Kavanaugh allegedly placed his hand over her mouth to suppress her screams, which he need not do if her screams were in vain, and B) She could hear “from across the room” Mr. Judge say “mixed words ranging from ‘go for it’ to ‘stop.’” How are these details congruent? Screams are drowned out by loud music but she can hear Mr. Judge speak from across the room? Also, after escaping (a good thing) from her attackers and safely locking herself in a hallway bathroom, she says she could hear both boys “loudly stumble down the stairwell at which point other persons at the house were talking with them.” (Again, we are unsure about the blaring music.) How did she know from behind closed doors it was both boys stumbling down the stairwell, and how could she hear people talking? (There’s no mention Mr. Kavanaugh made any attempt to enter the bathroom.) Also, it seems a strange and almost too-convenient detail to recall all these years later: that the boys stumbled “loudly.”

2.  It’s odd Ms. Ford’s description of her attack as quoted in the Washington Post should include this: “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.” What does she mean, that Mr. Kavanaugh “was trying” to attack her? I thought she said he did attack her. The Washington Post also reports Ms. Ford said her attacker tried to remove her clothing “clumsily”? Really? She remembers – in the midst of allegedly fearing for her life – that her attacker was clumsy rather than, what, deft? To be fair, “clumsily” is the word the reporter uses in the story; it does not appear in a quote from Ms. Ford. But if “clumsily” is not Ms. Ford’s word, what word did she use that suggested “clumsily” to the Washington Post reporter?

3.  It’s also odd Ms. Ford should include in statements she made to the Washington Post notes penned by her therapist in 2012. I can’t imagine anyone believing such notes evidentiary or validating, particularly since they do not mention Mr. Kavanaugh. But the highly prejudicial use of one word in the notes is what’s odd:  the therapist’s notes described the attackers as being from “an elitist boys’ school.” Surely you see the problem:  “elitist” is a pejorative intended to prejudice an audience against the alleged attackers. They are “elitist,” a word often used to connote “entitled” and even, in many instances, “above the law.” But “elitist” is not a statement of fact, it’s a value-laden adjective. The fact is that Georgetown Prep (which Mr. Kavanaugh attended) is (and was) an elite prep school, and it merits that distinction by virtue of its selection process and achievements:  it accepts students that show high aptitude in academics and it sets a high learning standard for its students. A student at Georgetown Prep is not elitist merely because he attends an elite school. In fact, he may be a thoroughly humble and common soul. Hence it seems justifiable to conclude Ms. Ford either used the value-laden “elitist” when speaking to her therapist, or her therapist injected this prejudice into the tale. It behooves the Senate to ask the therapist whether “elitist” is her word or Ms. Ford’s – or someone else’s. Besides, it’s unusual that a Jesuit school (like Georgetown Prep) would ever present itself as “elitist.” But fundamentally and in light of so grave a tale:  Why is it germane that the school is “elitist”?

4.  In addition to the problem of someone “trying to attack” Ms. Ford as quoted in the Washington Post, there is this summation by the Washington Post reporter of something else Ms. Ford said. Please note the problem in chronology:  “Notes from an individual therapy session the following year [2013], when she was being treated for what she says have been long-term effects of the incident, show Ford described a ‘rape attempt’ in her late teens.” I am sorry, but did someone attack Ms. Ford when she was in her mid-teens (she said she was likely 15) as alleged in all reports, or in her late teens? If the latter, then we are no longer talking about an event that happened when Mr. Kavanaugh was at “an elitist boys’ school.” He was at Yale in her late teens.

5.  The Washington Post’s remarks about Ms. Ford’s polygraph test results only further my puzzlement. I quote the story:  “The results, which Katz [Ford’s lawyer] provided to The Post, concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.” Clearly the only thing the Washington Post reports is that Ms. Ford was deemed “truthful” for saying a summary was “accurate.” One must feel bad for such an esteemed paper, as it fails to inquire whether Ms. Ford was ever asked if her story was actually true. Surely we all know “accurate” is not a synonym for true:  it is undeniably accurate to say Santa climbs down chimneys and that Pinocchio has a rather odd nose, but neither proposition equals ontological truth. Additionally, the Washington Post makes no mention about its own capacities to interpret the results of a lie-detector test, nor does it determine whether in fact the “retired FBI agent” who allegedly administered the test was duly qualified in that particular area of expertise. Where was the test done? On whose equipment? Who paid for it? (It is worth noting that polygraph tests are hardly admissible in court.)

6.  I am also saddened by the fact Ms. Ford’s story, drafted in confidence, was released to the press and public in direct disregard of what she requested. That her confidantes should out her is a gross violation of her person. Moreover, it plays to a crass stereotype:  that not only are women weak and thus easily victimized but, as victims, they are too weak to manage their stories without mediation and assistance. Rather than being an empowering moment for women, Ms. Ford’s moment has been reprehensibly mishandled by her Democratic Party friends and their allies in the press. One hopes the Senate will not validate such deplorable and undeniably cynical actions by rejecting Mr. Kavanaugh for his dubious connection to a bit of unseemly gossip (which is all we’ve been given).

7.  It is thoroughly disconcerting that Senator Dianne Feinstein and others allegedly withheld evidence – Ms. Ford’s allegations – for weeks, if not months. If this were a criminal case (which it is not), some would be asking whether Senator Feinstein obstructed justice. It surely feels like she did, in a non-legal sense of the term. If Ms. Ford’s account of when she came forward with this story is true, it is tempting to wonder whether Senator Feinstein also sought to ensure the allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh were sufficiently padded and witnesses sufficiently prepped before Thursday’s Senate hearing. It is easy to conclude that Democratic Party operatives colluded with the press to bring this story to light against a woman’s will. (Blackmail also comes to mind. Was Ms. Ford otherwise pressured to go public with her story against her will?)  

Finally, Senator Collins, I hope you won’t fall for the vacuous argument that because a woman has exposed herself to intense public scrutiny she must be telling the truth. What kind of woman, you may have heard many say, would risk so much if her story is false? But we of course know the answer:  All kinds of people do all kinds of things for reasons inscrutable. Some passionate people immolate themselves publicly; but that hardly proves such passion is a public good. Furthermore, if this silly argument is compelling then so is this:  Brett Kavanaugh would never risk intense public scrutiny as a nominee of the court if he were anything but beyond reproach; such risk proves he’s a truth-teller. Or so goes the fallacy.

Dear Senator Collins, please discourage the cynicism we have seen from Judge Kavanaugh’s enemies. More importantly, don’t undermine justice or due process – such sacred things – by accepting a story passed along by those who smear.

Of course I am not asking you to shame Ms. Ford; I suspect her words have been corrupted by those indifferent to her plight. These gossipers have no interest in justice. Nor am I asking you to ignore actual proof – which no one seems to possess – showing Judge Kavanaugh a liar and a cad. I am asking you to hold to a much higher standard:  that gossipy accusations, deeply flawed and decades old, can never subvert due process.

I also hope you and your colleagues continue to oppose the use of sexual stereotypes for political gain.



W.H. Gnade