- - Tuesday, September 18, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Christine Blasey Ford apparently thought all she was signing up for was her 15 minutes of fame. Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer didn’t say anything about having to take questions and corroborate her account of a teenage date night gone horribly wrong.

She obviously thought (and perhaps was told) that she would just tell her story, collect a round of sympathetic applause, become a heroine of the #MeToo movement, and the senators, the media and the rest of the Democrats would take care of the rest.

But an accusation like the one she made against Brett Kavanaugh, that he pinned her against a bed, ground his body against hers and tried to force sexual attentions on her, is very serious, indeed. Her lawyer calls the incident “attempted rape.” Rape is no longer the capital crime it once was, punishable by the noose or electric chair, but it still is not an accusation to be loosely thrown about.

The Republican majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee halted the confirmation proceedings, as it should have, and invited both Mr. Kavanaugh and his accuser to testify next Monday, under oath, about Mrs. Ford’s account of an assault and Mr. Kavanaugh’s emphatic and forceful denial that he was then, or ever, a participant in such a sordid incident. He suggests, plausibly, that Mrs. Ford’s memory, after 36 years, is playing a trick on her, as memories will. Mr. Kavanaugh suggested that she may have confused the teenaged Mr. Kavanaugh with some other teenaged boy.

An appearance by the accuser and the accused might clear this up, but Mrs. Ford now wants nothing to do with telling her story in a public forum. Her lawyer says it’s not up to Mrs. Ford to corroborate her story. That’s for an “investigator.” Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has not committed herself to vote for or against the Kavanaugh nomination, said Mr. Kavanaugh is entitled to a cross-examination of his accuser.



This has enraged some of the #MeToo feminists. The feminist group UltraViolet says the senator’s call for such a cross-examination is “dead wrong” and “beyond shameful.” Mrs. Ford is not on trial, a spokesman for the group says, and the spokesman is dead right. But what is on trial is Mrs. Ford’s extremely serious accusation.

Sen. Collins says if the accusation is substantiated to the satisfaction of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Kavanaugh is no longer qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, such a finding might make him unqualified to keep his seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and he would be at risk of impeachment. But if Mrs. Ford’s account is dismissed, and Mr. Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will be entitled to an apology from Chuck Schumer and, in particular, Dianne Feinstein.

Late Tuesday the senator conceded that everything Mrs. Ford said might not be truthful. “I can’t say,” she told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I don’t know.” Asked why she waited so late in the proceedings to introduce Mrs. Ford’s letter, she replied: “I don’t know. I’ll have to look back and see.” In an earlier day honor and decency would have compelled them to resign for bringing shame on the Senate. Honor and decency, alas, are not always so highly regarded in our own day.

Washington being what it is, where everything is defined by partisan politics, whether Mrs. Ford’s account or Mr. Kavanaugh’s denial is correct is beside the point. The core calculation is not about what happened, but how the politics of what did or did not happen is what is important. What the Democrats who organized this 11th hour ambush will calculate is how this will play in the midterm congressional elections at hand.

The sterling reputation of a man distinguished in the law as well as in his private life, is ultimately of no consequence to anyone but himself, his family and his friends. What does justice have to do with it? If they succeed in the destruction of Brett Kavanaugh Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Feinstein may think they’re entitled to take a bow, but as low as that bow might be it will not be nearly as low as this moment in the annals of the U.S. Senate.

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