A forthcoming book about Brett Kavanaugh’s life leading up to the moment he secured a lifetime appointment to the nation’s most powerful court has brought the controversial man and his equally controversial Supreme Court confirmation—the closest vote in 130 years, almost half the lifetime of the court itself—back into public discourse.
The reporters tracked down multiple witnesses who supported the allegation by Deborah Ramirez, which first came out in the midst of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, that he pulled down his pants and thrust his penis at her at a party the two—then undergraduates at Yale—attended.
The president, as he is wont to do, tweeted that “Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for liable (sic), or the Justice Department should come to his rescue.” Others on Twitter were furious at how Kavanaugh’s alleged assault on his former Yale classmate was minimized by The New York Times on social media in a tweet—later deleted—that began with the assertion that “Having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun.”
There’s little of substance to say about the latest embarrassing tweet from President Trump, who’s packing the judiciary from the Supreme Court down with extreme Republican judges, or about The New York Times’ opinion section, which persistently infuriated long before social media made it seem more meaningful by giving people a forum to consistently call out how bad it is.
In fact, while Ramirez’s courage in coming forward is admirable, and the behavior many of her former classmates agree Kavanaugh exhibited around her was objectively appalling, there isn’t even really much to say about that. He mistreated her 35 years ago and it appears that the students they hung out with were not what most of us would think of as the cream of the crop.
The most serious issue raised in the excerpt of the book, written by two Times reporters and published by the Times (Kavanaugh, who’s elsewhere denied all the allegations against him, decided against speaking to the reporters), is the confirmation of what many of us suspected during those hellish weeks of his confirmation hearings: We were lied to.
We were lied to by our government. We were lied to by people who are, we now know for a fact, wholly unworthy of being anywhere near the word “justice,” let alone on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and the rest of that ill-gotten posse of furious, entitled old white men are a cadre of liars.
The FBI did not investigate Ramirez’s allegations against Kavanaugh. According to reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, “Ms. Ramirez’s legal team gave the FBI a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence,” but not one of those people were interviewed—even though “many of these potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the FBI on their own.”
Perhaps most galling, the journalists’ reporting found that two FBI agents who interviewed Ramirez told her “that they found her ‘credible.’” So why wouldn’t they investigate a credible claim?
“The Republican-controlled Senate had imposed strict limits on the investigation,” wrote Pogrebin and Kelly, quoting one of Ramirez’s lawyers as saying the agents told them, “We have to wait to get authorization to do anything else.”
You might recall that Grassley—who concluded, despite the lack of a real investigation into Ramirez’s claims, that “there is no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez”—and Hatch were two of the same people who refused to listen to witnesses who were willing to testify about Anita Hill’s allegations against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991.
But the individual who finally suppressed the other women who wanted to bear character witness against Thomas—the man in charge—was then-Sen. Joe Biden—who is currently claiming to be the only Democratic presidential nominee who can beat Trump.
In a review of the book, published in a different section of the same newspaper, those who believe Ramirez should not be dismissed out of hand are wrongly characterized as the camp of “#believeallwomen,” as though wanting credible allegations—allegations deemed credible by FBI agents—to be taken seriously is something silly and vague, the opposite of discerning. It is a favorite ploy of those who find feminism inconvenient—to mischaracterize it as unrealistic and unreasonable.
The review says that while the book confirms that Kavanaugh did drink too much and behave terribly when drunk as a youth, he’s a nice adult. There’s an undertone, too, of pity for the poor guy who grew up amid so much wealth and privilege. Can we really blame him for turning a hard-working girl with a lot less privilege into the butt of a joke because she didn’t sufficiently play off having his penis pushed in her face, wasn’t a Cool Girl about it? We hear a lot about what a good student Kavanaugh was, but Ramirez was a good student, too.
And guess what? It doesn’t matter.
Being a bad student wouldn’t make her more deserving of being mistreated; being a good student doesn’t make it OK to assault your peers. And being a powerful man, or even a Supreme Court justice, doesn’t make you beyond reproach.
Twitter users can display their fury at the injustice inflicted on Ramirez, Christine Blasey Ford, and the rest of us, but it remains to be seen whether that fury will be anything more than performative. It’s a hopeful sign that several Democratic candidates are calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment, which becomes a real possibility if Democrats retake the Senate.
Biden, notably, stopped short of that, saying only that we should follow the facts where they lead—though, with Trump in the White House, impeachment is the only remaining avenue for following those facts to their conclusion.
Will Biden finally be forced to answer for his longtime role in a system that tells women we are little more than unfortunate, but ultimately meaningless, errors in the long lives of powerful men? If Democrats do beat Trump in 2020, what happens to that FBI investigation that never was?