Dianne Feinstein, What in the Hell Were You Thinking?
Brett Kavanaugh stands accused of sexually assaulting a high school classmate. And Feinstein seems to have concluded that the public didn’t need to know this.
First of all, what in blazes was Dianne Feinstein thinking? It was late July when she got that letter from a female constituent alleging that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. And only this week did she bother to share it with her Democratic Judiciary Committee colleagues?
And not only that. According to Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer’s explosive New Yorker piece posted Friday morning, those colleagues got wind of the letter’s existence and had been asking her to share it with them “for several days”? What did she say? My dog ate it?
Mind-boggling. Here we were, in late July, two weeks after Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell had yet to announce the confirmation hearing dates, which he announced on Aug. 9. But obviously, in late July, the Democrats were well aware that they had the fight of their lives on their hands; that they were outnumbered and would need something huge. And here is Feinstein, the ranking member of the committee, holding that something in her hands.
And she kept it secret. From her colleagues. According to the New Yorker, her staff even told other Democrats on the committee that the incident was “taken care of” and that it was too far in the past to be worth discussing in public. She had no right to keep it from them. For that matter, she had no right to keep it from us, the public, who also live with the consequences of a new Supreme Court.
Maybe Feinstein feared that if she shared the letter, the woman’s name would leak out. Maybe she felt it wasn’t her story to tell. A reasonable concern. But okay—share the letter while redacting the woman’s name. It took me four seconds to think of that.
Maybe she feared being attacked for bringing in something this controversial and ancient. Okay. But what did she think was going to happen? Did she think she’d be able to sit on this letter forever and not even refer it to the FBI? Hot documents have a way of getting out in this town. At the very least, when her colleagues started asking her about it, she should have owned up and told them the truth and shared it with them and asked their advice.
And now where are we? She’s made an absolute disaster of things. It got out anyway. If anything, by holding it so long, she has helped facilitate the discrediting of the woman who is accusing Kavanaugh here, because it looks desperate and eleventh-hour, whereas if she’d made this public before, people would have had time to process it and Republicans couldn’t have made that accusation.
Oh, and this: Up to now, the Democrats were getting points from liberals (for the most part) because they’d handled the hearings pretty well. They were tough. They stood up. They asked good questions. They pinned Kavanaugh down on lie after lie. They don’t have the votes, and if you don’t have the votes, you don’t have the votes. But for once they didn’t run up the white flag before the battle was over. They weren’t like those dogs in the learned helplessness experiments, so accustomed to defeat and punishment that they just sat in the corner.
But now, single-handedly, she has returned things to the Incompetent Democrats narrative. Well, no. Not Incompetent Democrats. Incompetent Democrat, singular. Beyond belief.
She’s running for reelection, and under California’s jungle primary, her general-election opponent is a fellow Democrat, Kevin De Leon, who’s challenging her from the left. De Leon is no Bernie bro; he endorsed Clinton. Feinstein has been 20 to 25 points ahead, and De Leon hasn’t made the best case for himself. Well, Feinstein just made the best possible case for him. She might still win, but next year, the Democrats should absolutely kick her off the committee for this. Especially if they retake the Senate—there is no way after this cock-up she should be anywhere near that gavel.
So now, conservatives are rallying to Kavanaugh’s defense, arguing that he has denied it, calling forth character witnesses. But the denial could be a lie, and the character witnesses certainly weren’t in the room that night.
Surely senators will also soon begin to say ‘Ah, it was high school, it’s too long ago.’ This argument can be easily pre-butted.
First of all, just because it was 36 years ago, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically irrelevant. Suppose a Supreme Court nominee committed murder 36 years ago? I’d say, liberal or conservative, that murder was relevant. So some old crimes can be relevant. It just depends on their nature and severity.
On top of that, we have the fact that this man, if confirmed, is going to spend the next 30 or 35 years of his life deciding whether 16-year-old girls like the one he allegedly attacked have any rights to control their own reproductive fates. We all know, his “open mind” notwithstanding, that he is going to spend 30 or 35 years saying they have none.
If he is permitted to spend three decades doing this even though he may have been a sexual aggressor, that is a disgrace. There’s already one credibly accused sexual aggressor on the Supreme Court who’s cast vote after vote denying women the right to control their biological destiny. Are we to have another?
There are only nine of them, in the whole United States. And the Republican Party can’t find ones who aren’t accused of disturbing sexual misadventure?
These all are fair questions, and questions we as a society might have spent the last few weeks exploring. But Dianne Feinstein decided we shouldn’t. Do I still have time to move to California and vote?