Watching Republicans and the Trump White House cling to Brett Kavanaugh is starting to feel like watching a friend stay with a troublesome partner who is so covered in red flags you wonder if you’ve been teleported to Pamplona.
Kavanaugh was caught lying under oath multiple times, about a variety of different things. And that’s just what we know of with only seven percent of Kavanaugh’s record revealed. Republicans have blocked subpoenas that could answer other questions and the White House is withholding more than 100,000 pages of records.
And now comes the latest, most troubling issue. Kavanaugh is accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl when he was in high school. People from all walks are throwing up their hands at this. The common refrain is: “But it was high school!”
I understand people who are terrified of a world in which we are judged by our teenage years, during which most, if not all of us, have pretty terrible judgment. But terrible judgment and sexual predation are not the same thing.
Kavanaugh insists that he has done nothing wrong; that despite his alleged victim coming forward publicly with a fair amount of evidence—including having passed a polygraph test and told her therapist about the episode back in 2012—the entire episode is made up. But his defenders aren’t making that case. They’re insisting that he shouldn’t be held to account for something that happened 35 years ago at all; that his character and judgment are much improved from his more adventurous and, perhaps, debaucherous youthful days.
But how can that be unless they and Kavanaugh himself also admit that his past actions were atrocious and unacceptable? As his alleged victim’s husband said: “I think you look to judges to be the arbiters of right and wrong. If they don’t have a moral code of their own to determine right from wrong, then that’s a problem… Supreme Court nominees should be held to a higher standard.”
Kavanaugh, of course, can’t say “Yes, I did this thing and I deeply regret it and am so sorry for my juvenile actions.” Doing so would be to admit that he was lying when he said the incident never happened. But in his denials he hasn’t even bothered to say that the action ascribed to him are detestable. His defenders cling to this notion that he is of exemplary character. They point to a letter, signed by 65 acquaintances, saying Kavanaugh was a great teen and, I guess, hasn’t changed at all since then. Because of this, it is impossible to know if he and they actually know right from wrong.
And here’s the thing: Even if it was high school, it was still wrong. As a culture, we need to stop acting like (white) teenage boys are somehow incapable of having a moral compass, and start taking responsibility for how we demonstrate to them what is right and wrong.
“But it’s high school” perpetuates a culture in which young women regularly experience traumatic violence and young men are ill-equipped to understand the consequences of their actions.
Yes, we all fuck up when we’re young. No, we do not all force ourselves sexually on other people. We need to be very clear about that behavior being categorically unacceptable. “He was just a kid” is not an excuse. He’s not a kid now. And we can all raise our kids better.
There is no reason I can think of for a young man to not understand that a girl who is screaming in fear beneath his body—to the point that he feels compelled to cover her mouth—is upset by what he is doing. Being drunk is not an excuse here.
According to Ed Rollins, current co-chairman of the pro-Trump Great America PAC, the White House is correct to proceed as normal on the Kavanaugh nomination because “if this is the new standard, no one will ever want or be able to serve in government or on the judiciary.”
This… seems insane. I’m not a huge fan of men in general and even I don’t believe that each and every single man on this planet would have to bow out of government or law if people with histories of sexual predation were kept out of those fields.
Ultimately, however, the same thing needs to be said in response to the “but it was high school” argument that is said in response to all the dismissals of Kavanaugh’s “mistruths” under oath: But it’s the Supreme Court.
Is it really that hard for Republicans to find one single solitary judge who has not violated a woman’s consent? Do they really need two people on the nation’s highest court with histories of sexual predation (hi, Clarence Thomas)?
The attachment to this one specific man is so unnecessary, and it buys into the notion of individual men being irreplaceable, which they’re not.
Your favorite comedian who did a bad thing is not the last comedian who will ever be good. The same is true for your favorite movie director or writer or editor or radio host, and so on. There are more than 3,000 other federal judges out there. Is it really not possible that even one of them has not “misspoke” under oath or violated another person?