Monday, September 24, 2018

L'Affaire Brett Kavanaugh: With Symmetry Like This, Who Needs A Sex Scandal?

The gravity-defying rush by the Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee to confirm Brett Kavanaugh's nomination as a Supreme Court justice with a bumbling assist by conservative organizations floating evil twin theories and tone-deaf defenses from the Predator in Chief and a small army of misogynists crashed to earth with a resounding thud at 7:49 p.m. on Sunday evening.  That was when The New Yorker reported with a certain air of inevitably that Kavanaugh's attempted rape of Christine Blasey Ford was not a one-off. 
The initial reaction from Democrats was to demand a delay in consideration of
Kavanaugh while the new allegation -- that he had exposed himself to a woman at a college party and caused her to touch his penis without her consent -- was investigated.  The initial reaction of Republicans was another furious round of denials, and it has become beyond obvious that the knife fight to save the imperiled nomination of a perjurious reprobate who with a lifetime appointment will plunge the high court into darkness has a certain perverse symmetry.   
It goes something like this: 
After supporting U.S. Senate candidate (and accused child molester) Roy Moore, Donald Trump (a confessed perpetrator of sexual assaults and sexual harassment claims by 15 women) has nominated Kavanaugh (a credibly accused attempted rapist) who would, if confirmed by the Judiciary Committee (which lost an aide to sexual harassment allegations over the weekend and five Republican congressional colleagues to sexual harassment claims this year alone) to serve alongside Clarence Thomas (a credibly accused sexual harasser). 
With symmetry like this, who needs a sex scandal?    
Well, the Republican Party has yet another one -- easily the biggest and most damaging to date beyond their Dear President himself -- as well as a bona fide box office hit in its matinee performance of What Goes Around Comes Around, a fiasco starring Chuckie Grassley & His Hapless Helpmates with the really big takeaway being that even more midterm voters will conclude that the GOP has no problem confirming Kavanaugh even if the claims against him are true, and will cast their ballots accordingly. 
The Republican War on Women is not an overnight sensation.   
Some woman -- you know, the people who give birth to and raise children, take them to daycare and later soccer practice and piano lessons and care for elderly parents while juggling their careers, who pack lunches and cook meals, have to make tough reproductive decisions, balance the family checkbook, and sometimes fight for their country -- turned away from the party when it tried to defund Planned Parenthood for the umpteenth time. Or opposed contraception and preventive health care.  Or supported laws prohibiting abortions for even the victims of rape and incest, in essence encouraging violence against women. 
Republicans keep asking what women want and remain clueless as to what the answer might be.  Which is why gender politics will be an issue they can't make go away on November 6. 
The big questions following The New Yorker report are how many more allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh are in the pipeline and how long it will take Kavanaugh to withdraw from consideration using the shopworn "for the good of his family and the country" script. 
The answer to the first question is maybe not long at all.  
Michael Avenatti, the attorney representing porn actress and former Trump squeeze Stormy Daniels in her legal fight with the president, claims to represent a woman with information about high school-era parties attended by Kavanaugh and urged the Senate to investigate.  He told The Associated Press that he will disclose his client's identity in the coming days and that she is prepared to testify before the committee, as well as provide names of corroborating witnesses, and asserted later that he is aware "of significant evidence" that Kavanaugh participated in multiple gang rapes while in high school. 
In the latest allegation, Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh's at Yale University, said he exposed himself to her at a party during the 1983-84 academic year, or a year or so after the drunken pool party in suburban Washington where Christine Blasey Ford says Kavanaugh attempted to rape her. 
Ramirez said they both had been drinking at the time of the incident and acknowledged some gaps in her memory.  
Write New Yorker reporters Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer:
She recalled that the party took place in a suite at Lawrance Hall, in the part of Yale known as Old Campus, and that a small group of students decided to play a drinking game together.  "We were sitting in a circle," she said.  "People would pick who drank."  Ramirez was chosen repeatedly, she said, and quickly became inebriated.  At one point, she said, a male student pointed a gag plastic penis in her direction.  Later, she said, she was on the floor, foggy and slurring her words, as that male student and another stood nearby.  
A third male student then exposed himself to her.  "I remember a penis being in front of my face," she said.  "I knew that's not what I wanted, even in that state of mind."   She recalled remarking, "That’s not a real penis," and the other students laughing at her confusion and taunting her, one encouraging her to "kiss it."   She said that she pushed the person away, touching it in the process. Ramirez, who was raised a devout Catholic, in Connecticut, said that she was shaken.  "I wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married," she said.  "I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated."  She remembers Kavanaugh standing to her right and laughing, pulling up his pants.  "Brett was laughing," she said.  "I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants."  She recalled another male student shouting about the incident.  "Somebody yelled down the hall, 'Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,' " she said.  "It was his full name.  I don't think it was just 'Brett.'  And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there." 
In a statement issued by the White House, Kavanaugh denied the accusation and called it "a smear, plain and simple."  But among his ever accumulating problems is that Farrow and Mayer are not ordinary reporters and The New Yorker is not your everyday rag. 
Farrow single-handedly broke the first of what have become a staggering 80 allegations of sexual misconduct against film producer Harvey Weinstein while Mayer wrote The Dark Side, the definitive history of the Bush Torture Regime, as well as incisive investigative pieces on government prosecution of whistleblowers and the U.S. drone program. Meanwhile, The New Yorker has an unblemished reputation for painstaking fact checking and there is no question the Ramirez story was exhaustively vetted. 
Perhaps the most telling paragraph of The New Yorker story is this recollection:
Another woman who attended high school in the nineteen-eighties in Montgomery County, Maryland, where Georgetown Prep is located, also refuted [Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark] Judge's account of the social scene at the time, sending a letter to Ford's lawyers saying that she had witnessed boys at parties that included Georgetown Prep students engaging in sexual misconduct.  In an interview, the woman, who asked to have her name withheld for fear of political retribution, recalled that male students "would get a female student blind drunk" on what they called "jungle juice" -- grain alcohol mixed with Hawaiian Punch -- then try to take advantage of her.  "It was disgusting," she said.  "They treated women like meat."    
Elizabeth Rasor, a college classmate and former girlfriend of Judge, the accused accomplice in the Ford sexual assault, told The New Yorker that Judge admitted to her an episode in which he and his friends took turns "having sex" with a drunk woman.  

Ramirez, like Ford, was at first reluctant to speak publicly "partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident," The New Yorker reported.  But after "six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections" to speak publicly. 
While Republicans promised to soldier on, the Judiciary Committee is running out of options -- let alone negotiating room -- after repeatedly backtracking on taking a confirmation vote and giving Ford a bad-faith deadline to speak up or shut up and then repeatedly changing it. 
The dam will have been officially breached if more shoes drop (the committee had known about the Ramirez revelation last week, which is a reason they tried to rush the nomination) or Grassley allows additional witnesses to testify.  The revelation and Avenatti saber-rattling undoubtedly will impact on their plans for Ford to testify on Thursday, which is itself in doubt because she has said she is afraid of confined spaces (as well as slimy Republican men) and would have to drive cross country from California, where she is in hiding after death threats, rather than flying.  
Kavanaugh's defense has been that he would never do such a thing and his life has been a storybook example of an Ivy Leaguer who is straitlaced and respectful of women.  That defense has now crashed to earth with a resounding thud.


Pete Simon said...

So what is Bob Corker going to do? He has nothing to lose by voting against Kavanaugh, except losing his spot in the good old boy clubs back home. I think people should be lobbying him heavily right now. The good old boy shit has its limitations, Bob. Grow-up! It's the least you could do given the racist mudslinging campaign you mounted against Harold Ford.

Bscharlott said...

Great overview, Shaun. I think the dam is bursting -- it will be hard for the GOP to contain the damage.