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Brett Kavanaugh

The sexual-assault alle­ga­tions against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are serious and worth con­sid­er­ation. But, even more con­se­quential is the politi­cization of these alle­ga­tions that reflects a des­per­ation under­mining the nom­i­nation process.

In recent days, politi­cians on both sides of the aisle have thrown Christine Blasey Ford’s name through the political shredder — Repub­licans, because her alle­ga­tions of sexual assault threaten Kavanaugh’s con­fir­mation; Democrats, because revealing her story despite a request for con­fi­den­tiality was polit­i­cally expe­dient.

Ford, a once anonymous Cal­i­fornia pro­fessor, pub­licly accused Kavanaugh this week of attempted sexual assault, as reported by the Wash­ington Post. Ford said that at a high school party, Kavanaugh allegedly pushed her onto a bed and groped her over her clothes, pinning his body against hers. Kavanaugh has strongly denied the accu­sa­tions and Ford has yet to provide sub­stantive, cor­rob­o­rating evi­dence to support her claim. She did recount the trau­ma­tizing incident to a coun­selor during a session with her husband, many years later. But she did not specif­i­cally name Kavanaugh as the attacker and admitted her memory of the event was less than perfect. She should not, however, be dis­credited.

Sexual assault is a deeply dis­turbing crime, and Repub­licans and Democrats alike would be wise to err on the side of caution when weighing Ford’s story. As the coun­seling session indi­cates, Ford most likely did suffer such a trauma. This should draw a response of sym­pathy and under­standing rather than anger and attack. Ford fully expected the public’s response (which is why she refused to go on the record until a few days ago), but still will­ingly sac­ri­ficed her rep­u­tation. Perhaps it’s pre­sumptive of Ford’s motives, but I struggle to under­stand why a woman would do that strictly for political gain.

Senate Democrats under­mined Ford’s story by dis­closing her alle­ga­tions at the last minute, on the eve of Kavanaugh’s con­fir­mation. Sen. Dianne Fein­stein (D-Cal­i­fornia)  knew about Ford’s alle­ga­tions since late July, but chose to keep this infor­mation to herself until last week, when she revealed knowledge of Ford’s story on the Senate floor. In doing so, Fein­stein and her Demo­c­ratic col­leagues have under­mined Ford’s story and the entire nom­i­nation process. Fein­stein claimed her office leaked the infor­mation, prompting a response. But it’s no secret Senate Democrats have been des­per­ately trying to dis­qualify Kavanaugh, so how credible can Feinstein’s account be?

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) sum­ma­rized the Democrats’ mis­han­dling well: “If they believed Pro­fessor Ford, why didn’t they surface this infor­mation earlier so that he could be ques­tioned about it?” she told the New York Times. “And if they didn’t believe her and chose to withhold the infor­mation, why did they decide at the 11th hour to release it? It is really not fair to either of them the way it is was handled.”

Oddly enough, self-pro­claimed con­ser­v­a­tives have exhibited the worst reac­tions, com­paring the alle­ga­tions to “McCarthyism,” calling it a “hit job,” and nothing more than a Demo­c­ratic ploy. Some con­ser­v­a­tives have even said the alle­ga­tions should be ignored com­pletely. Dennis Prager, in a column for National Review, asked “Why is this claim taken seri­ously?” He then sug­gested morally weighing Ford’s alle­ga­tions would be foolish, because it would set the precedent that “what a middle-age adult did in high school is all we need to know to evaluate an individual’s char­acter.”

This is wrong on many levels. Whatever the verdict, Ford’s alle­ga­tions are not irrel­evant. If Kavanaugh did indeed commit the alleged attack, it doesn’t matter when the alleged attack occurred or how old Kavanaugh was when it hap­pened. If con­ser­v­a­tives argue that char­acter matters, then char­acter must matter — even for judges. If a strict, orig­i­nalist inter­pre­tation of the Con­sti­tution is the only requirement a con­ser­v­ative justice must satisfy, con­ser­vatism has for­gotten the very thing it’s meant to pre­serve.

Hun­dreds of women have defended him in various letters sub­mitted to the Senate Judi­ciary Com­mittee, and thus far, this is the only stain on Kavanaugh’s rep­u­tation — if the #MeToo movement has proven any­thing, it’s that sexual assault isn’t an iso­lated event, it’s a pattern of behavior. So is it pos­sible Ford is mis­re­mem­bering that night and wrongly assigning Kavanaugh the blame? This is the question that deserves attention, and Ford and Kavanaugh both agreed to testify before the U.S. Senate Judi­ciary Com­mittee in an attempt to answer it. Ford, however, backed out of tes­ti­fying Tuesday night, saying she would like a com­plete FBI inves­ti­gation before she answers the sen­ators’ ques­tions. This is a mistake, and for her sake, I hope she recon­siders.

Regardless, a woman chose to place before the world a painful memory that, to this day, deeply affects her, and Repub­licans and Democrats skewered her, each seeking the political advantage. Ford deserves to be heard, not mocked. And she should have come forward will­ingly instead of being drawn into the lime­light by a cheap, political maneuver. The truth will come out one way or another, but now, no one walks away unscathed.

Kaylee McGhee is a senior studying pol­itics. 

 

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Kaylee McGhee
Kaylee McGhee is a senior at Hillsdale College, majoring in Politics with a minor in Journalism. This is her fourth year writing for the Collegian and she serves as the paper's Opinions Editor. Kaylee worked in Washington D.C. last year and wrote for the Weekly Standard. Her work has also appeared in the Detroit News and the Orange County Register. Follow her on Twitter: @KayleeDMcGhee email: kmcghee@hillsdale.edu