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The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 

Any talk of a hearing on Monday, frankly, is premature, because she just came forward with these allegations 48 hours ago. And since that time, she has been dealing with hate mail, harassment, death threats. So she has been spending her time trying to figure out how to put her life back together, how to protect herself and her family. And there hasn’t been an investigation. And these are serious allegations.

– Attorney Lisa Banks, representing Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, September 18

You know your story is going badly when you’ve taken care to do it right in coming forward with a dark accusation against a powerful man and even your lawyer, a woman, misrepresents your reality in a way that favors the powerful man. What does it take to confront reality with care, accuracy, and integrity?

Let’s concede that at this point, nothing is proved. On balance, however, it’s fair to say that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s bona fides are significantly more credible than Brett Kavanaugh’s honesty, integrity, or fundamental decency.

When Attorney Banks says of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, “she just came forward with these allegations 48 hours ago,” attorney Banks is flat out wrong (Wikipedia makes the same distortion). She is also framing the case in a manner favorable to the accused, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Why would Banks do that? The truth is that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward, albeit somewhat tentatively, even before Kavanaugh was nominated on July 9. From then till now she has been consistently betrayed by public officials unwilling to defend the rule of law.

Everyone deserves to be taken seriously, but that’s hardly the governing standard in American public life. In spite of the prevailing bias, one might expect a serious response to a well-credentialed credible professional woman coming forward with an allegation that, as she acknowledges, may well destroy her life and leave her attacker unscathed. We’ve seen this story before. Unless he’s impeached for his wife’s gross political conflict of interest activities (or other misbehavior), Clarence Thomas will spend the rest of his life polluting American culture with his corrupt jurisprudence. And Thomas owes his seat to the cowardice of Joe Biden and the rest of the Democrats who refused to call three witnesses, three credible women, who would have testified in support of Anita Hill with their own stories of Thomas’s disgustingness. That was 1991, when Anita Hill was 35 and Dr. Ford was 24.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford knew the Anita Hill story; she knew the very real risks she would run by coming forward. Dr. Ford is a psychologist, with two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the University of California. She is a professor in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University. One can only imagine what it takes for a successful professional woman whose life would remain secure in silence to break that silence and face huge, unknown risks for speaking truth to power.  She began cautiously, as the Washington Post reported on September 17:

She contacted The Post through a tip line in early July, when it had become clear that Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of possible nominees to replace retiring justice Anthony M. Kennedy but before Trump announced his name publicly. A registered Democrat who has made small contributions to political organizations, she contacted her congresswoman, Democrat Anna G. Eshoo, around the same time. In late July, she sent a letter via Eshoo’s office to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

In the letter, which was read to The Post, Ford described the incident and said she expected her story to be kept confidential. She signed the letter as Christine Blasey [Ford], the name she uses professionally.

Christine Blasey Ford was never anonymous in telling her story, but she didn’t want to go on the record. That’s why the Washington Post, with little more to go on, didn’t pursue the story at first.

It’s not clear why Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, a Democratic member of Congress since 1993, did little more than forward a letter to Dianne Feinstein. Eshoo met with Blasey Ford for more than an hour on July 20 and recently said: “At the end of the meeting, I told her I believed her.” On Eshoo’s advice, Christine Blasey Ford wrote a letter to Dianne Feinstein that Eshoo’s staff hand-delivered on July 30.

Using Christine Blasey’s request for confidentiality as an excuse, Feinstein kept the letter secret for six weeks – secret from the public, secret from the Judiciary Committee, secret from her fellow Democrats, secret from the FBI, secret. Feinstein appointed herself judge, jury, and executioner of a cover-up of a credible claim by an established professional woman, vouched-for by her own congresswoman, asserting that a Supreme Court nominee attempted to rape her when she was fifteen.

For six weeks, as Kavanaugh’s steamroller nomination proceeded, flattening all propriety and procedure, Feinstein did nothing to determine whether or not he was an attempted-rapist of women. It’s easily demonstrated that he rapes the Constitution at will. So why did Feinstein do nothing? Why did Eshoo apparently do nothing? Why did these women not support Christine Blasey Ford? Why did they not explore the allegation, test it, and develop a strategy to keep a would-be rapist off the Supreme Court? Why did they waste time, contributing to the likelihood of a circus atmosphere when the story broke? Did they really think they could enforce an effective cover-up? And if so, why did they think that was any sort of a good idea? Who ARE these people supposedly serving our country?

Christine Blasey Ford consulted a lawyer who advised her to take a polygraph test. In early August she took the lie detector test administered by a former FBI agent. The result, according to the Post, “concluded that [Christine Blasey Ford] was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.” By late August, still getting little support from her representatives, Christine Blasey Ford had decided not to come forward, her confidentiality still intact.

On September 12, the Intercept reported on the letter in Feinstein’s possession and on Feinstein’s refusal to share the letter with colleagues. The author remained unnamed. Feinstein refused to answer questions about the letter. During Kavanaugh’s hearings, Feinstein had questioned him without even veiled reference to the rape accusation. On September 13, the FBI confirmed that it had received the letter and, with the author’s name redacted, included it in the Kavanaugh background file available to all members of the Judiciary Committee. On September 14, Feinstein’s office issued a self-serving statement that explained nothing:

The senator took these allegations seriously and believed they should be public. However, the woman in question made it clear she did not want this information to be public. It is critical in matters of sexual misconduct to protect the identity of the victim when they wish to remain anonymous, and the senator did so in this case.

Feinstein has set the stage for the predictable, dishonest posturing that promptly emerged to discredit whatever it was without trying to find out what it was. Texas senator John Cornyn, second ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, delivered a tweet very much in the spirit of the Watergate cover-up conspirator who told an underling, “I don’t want to know, and you don’t want to know.” Cornyn chose sarcasm for his evasion tweet:

Let me get this straight: this is statement about secret letter regarding a secret matter and an unidentified person. Right.

The circus had begun. How it will end, nobody knows, but if the past is any guide, pessimism is in order. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, in a fruitless effort to tell her own story in her own way, has come forward. Republican senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, continues to recklessly railroad one of the most dishonest, incomplete, reckless Supreme Court nominations with continuing disregard for any effort to see the nominee in full dimension. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has said she’s willing to testify, but that should come after an FBI investigation. The president has lied and said the FBI doesn’t do such investigations. Grassley, true to his own emptiness, says there’s no reason for more delay of this hurried process, no investigation is needed, better to have a one-on-one, reality show shouting match with Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford together before the committee that has no track record of delivering the truth about anything. The potential for a category 5 Capitol Hill storm is building.

Psychologist Blasey Ford’s position is calm and rational, as outlined in a letter from lawyer Banks to Grassley, promising full cooperation with the committee and law enforcement and arguing that investigation should precede judgment (although many Republicans have already expressed judgment):

… a full investigation by law enforcement officials will ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions….

We would welcome the opportunity to talk with you and Ranking Member Feinstein to discuss reasonable steps as to how Dr. Ford can cooperate while also taking care of her own health and security… She is not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday [September 24].

Rather than investigate, Republicans have chosen to threaten. Grassley has rejected calls even to delay the hearing on Monday, saying that if Christine Blasey Ford doesn’t testify, the committee might just go ahead and vote on Kavanaugh and be done with it. There’s nothing in the Constitution that prevents the Supreme Court from having two sexual predators.

Anita Hill has weighed in with a cogent and sensitive op-ed in The New York Times, reviewing the mistakes the Senate made with its 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings and suggesting ways for the Senate to do better this time, and maybe even get it right:

Do not rush these hearings. Doing so would not only signal that sexual assault accusations are not important — hastily appraising this situation would very likely lead to facts being overlooked that are necessary for the Senate and the public to evaluate. That the committee plans to hold a hearing this coming Monday is discouraging. Simply put, a week’s preparation is not enough time for meaningful inquiry into very serious charges.

Finally, refer to Christine Blasey Ford by her name. She was once anonymous, but no longer is. Dr. Blasey is not simply “Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser.” Dr. Blasey is a human being with a life of her own. She deserves the respect of being addressed and treated as a whole person.

The evidence of Christine Blasey Ford’s being not just a whole person, but a kind and competent person with a powerful social conscience, is so far overwhelming (even in the Wall Street Journal). There is, to date, no reason not to believe her story. As others have noted, she has nothing to gain by coming forward, and much to lose. She has already lost some of it, and the worst is still ahead. Sympathy for her is widespread, as evidenced by an online support site that raised more than its $100,000 goal in less than 24 hours.

Kavanaugh is already credibility-challenged on numerous fronts. He has no record of protecting women, minorities, civil rights, workers, or anyone else in a vulnerable position. His written opinions have excoriated humane principles. He wants a lifetime appointment. The burden is on him to show that he deserves it. He has already denied any sexual assault; he has even denied being at a party that, as yet, has no precise time, date, or place. Isn’t it Kavanaugh’s turn for a polygraph?

 

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