In Perspective

Reactions to the allegation that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted at least one woman have ranged from the absurd to the ridiculous among his supporters.

Gina Sosa, a former Florida congressional candidate, offered this defense: “Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school? We’re talking about a 17year-old boy in high school, with testosterone running high.”

Irina Villarino took it a step further: “In the grand scheme of things, my goodness, there was no intercourse. There was maybe a touch. Really? Thirty-six years later she’s still stuck on that?”

North Dakota congressman Kevin Cramer, a candidate for the U.S. Senate:

“It was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere. This case is even more absurd because these people were teenagers when this supposed, alleged incident took place.

These are teenagers who evidently were drunk according to her own statements.” South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman tried to be funny: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had accused President Abraham Lincoln of groping her.

And, as two more accusers spoke out against Kavanaugh, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro theorized that the women suffered from “hypnosis” gone “awry.”

As this column is being written, a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, came forward to accuse the nominee of sexual misconduct while they were in Yale Law School. Attorney Michael Avenetti announced he was representing a third, unidentified, accuser who would come out publicly later in the week. And the Montgomery County Sentinel in Maryland reported that “an alleged witness to an unspecified incident involving Kavanaugh that occurred in high school in the 1980s” had asked police to launch an investigation. Still, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will decide Kavanaugh’s fate, is insisting that only he and Blasey Ford will be allowed to testify.

That could change by the time this is being read but so far Republican leaders are not budging. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have all insisted that Kavanaugh will be confirmed. Kavanaugh, who has rejected the accusation, took the unusual step of going on television to defend himself.

The refusal to delay the proceedings pending an investigation, ideally by the FBI, is in stark contrast to McConnell’s blocking for some 400 days a hearing on then President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. That allowed Trump to put Neil Gorsuch on the court and nominate Kavanaugh. It has been left to the Democratic minority on the committee to press for a full airing of the accusation, a responsible step that the Republicans claim is playing politics. But it seems that the confirmation will succeed both in the committee and in the full Senate. That could influence the mid-term election on Nov. 6 but by then it would be too late.

The Supreme Court, which, in recent years was split 4-4, with one swing vote, will have a solid 5-4 conservative majority for at least a generation. And one of them, ironically, another candidate who squeezed past allegations of sexual misconduct by claiming he was the victim of “high-tech lynching,” Clarence Thomas, whose accuser was Anita Hill. It is further ironic that the Democrats, who are now furious over the Kavanaugh nomination, voted to confirm Thomas when they had the majority, with then Judiciary Committee chairman Joe Bidden – later the other part of the Obama presidency – refusing to call two witnesses who were willing to testify for Hill.

There are key issues besides alleged sexual misconduct that should be motivating African Americans to push for rejection of the Kavanaugh nomination and it is disappointing that they have not been showing greater interest in the hearing. It is true that, unlike the Thomas affair, this one involves mostly white folks but matters of sexual assault are not racespecific. Not many people may know that the #MeToo movement was actually started by an African American. Tarana Burke, a Harlem activist, launched the movement ten years ago as a forum for poor black women who were sexually abused.

But perhaps the greatest irony in the Kavanaugh affair is that he was nominated by Trump, whom 22 women have accused of sexual misconduct, including ogling, harassment, groping, and rape, between the 1970s and 2013. The women were all named in a Business Insider story that identified them, summarized their accusations and cited Trump’s standard denial and calling them all liars. Those allegations are on top of Trump’s boasting, as heard on an Access Hollywood tape in October 2016, that he had grabbed women by their genitals.

It would be another sign of the times if a Supreme Court nominee facing intense sexual misconduct allegations gets to the high court because of a man who himself is an accused serial sexual abuser.