Judge Kavanaugh, a Changed America Debates an Explosive Charge
প্রকাশিত তারিখ : September 19, 2018 | আপডেট সময়: 5:02 AM
It was 36 years ago. The accusation: There was a party, alcohol. A 17-year-old boy was drunk and started groping a 15-year-old girl, pinning her down and covering her mouth so she couldn’t scream. Today, she doesn’t remember some of the details. He insists it didn’t happen at all.
It was 36 years ago. The culture: What 15-year-old girl would tell her parents she had been at a party where kids had been drinking, much less that a boy had attacked her?
It was 36 years ago. The country: Ronald Reagan was president. The Supreme Court had only one female associate justice, its first, Sandra Day O’Connor. It was nine years before the Clarence Thomas hearings, where the spectacle of an all-male Senate panel casting doubt upon Anita Hill would provoke the outrage that drove a record number of women to run for — and win — congressional office.
A very different United States is now deep into a debate over how long-ago allegations involving teenagers and alcohol should be regarded and treated in the confirmation process of the accused, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, in his nomination to the Supreme Court.
It’s unclear where the confrontation is headed: the Senate Judiciary Committee has called both Judge Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, to testify before the Senate Monday, but she has not committed to appearing.
Both Democrats and Republicans have to carefully consider how their response affects their strategy just seven weeks before a midterm election where women are crucial voters. Democrats have to worry about older women and those who have raised teenagers, who may be skeptical that an allegation from adolescence should doom a person as an adult, no matter what they think of this pick by President Trump. Republicans have to be mindful of generational shift that has made the country far more vigilant on matters of sexual misconduct, and of the women demanding that the allegations made by Dr. Blasey, now a research psychologist in Northern California, be taken seriously.
No matter their differing viewpoints, scholars, advocates for women’s rights, politicians and others see enormous consequence in reckoning with adolescent behavior during a high court fight in an unusually combustible election year.”
“This is going to come back to bite women, I promise you,” said Kay Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, and the author of “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys.” “Teenage girls do crazy, stupid things also. Even if they have not attempted a rape, they will have done other stupid things. There’s a lot of confusion about what we expect of kids, boys and girls, when it comes to sex.”
Others argued that while it is reasonable to put the allegations in context — if they are true, he was just a teenager, that argument goes — Judge Kavanaugh is not up for an ordinary job.
“I would be very troubled if someone were about to go to jail for something like this that happened 40 years ago,” said Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge who has written extensively in defense of women’s rights in sexual harassment and sexual assault. Still, she said, “With respect to the Supreme Court you’re dealing with an elite position which is a privilege to be confirmed for. And arguably the standards are much higher.”
Judge Gertner noted that she had raised two teenagers — “teenage boys are nuts,” she said — and she has seen how allegations, even when found to be false, can unfairly tarnish young men. Last year, she and three other Harvard Law School professors urged the Department of Education to reassess Obama-era guidance to colleges on dealing with allegations of sexual assault, arguing they had encouraged colleges to adopt definitions of misconduct that are “seriously overbroad.”
“Should she be believed? I don’t know,” she said. “What does one do about an accusation that is this old? I’m not sure. But you’re talking about a different kind of position.”
Much hangs in the balance. Judge Kavanaugh would fill what has been a swing seat on the court, and would likely be a decisive vote on for a strengthened conservative majority. The midterm elections on Nov. 6 could flip control of the Senate, giving Democrats the power to veto any of Mr. Trump’s nominees for the next two years.
The allegations also come in a defining political moment for women, who are energized as voters and running for Congress in record numbers — in both cases, mostly as Democrats. It’s far different than 1991, when Ms. Hill reluctantly made allegations of sexual harassment against Judge Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The male senators who cast doubt on her were a bipartisan group — almost unthinkable in today’s polarized setting. And a cultural reckoning on sexual assault in recent years — in the Catholic Church, in elite boarding schools, and in the highest ranks of Hollywood — has established that crimes committed several decades ago are crimes all the same.
At the very least, politicians now understand that a woman’s allegations need to be heard, and that most women would have a hard time coming forward. Dr. Blasey has said that it was only years later, while in therapy, that she fully understood the attack as attempted rape, and she still struggled for months over making the allegations public, knowing that women who make such allegations open themselves up to shaming and doubt.
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