It is not at all strange to me that Ford would not go public with these accusations before now. Most women who have experienced sexual assault don’t tell anyone even privately about it, much less go public, much less go public in such a politically polarized context. If I were her I would want to avoid it all too, and I’d also feel conflicted if the person who assaulted me was about to be handed such incredible power. The fact that Ford didn’t speak up before now in no way invalidates her claims, to my mind.
I also think it’s significant that there’s evidence she was talking about this experience at least as far back as 2012, because that fact undermines the idea that this is all some ad hoc plot to stop Kavanaugh. I don’t think it’s weird that she didn’t use his specific name at the time. I could hardly stand to say the name of the dude from my past and he was in no way powerful or famous.
I also don’t think it’s strange that she’s hazy on a lot of details. I’ve seen so many posts—including a lot of posts from sexual assault victims—claiming a victim basically never forgets and if she were telling the truth she’d remember everything. That is just not accurate. Human memory is notoriously imprecise and fallible. We know from the work of the Innocence Project that many people have been imprisoned based largely on eyewitness testimony that was incorrect, and that’s not to say eyewitnesses were lying per se. In many cases they were probably entirely sincere, but there are many psychological biases that can make our memories false. Add to that decades since the event. It’s not weird that she doesn’t remember how she got there or left, in my opinion. I am much younger than she and I am very fuzzy on many high school memories and I was sober the entire time too.
That said, human memory is notoriously imprecise and fallible, so it’s a problem that there appears to be no corroborating evidence of Ford’s account. I think it’s pretty significant that none of the people she said were present have corroborated her. I doubt Ford is lying. I don’t think she’s acting out of partisan politics. But I am not as certain that she’s right.
And then there’s Kavanaugh. His opening statement was more passionate than I expected. He behaved the way a man falsely accused might be expected to behave. Then again I have known men who seemed quite likable, who you’d never believe would do something like that, and they totally have. Or, as a somewhat tangential example, it reminds me of Rod Dreher’s article about how his family very painfully left the Catholic church after discovering that a priest they specifically liked had a history of sexual assault allegations, and Dreher and his wife realized they couldn’t rely on their instincts: they would have had no idea and their parish warned no one. Predators can be very convincing. You can’t tell just based on apparent righteous indignation. I think both an innocent man and a guilty one would behave that way. I’ll admit there were moments when I felt a bit sorry for Kavanaugh but then I kept coming back to the fact that his emotional displays, in my opinion, don’t really tell us anything.
That’s not even getting into the fact that he may 100% believe he’d done nothing even when he had. It was decades ago, and, once again, human memory is very fallible, even more so if it’s true he was drinking a lot. In my personal experience and being familiar with the personal experiences of others, certain types of men can unequivocally cross a line and truly not view it that way at the time or remember it that way later. I have seen this. So just as Ford could be 100% sincere and also wrong, so could Kavanaugh.
That’s the really irritating thing about the hearing yesterday (9/26). At no point did I believe, for the politicians there, that this was about truth-finding. And it was quite clear listening to them go on. So much grandstanding, using their question time to make long-winded political statements, asking questions people have asked many times over, etc. It mostly seemed like attempts to paint Kavanaugh as either innocent or guilty (depending on who was talking) or an attempt to, through talking to Kavanaugh, paint the other side of the aisle as terrible. Very little of it seemed like a genuine attempt to dig into anything.
I will say I thought Lindsey Graham’s enraged outburst seemed sincere and that resonated with me. I also appreciated Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons. They asked a lot of the same types of things their fellow Democrats asked, but they seemed like they actually wanted to know and weren’t just making power plays. I thought they handled themselves really well.
Other than those three, I could hardly stand listening to anyone, particularly Whitehouse and Harris, ugh. That’s all I have to say about that.
Also Kavanaugh was way too evasive. There were so many instances when he was so transparently not answering the question and it just seemed foolish to me because it didn’t even matter. Like when Whitehouse pressed Kavanaugh on some entry in his yearbook about ralphing. Just say yes! You drank in high school and at least once you puked from it. Too many beers. You already admitted repeatedly to drinking and sometimes to having too much. Stop dragging this out.
And the FBI investigation! Wow, was I tired of hearing about that. I really don’t understand why Kavanaugh couldn’t just say “An FBI investigation will repeat what we are already doing here, thus dragging out this hell for my family and me and providing no new or useful information. So no, if we can skip the FBI investigation, let’s do that.” The end. That would have been far less damning then so obviously refusing to answer the question.
I do think it’s ridiculous that people think Kavanaugh’s displays of emotion disqualify him from consideration for SCOTUS. I doubt there is a SCOTUS justice now or ever before that could remain dispassionate much less impartial under such terrible accusations and such a circus of a process. They’re judges, not robots. They are human. They don’t usually decide on cases that impact them immediately and directly so it seems unlikely the circumstances that pushed Kavanaugh to get upset would recur as a SCOTUS justice.
In the end I feel sorry for Ford, frustrated with Kavanaugh, but more than anything disgusted with politicians and this whole farce of a process. To my mind it is transparently political, and also unlikely to actually change any minds. Whatever happens I’ll be glad when the vote is over, but also whatever happens at least one side of the country is going to be absolutely livid, and I feel like this entire situation has made us even more partisan and angry at one another. I am exhausted even thinking about it.