Ari Fleis­cher’s ques­tion of fair­ness badly mis­di­rected

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - BALANCED VIEWS - Leonard Pitts Jr.

Ari Fleis­cher wants to know if we’re be­ing fair.

“How much in so­ci­ety should any of us be held li­able to­day when we’ve lived a good life, an up­stand­ing life by all ac­counts, and then some­thing that maybe is an ar­guable is­sue, took place in high school? Should that deny us chances later in life?”

Fleis­cher, a for­mer spokesman for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, raised that ques­tion Mon­day on Fox “News” about al­le­ga­tions of long-ago sex­ual mis­deeds that have up­ended the con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings of would-be Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh. He seemed to think he had posed a real moral test.

Ka­vanaugh’s al­leged mis­deed was ac­tu­ally a crime. His ac­cuser, a Cal­i­for­nia re­search psy­chol­o­gist named Chris­tine Blasey Ford, says that when she was 15, a drunken Ka­vanaugh, 17, laugh­ing “ma­ni­a­cally,” pinned her to a bed at a party in sub­ur­ban Mary­land, groped her, ground him­self against her, fum­bled to re­move her one-piece bathing suit and cov­ered her mouth with his hand when she tried to scream.

“I thought he might in­ad­ver­tently kill me,” she told The Wash­ing­ton Post. Ford says she man­aged to es­cape when Ka­vanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, jumped onto the bed, send­ing all three of them tum­bling. Ka­vanaugh and Judge have both de­nied the as­sault.

But Ford’s ac­count is quite cred­i­ble. She first con­fided the al­leged in­ci­dent in cou­ple’s ther­apy six years ago, long be­fore Ka­vanaugh was tapped for the court. Her hus­band backs her up. So do her ther­a­pist’s notes. And Ford has passed a poly­graph test ad­min­is­tered by a for­mer FBI agent.

It’s worth not­ing that she didn’t ask for any of this. In early July, Ford told her story to The Post, but re­fused to speak on the record. Later that month, she wrote a let­ter about it to her sen­a­tor, Demo­crat Dianne Fe­in­stein, again ask­ing to re­main anony­mous. But the story leaked any­way,.

Here, then, is where we stand: Af­ter sup­port­ing sen­a­to­rial can­di­date Roy Moore (a cred­i­bly ac­cused child mo­lester) Don­ald Trump (a con­fessed per­pe­tra­tor of sex­ual as­sault) has nom­i­nated to the Supreme Court Brett Ka­vanaugh (a cred­i­bly ac­cused at­tempted rapist) who would, if con­firmed, serve along­side Clarence Thomas (a cred­i­bly ac­cused sex­ual ha­rasser).

It’s a con­flu­ence of facts that speak painfully and point­edly to just how un­se­ri­ously Amer­ica takes men’s pre­da­tions against women. You might dis­agree, not­ing that the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee has asked Ford to testify. But if his­tory is any guide, that will prove to be a mere for­mal­ity be­fore the com­mit­tee rec­om­mends con­fir­ma­tion.

Yet Ari Fleis­cher thinks the is­sue here is whether or not we should hold a man ac­count­able for some bad thing he al­legedly did back in high school. Sorry, but that’s no moral puz­zler. The an­swer is ob­vi­ous: yes, par­tic­u­larly if what that man did is a se­ri­ous crime and he has never owned up to it nor sought to make amends.

Ford says sur­viv­ing a rape at­tempt “de­railed me sub­stan­tially” for years. She did poorly in school and was un­able to have healthy re­la­tion­ships with men. She has strug­gled with symp­toms of anx­i­ety and post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and un­der­gone psy­chother­apy. She’s been forced to grap­ple with the al­leged in­ci­dent, even if Ka­vanaugh has not.

Some­body ask Fleis­cher about the fair­ness of that.

Po­lice came to Kim Brooks’ par­ents’ door in sub­ur­ban Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, de­mand­ing that her mother say where her daugh­ter was or be ar­rested for ob­struct­ing jus­tice. So be­gan a Kafkaesque two-year or­deal that plunged Brooks into re­flec­tions about cur­rent par­ent­ing prac­tices. It also pro­duced a book, “Small An­i­mals: Par­ent­hood in the Age of Fear,” that is a cat­a­logue of symp­toms of Amer­ica’s de­scent into un­fo­cused fu­ri­ous­ness.

On a mild day, rush­ing to catch a plane home to Chicago, she darted into a Vir­ginia Tar­get to make a pur­chase, leav­ing her 4-year-old son in the locked car with a win­dow slightly open. Af­ter five Do you have a sub­mis­sion for View­points? Have some­thing to say about pol­i­tics, his­tory, arts, tech­nol­ogy, busi­ness, devel­op­ment, pop­u­lar cul­ture, sci­ence or other is­sues af­fect­ing Cen­tral Texas? Please send it to views@states­man.com along with a photo of your­self and a short bio. Sub­mis­sions should not ex­ceed 650 words.

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