The Ka­vanaugh shadow over the midterms

Sev­eral Demo­cratic sen­a­tors paid the price for mis­treat­ing Brett Ka­vanaugh

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Suzanne Fields

Brett Ka­vanaugh has been sit­ting on the U.S. Supreme Court for only a month, and the mem­ory of his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings cast a strong shadow over the Tues­day con­gres­sional elec­tions. You could ask Claire McCaskill in Mis­souri, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota or Joe Don­nelly in In­di­ana. Sev­eral Democrats in com­pet­i­tive races who voted against his con­fir­ma­tion lost. Joe Manchin from West Vir­ginia, the only Demo­crat who voted to con­firm him, won.

Sen. Lind­say Gra­ham, a Repub­li­can of South Carolina, says one of the rea­sons Repub­li­cans re­tained con­trol of the Se­nate was be­cause of the “de­spi­ca­ble’ way Democrats treated Brett Ka­vanaugh.

The out­rage was hard to hear over the din of elec­tion news, but the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee has chal­lenged the fem­i­nist mantra that ev­ery woman who goes pub­lic with a sex­ual as­sault claim should be be­lieved. Judy Munro-Leighton, who threw an ac­cu­sa­tion of rape against Jus­tice Ka­vanaugh into the mix, now says it was all a lie (and pla­gia­rized be­sides), done to de­rail his nom­i­na­tion and to bring at­ten­tion for her­self.

She didn’t de­rail his con­fir­ma­tion, but she did get at­ten­tion, and she’s likely to get more. Sen. Chuck Grass­ley of Iowa, chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, who re­vealed the fraud in a let­ter to the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment, asks the agen­cies to pros­e­cute her for telling a lie that ob­structed the work of Congress. Sen­a­tors of both par­ties usu­ally don’t like be­ing lied to. Nei­ther the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment waste re­sources.

Ms. Munro-Leighton, a left-wing ac­tivist, stole the made-up story from an anony­mous “Jane Doe” who con­tributed a lurid tale that Mr. Ka­vanaugh raped her in the back seat of his car when they were young.

Jane Doe, who­ever she may be, and Ms. Mun­roLeighton now join that in­nu­mer­able car­a­van in the case stud­ies of false ac­cusers, who try to take ad­van­tage of men made es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble when they’re in the spot­light in a cul­ture that be­lieves, or says it does, that such lurid al­le­ga­tions are rarely false. Who needs ev­i­dence when you’ve got the ac­cu­sa­tion?

Data is scant on how many such ac­cu­sa­tions are false be­cause only the sen­sa­tion­al­ized sto­ries come to pub­lic at­ten­tion. But the dam­age they do is in­con­tro­vert­ible and of­ten se­vere. That’s why the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence, the jewel of West­ern ju­rispru­dence, is such a sa­cred le­gal value.

Much of the pub­lic seemed ready to trade that jewel for the destruc­tion of Jus­tice Ka­vanaugh, and this lat­est con­fes­sion is a re­minder that no mat­ter what ac­tu­ally hap­pens (or doesn’t hap­pen) be­tween a man and a woman, an ac­cu­sa­tion of sex­ual as­sault re­quires ev­i­dence. Fuzzy cliches of­fered in sup­port of an ac­cu­sa­tion, like it has the “ring of truth” or “where there’s smoke there’s fire,” are par­tic­u­larly sus­pect. Such ac­cu­sa­tions are of­ten in­vented to get a pay­off, not to right a wrong.

False ac­cu­sa­tions have ru­ined the rep­u­ta­tions of young men on the cam­pus. Years can be re­quired to clear their names, if they ever are. The no­to­ri­ous “mat­tress girl” made the cover of Time mag­a­zine by car­ry­ing a 50-pound mat­tress around her cam­pus to sym­bol­ize her suf­fer­ing as the vic­tim of rape by a fel­low stu­dent. That ac­cu­sa­tion turned out to be a lie, too.

False ac­cu­sa­tions that come be­fore a Se­nate com­mit­tee, such as Ms. Munro-Leighton’s vi­cious tall tale, are not only ex­ceed­ingly painful for the ac­cused and his fam­ily, but costly for the tax­payer, take up valu­able time in time-sen­si­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and di­lute the im­pact of the real thing. Jus­tice Ka­vanaugh’s ac­cuser de­serves to be pros­e­cuted not only for harm done but to dis­cour­age oth­ers tempted to seek per­verted star­dom by tak­ing ad­van­tage of po­lar­ized pol­i­tics.

Sen. Charles Grass­ley of Iowa, chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, this week re­leased hun­dreds of pages of the com­mit­tee’s in­ter­views and state­ments over the sex­ual al­le­ga­tions against Jus­tice Kave­naugh. The com­mit­tee con­cluded there was “no ev­i­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate any of the claims [of sex­ual mis­con­duct].”

No wit­nesses were found to cor­rob­o­rate the ac­cu­sa­tions of Chris­tine Blasey Ford that when she was 15 years old, Brett Ka­vanaugh, then 17, sex­u­ally as­saulted her at a party. Two men in­ter­viewed by the com­mit­tee thought she might be con­fus­ing young Ka­vanaugh with them­selves in a tryst they said was con­sen­sual.

The com­mit­tee’s find­ings il­lus­trate how com­pli­cated it is to sift truth from false­hood em­bed­ded in mem­o­ries decades old, which be­come am­bigu­ous mo­ti­va­tions to be tried only in a court of in­flamed pub­lic opin­ion. Jus­tice Ka­vanaugh­rightly de­scribed cer­tain ac­cu­sa­tions as com­ing from “the twi­light zone.” But they made head­lines and the Grass­ley re­port re­pu­di­at­ing them did not.

Be­fore the Democrats won the House,Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, the New York Demo­crat who ex­pects to be­come chair­man of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee,said he would seek Jus­tice Ka­vanaugh’s im­peach­ment. That would be a spec­tac­u­larly dumb po­lit­i­cal idea. Will he have an ap­petite for dumb ideas like that now? Dumb ideas die hard.

Two men in­ter­viewed by the com­mit­tee thought she might be con­fus­ing young Ka­vanaugh with them­selves in a tryst they said was con­sen­sual.

Suzanne Fields is a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times and is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.


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