The sexual assault allegation that has disrupted Brett Kavanaugh’s seemingly inexorable march to a seat on the US Supreme Court gave new life to a debate that has festered in America since the testimony of Anita Hill in Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing 27 years ago. It provoked a reckoning over gender and power and over partisan politics that commentators took on in a series of opinion pieces for CNN. The opinions expressed in these commentaries are theirs. Here’s a look at what they said:
Patti Solis Doyle: Burn down the ‘boys will be boys’ club
President Trump, Sens. Grassley and Graham, and the rest of their party may never get it, and Kavanaugh may still be confirmed. But make no mistake, the rules have changed. As millions of American women share their #Metoo moments, it becomes harder to argue this “boys will be boys” nonsense.
It gets harder to question 30-year-old memories. It gets harder to ignore women like Christine Blasey Ford.
Women across America will be watching on Thursday, and, in just a few weeks, they’ll be voting. Read more…
Patti Solis Doyle, a CNN commentator, served as an assistant to the president and senior adviser to then-first lady Hillary Clinton, was chief of staff on Clinton’s 2000 and 2006 Senate campaigns, and Clinton’s presidential campaign manager in 2007 and early 2008. She is president of Solis Strategies, a Washington-based consulting firm that specializes in serving nonprofits, NGO’s and corporations.
Scott Jennings: Let’s be honest about Dems’ Kavanaugh objections.
Let’s be honest about this FBI request: It has little to do with the truth and everything to do with the Democrats’ end game to keep this Supreme Court seat open through the midterm election. Democrats hope to take control of the Senate and hold this seat vacant through 2020, the way the GOP stalled Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016. They want revenge for Merrick Garland, an understandable if misguided emotion.
Democrats couldn’t care less about Ford or her story because they are consumed with politics. And the Democratic Party’s lionizing of people like Keith Ellison, Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy, all tied to their own scandal, tells us all we need to know about whether they believe in treating victims with respect. Read more…
Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY.
Noah Berlatsky Why Kavanaugh should make men question ‘himpathy’
Himpathy is not distributed equally to all men. It is directed especially, she writes, to “men who are white, nondisabled, and otherwise privileged ‘golden boys.’” Himpathy leads everyone to see powerful men as important, worthwhile, and sympathetic, and to treat women with suspicion and doubt. That’s why Republican Susan Collins, in Democratic-leaning Maine, has been the focus of Democratic anger and misogynist abuse for potentially supporting Kavanaugh, while Republican Cory Gardner in Democratic-leaning Colorado, has been almost completely ignored. In a misogynist culture, even women may find it easier in some cases to see the perspective of men. And as for men, they are encouraged to identify with the manliness of powerful men more thoroughly than they identify with their own masculinity, or than they identify with themselves. Read more…
Noah Berlatsky is the author of “Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics.”
Jill Filipovic: When boys humiliate girls at school
Everyone can see that Kavanaugh’s denials are obvious BS, because we all know teenage boys don’t make in-group sexualized jokes about women they respect. We viscerally know what “Renate Alumnius” means because we are collectively fluent, after long experience, in the subtle language of misogyny.
And we also know how it feels to have our fluency in that language denied. When women identify disrespect or demand better treatment, we are often the ones who are punished, or told that our version of events doesn’t reflect reality. The denials from Kavanaugh’s lawyers are practically Trumpian: Yes, it says what it says and we all know what that means, but you can’t believe your lyin’ eyes.
But this dishonest defense of entitlement, this propping up from an early age of the male version, doesn’t work as well as it used to. Read more…
Deborah Tuerkheimer: The world’s biggest ‘he said, she said’ showdown.
Accusers do not tend to fare well in word-on-word clashes. As I have described, skepticism of sexual violence complaints has shape-shifted over time. Yet it remains firmly lodged. The staying power of credibility discounting is a notable feature — perhaps even the dominant feature — of our response to rape.
This may be changing. The #MeToo movement is challenging a societal default to doubt, and the past year has brought undeniable progress. Yet even as sexual misconduct complaints are met with newfound receptivity, it is worth noting that lone accusers continue to bear a special burden. (It seems unlikely that Senate Republicans will ask the FBI to investigate two other accusers’ reports against Kavanaugh, or even that they will be asked to testify before the Judiciary Committee.)
Many survivors of sexual violence are deterred by the likelihood of a swearing contest. But Ford — in the face of death threats — has agreed to appear before the committee. She walks into a “he said, she said” showdown that could well have been avoided, one in which the deck has already been stacked against her. Read more…
Deborah Tuerkheimer, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, is the Class of 1940 Research Professor of Law at Northwestern University.
Raul Reyes: This melodramatic circus is a disservice to us all
No matter how Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing plays out, there will be no winners. Not Brett Kavanaugh, who will always bear the stain of being accused of sexual assault, even if he is ultimately seated on the high court. Not Republicans, who are poised to “plow right through” to his confirmation no matter what (and will likely face consequences for it in November), nor Democrats, who have been so far largely powerless to derail this charade. And certainly not the American people, who are witnessing a disregard for due process, for the voices of survivors of sexual assault, and for the integrity of the Supreme Court itself.
The through-line of Kavanaugh’s nomination has been a lack of respect for basic judicial norms. Before issues arose about Kavanaugh’s conduct as a young man, there were still major unanswered questions about his finances, his truthfulness under oath, and his tenure in the White House. None of this has seemed to matter to Republicans, who have so rushed this process that it has devolved into a melodramatic circus, rather than a thoughtful consideration of a nominee’s fitness for a lifetime appointment. No wonder polls show that Kavanaugh is deeply unpopular; his nomination has been politicized beyond repair. That represents a disservice to Kavanaugh, his accusers, the court, and the public.
Our lawmakers have a constitutional obligation to thoroughly and fairly evaluate a potential Supreme Court justice. Yet in their lust for power, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee members are abdicating this responsibility – and we are all the worse for it.
Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes.
SE Cupp: Hirono is trying to weaponize #MeToo
But weaponizing #MeToo to take down a political appointee, throwing due process out the window, deciding before anyone has been able to testify publicly that one person is credible and the other isn’t, and setting dangerous standards most victims will never be able to clear isn’t a good way to protect our country from the court. It’s just a good way to dilute democracy, diminish the important strides #MeToo has made and imperil every future victim of sexual assault. Read more…
SE Cupp is a CNN political commentator and the host of “SE Cupp Unfiltered,” covering contemporary issues on HLN.
Rebecca Wanzo: These images of women around Kavanaugh evoke a familiar alibi.
Kavanaugh and his handlers undoubtedly formulated a strategy to feature his wife alongside him in their joint interview. This choice is an extension of a strategy we have seen even before the accusations against Kavanaugh emerged late in the confirmation process. Kavanaugh stands poised to be the justice who will cement an anti-abortion rights court.
With images of him with his wife, daughters, law clerks, and young female basketball players, he is framed as a man who supports women and their futures. (Kavanaugh has vigorously denied the allegations.) They were front and center in the hearings – a visual counterargument to the idea that women’s lives and bodies are not safe in his hands. Now that some women have accused him of assaulting them, the images are even more important. The happy, shining faces of these teenage girls are meant to inspire trust. Read more…
Rebecca Wanzo is associate professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of “The Suffering Will Not Be Televised” and writes about representations of sexual violence.
Judy Lichtman: Clarence Thomas hearing witness: Let’s not do 1991 all over again
Immediately after the [Anita Hill] hearing, it was branded as a “he said, she said” moment – with much of the country undecided. But this would not remain so.
Steadily brewing was the angst, anger and ire of women across the country who slowly began to talk with their co-workers, families, spouses and each other. This was the 1991 version of “Me Too.” Women all over the country shared stories realizing that they, too, had been survivors of similar harassment and even worse – assault and violence.
This brewing anger would lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and what we now know as the “Year of the Woman.” Read more…
Judy Lichtman is senior adviser and past president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, which promotes reproductive health and rights and access to quality, affordable health care.
Errol Louis: What Kavanaugh should have done
Imagine what would have happened if, when first confronted with the accusation of sexual abuse by Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh – who says it did not happen – had instead simply said something like: “My high school and college years included a lot of irresponsible behavior, much of it involving alcohol abuse.
While I do not remember the events or actions alleged by Dr. Ford, I deeply apologize for any actions I took that caused her to feel harmed, abused or unsafe in any way. Few things are more terrifying than to feel that one’s personal safety is at risk, and I take Dr. Ford at her word that I caused those feelings in her. That was never my intention, and I am greatly distressed to learn that she has carried these feelings for many years. I sincerely apologize to Dr. Ford and her family, and would welcome a private dialogue with her to discuss any ways to repair the damage I caused.” Read More…
Errol Louis is the host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel.
Alice Stewart: What Kavanaugh’s TMI interview can’t tell you
As a Republican who voted for the President in large part due to his commitment to Antonin Scalia-like justices, I’m encouraged to hear Kavanaugh say he will not withdraw his name from consideration over the allegations, adding that he’s “not going anywhere.”
In other words: Attempts “to Bork” Kavanaugh will not go without a counterpunch.
The #MeToo movement has been instrumental in shining light on the darkness of sexual abuse. Let me be abundantly clear, I mean for all involved – the accusers and the accused.
As my friend and colleague Don Lemon (who is a victim of sexual assault) says: It doesn’t matter if the accused is “17 or 70,” it’s wrong. Sexual abuse is wrong. If Kavanaugh did this, it’s wrong. He has denied all allegations. Read more…
Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator and former communications director for Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Shira A. Scheindlin and Kristen Clarke: The ugly double standard over Kavanaugh’s so-called youth
It’s important to emphasize the way many have characterized the alleged behavior as a so-called youthful indiscretion. Others, even if they are not using Kavanaugh’s youth as an excuse, ask questions or make claims suggesting that something he allegedly did as a minor should not disqualify him from serving on the court. Contrast that characterization with how black and brown teenagers – Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, the “Central Park Five” – have been described in more adult (and thereby more threatening) terms.
At the same time, thousands of young men (disproportionately people of color) have been convicted of sexual assault for conduct similar to or lesser than what is alleged against Kavanaugh – conduct that in some cases also occurred when they were teenagers. Nonetheless, they were arrested, prosecuted, convicted and jailed with sentences in double digits of years, not months. Prosecutors did not decline these cases because the perpetrators were teenagers at the time. Read more…
Shira A. Scheindlin is a former US district judge in the Southern District of New York and a member of the executive committee of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Kristen Clarke is president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Sally Kohn: The GOP is right to be worried
I don’t think women in either party will take well to Republican men making light of serious allegations of sexual assault. Of course, many of these same women voted for our current President, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by over a dozen women himself – accusations which he, too, denies. But will they keep overlooking the Republican Party’s seemingly pervasive culture of misogyny? And how many other women will be newly motivated, or extra motivated, to kick the Grand Old Party out of office and replace them with candidates, especially female candidates, who take sexual assault claims seriously? Read more…
Sally Kohn is a CNN political commentator and author of the book, “The Opposite of Hate.”
James Gagliano: If FBI investigated allegation against Kavanaugh, here’s what it would do.
Thirty-six years from now, an FBI agent investigating an incident reported in 2018 would have much more to go on. “Digital exhaust” left by personal electronic devices, social media imprints, toll payment trackers, DNA analysis, license plate readers and the proliferation of security cameras would make this infinitely easier in the 21st century.
Not so much, though, when seeking answers from 36 years ago. But the FBI can and should exert due diligence in tracking down any available leads… Read more…
James A. Gagliano is a CNN law enforcement analyst and a retired FBI supervisory special agent. He is also an adjunct assistant professor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Follow him on Twitter: @JamesAGagliano.
Judith Resnik: This question changed the face of the Supreme Court
Confirmation processes are painful – but they can also be generative. These are the national stages on which we debate what we value and how we should behave. One hope would have been that the Senate paused long and hard after hearing the concerns about the decisions issued by Kavanaugh on women’s autonomy. Now, in addition, there are allegations of drinking and sexual aggression, which make it all the more important that the Senate show the world what a responsible and non-exploitative inquiry entails and looks like.
The first time women’s rights made it into Supreme Court nomination hearings was in 1970… Read more…
Judith Resnik is the Arthur Liman Professor of Law at Yale Law School and the founding director of the Liman Center for Public Interest Law. She has testified in hearings on judicial nominees, served on the 9th Circuit Gender Bias Task Force, was one of the lawyers for Anita Hill, and writes about the federal judiciary.
Timothy Stanley: Kavanaugh decision moment: A horrendous act or a monstrous lie
If Ford is lying, it’s the most monstrous lie imaginable. If she’s telling the truth, what Kavanaugh did was horrendous, and he clearly has no place in the judiciary at all.
For conservatives, however, the truth – which, to repeat, may remain frustratingly ambiguous – is only one part of the political calculation. The challenge they face is this: If they drop Kavanaugh, then they fear it will send a message that a career can be stopped by an unproved allegation, and that’s not a precedent they care to set. But if they stand by Kavanaugh and he makes it to the Supreme Court, they could be stuck with a man on the bench haunted by the accusation of sexual assault.
And given that Kavanaugh is socially conservative – possibly even the much-dreamed-of deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade – his appointment is both everything the right has ever wanted and, suddenly, something to be cautious about. Read more…
Timothy Stanley is a historian and columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics.”
Rachel Sklar: Kavanaugh case is about men, period
And by the way, saying “believe women” does not mean saying “automatically convict a man of sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt.” That’s the standard of a criminal trial, involving the presentation of evidence on both sides. In this case, “believe women” just means taking the claim seriously. “Believe women” means not reflexively disbelieving them because you’re eager for a vote and an investigation would be inconvenient.
“Believe women” means acknowledging how shockingly, terribly normal it is for women and men to be sexually assaulted, and how shockingly, terribly normal it is for men to be the ones sexually assaulting them. Read more…
Rachel Sklar is a New York-based writer and the co-founder of TheLi.st, a network for professional women.
David Axelrod: With Kavanaugh, McConnell’s throne is on the line
Despite the potential for high drama and even disaster, Ford’s offer to testify before the Judiciary Committee was one Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans could not refuse while still hoping to confirm Kavanaugh.
The stakes of such a hearing for Kavanaugh, who will also testify, are obvious. The political hazards for Republicans were made clear Monday when an off-script Sen. Orrin Hatch, a very senior member of the judiciary committee that will quiz Kavanaugh’s accuser, suggested that Ford may be “mixed up” about a recollection she says has haunted her for 36 years.
Kavanaugh’s supporters on the committee will want to vigorously defend him. But if the other Republican members — all men — follow Hatch’s lead, they could turn the GOP’s yawning gender gap into an unbridgeable chasm. Read more…
David Axelrod is a CNN political commentator and host of the podcast “The Axe Files,” now a regularly featured show on CNN. He was senior adviser to President Barack Obama and chief strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama presidential campaigns.
Lucia Brawley: The controversy is a watershed moment for GOP
Ford’s testimony could stand as a harrowing indictment of Kavanaugh’s abject unfitness to sit on the Supreme Court. After all, her allegation is not one of a merely inappropriate comment, but of sexual assault. If true, in a just world, the price for allegedly holding a girl down, attempting to remove her clothes, turning up music so no one can hear her protests, and muffling her screams until she manages to escape, should be quite high.
Furthermore, if Republican senators attempt to impugn her character, they will disgrace themselves in the eyes of the American people. Public opinion, however, is unlikely to view his alleged crime with such clemency. Read more…
Lucia Brawley is a co-founder of amp.it, a new digital media network for cosmopolitan youth, and an executive producer of two-time Interactive Emmy finalist, “Take Back the Mic: The World Cup of Hip Hop.” She is also the author of the Consenting to Lead Facebook group and a graduate of Harvard with a master’s in acting from Yale. Follow Lucia on Twitter @luciabrawley.
Eleanor McManus: Christine Blasey Ford is risking it all to speak out
The questions remain: Having come forward, will Ford have to endure the vitriol that Anita Hill did? Will she find, in this age of #MeToo, support for her telling her story? Or will she, too, be vilified? Will people believe her or will it cost her all credibility?
You may not believe Ford’s account, but do not discredit her story because she did not come forward sooner – and publicly. Assault is traumatic. It is traumatic when it happens; it is traumatic 30 years after it happens. Read more…
Eleanor McManus is co-founder of the strategic communications and crisis management firm Trident DMG. She is co-founder of Press Forward, an independent initiative whose mission is to change culture in newsrooms. She was formerly a senior producer for CNN. Follow her @eleanorsmcmanus.
Dean Obeidallah: Trump stands up for men accused of abusing women.
Despite Ford having reportedly “been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats” that forced her family to flee their home, Trump hasn’t offered one word of sympathy to her family.
But this is nothing new. For decades, Trump has taken the side of men over the women who have bravely come forward to report they had been victims of abuse. One of the first examples was in 1992, when Trump defended boxer Mike Tyson even after Tyson had been convicted of rape. Trump publicly claimed Tyson was “railroaded in the case” and he even suggested that the victim, Desiree Washington, was at fault to some degree, saying, “You have a young woman that was in his hotel room late in the evening at her own will.” Read more…
Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast.
Paul Begala: Hypocrisy, thy name is GOP
The GOP would rather get the confirmation right away than get it right. The folks who said the Senate shouldn’t even hold a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland during an election year are pushing a vote just weeks before an election.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Mitch.
I certainly don’t know the truth of what happened at that long-ago high school party at which Ford says Kavanaugh attacked her; neither do the senators. And I am not qualified to investigate potential sex crimes; neither is the Senate. But the FBI is. Read more…
Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992 and was counselor to Clinton in the White House. He was a consultant to Priorities USA Action, which was a pro-Obama super PAC before it was a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC.
Kate Manne: Open your ears – and your mind – to Christine Blasey Ford
And so it goes: A woman speaks out against a privileged boy or powerful man only to face willful denial, moral indifference, and seething rage from many sources. She will be subject to stonewalling, gaslighting, and the impugning of her character, her motives and her history. (Also, what was she wearing? Can she even remember?) Meanwhile, he remains a robust “good guy” figure in the minds of many people, who feel sorry for him, given what he’s going through. She becomes a pariah; he gets what I call “himpathy.”
This is one element at the crux of #WhyIDidn’tReport: Testifying or speaking publicly about an assailant’s crimes or wrongdoing may seem not only risky but also likely futile. Read more…
Kate Manne is an assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Boston Review, and The Huffington Post. She is the author of “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny.”
Julian Zelizer: Republicans haven’t been serious about investigating Ford’s allegation
When Hillary Clinton appeared before the House Benghazi committee in 2015, her 11-hour performance did more than anything to dispel the continued scandal-mongering among Republicans and boost her chances in the Democratic primary.
The odds that anything will shake the ferocious partisan drive of congressional Republicans are very slim. But Ford’s account of this alleged horrific incident should not be dismissed. There are some indications that the jury in a congressional hearing is the public – as they have considerable ability to sway senatorial votes. Even in an era of smartphones, social media and Twitter feeds, the power of actual people to impact the national conversation remains immense. Read more…
Julian Zelizer is a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University and co-host of the “Politics & Polls” podcast. This January, Norton will publish his new book, co-authored with Kevin Kruse, “Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974.” Follow him on Twitter: @julianzelizer.
Frida Ghitis: Why the world is watching
One of the most telling comments about the perils facing Judge Brett Kavanaugh came from someone described as “a lawyer close to the White House,” who told Politico that if Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination is defeated by an allegation of sexual assault, which the judge denies, “then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” The statement shows why the success of the #MeToo movement, despite being infinitely too late, is also an astonishing achievement.
That’s why the events surrounding the Kavanaugh nomination are a subject of intense interest for men and women across the globe. Read more…
Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN and The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review.