The process to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh reached a dramatic peak after the testimony of a woman accusing him of attempted rape. While the event is presented as TV theater, the reality of this process has very serious consequences.
As rain poured down in Washington DC on Thursday afternoon, a middle-aged man set to become one of the most powerful people on earth denied a woman’s accusation of attempted rape.
Brett Michael Kavanaugh could soon sit on the US Supreme Court until he retires or dies.
Migrants trying to escape sexual violence, and sometimes even enduring it on their journeys out of war or chaos, could soon live in a world where another American man who decides their futures has committed acts of sexual violence himself.
His path towards a Supreme Court Justice nominee included a career as a conservative lawyer, tenure as a high ranking federal judge, and now a barrage of serious accusations of sexual assault.
To the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford, described in detail the horror she felt as Brett Kavanaugh, 53, pushed her onto a bed in the summer of 1982, when both were in high school in the suburbs of the US capital.
“Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes,” Blasey Ford said.
“I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming....I thought that Brett was going to accidentally kill me.”
A psychology professor in Palo Alto, California, Blasey Ford said that she remembered the attack itself with the clarity forged by fear, “seared into my memory,” especially Kavanaugh’s “uproarious laughter.”
Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, who did not testify, watched the attack, standing by and laughing at her distress before he could escape the room and the house.
The traumatic moments follow her still, although some Republicans have insisted she must be misremembering the identity of her attacker.
Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, addressed this issue.
“Dr. Ford, with what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?"
“100 percent,” Blasey Ford replied.
Blasey Ford declared she was not coming forward out of any partisan interest, but rather out of a sense of civic duty, despite the deluge of death threats she has received. A mother of two, the threats have forced her and her family into hiding.
The senators will meet Friday to decide whether the Kavanaugh nomination should proceed to a full senate vote on Saturday.
Kavanaugh himself testified later in the day. Wavering between tears and outrage, he described Blasey Ford’s testimony as the work of a partistan conspiracy against him, revenge for his work on the Republican legal team that pursued US President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
As the US Constitution dictates, Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump to be one of the nine justices on the highest US court.
The Supreme Court is the judicial body that has s final say on whether laws passed by the US congress and signed by the president abide by the Constitution.
Presidents usually nominate judges with similar politics to their own, although Kavanaugh, a devout Catholic, has been hailed by the religious right as a potential vote against reproductive rights.
“I’ve been a judge for 12 years. I have a long record of service to America and to the Constitution. I revere the Constitution,” Kavanaugh said in prepared remarks.
“I am deeply grateful to President Trump for nominating me. He was so gracious to my family and me on the July night he announced my nomination at the White House. I thank him for his steadfast support.”
After saying that his life had been “permanently ruined” by Ford’s accusation, Kavanaugh concluded: “But I swear today — under oath, before the Senate and the nation; before my family and God — I am innocent of this charge,” Kavanaugh concluded, before taking questions from senators.
Democrats asked about Kavanaugh’s drinking habits. Republicans used their questions as an opportunity to slam the way Blasey Ford’s accusations came to light.
Although it seems like a uniquely arcane and dysfunctional American institution, the Supreme Court’s decisions have global consequences.
The Supreme Court, along partisan lines, upheld the Trump administration’s ban on travel from Muslim countries. The Supreme Court could, under Kavanaugh, hear cases about the fate of migrant families the Trump administration has split apart.
There is a lot of this story I am leaving out, twists and turns that have rendered the history of the last week of American history a dense thicket of anxiety and anger; all of it happening against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, which seeks to eradicate silence in society over sexual assault and harassment.
Just hearing about Blasey Ford’s story has brought back to the surface memories of past assaults in the minds of millions of people around the world, not just for Americans, but anybody following American politics even at a distance.
It was not an easy week, and it’s not even over.
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