When #MeToo meets political expediency

By on October 2, 2018

If the Sept. 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, tell us anything, it’s that we are in trouble.

From the beginning, the process has been an absolute circus. A classic case of “he said, she said,” that quickly escalated into an utter media frenzy and now a street fight.

Virtually zero opinions were changed following the hearings. Those who believed Ford still believe her. Those who believed Kavanaugh still believe him. And for good reason. Both Ford and Kavanaugh appeared credible and passionate in sharing their truth.

Ford described a traumatic event in which a drunken Kavanaugh, along with his friend, Mark Judge, locked her in a bedroom at a high school party some 35 years prior. She alleges he forced himself on top of her, grinded on her and attempted to remove her clothes.

Kavanaugh vehemently denied the accusations, calling them a smear campaign to stop President Trump from filling a Supreme Court seat before November’s midterm elections.

Whether you believe Ford or Kavanaugh is now almost irrelevant. It’s the politicizing of sexual assault by our elected officials that has tainted our American institutions and completely undermined the magnitude of the #MeToo movement.

When Ronan Farrow’s bombshell reporting last fall revealed Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein to be a longtime undercover rapist and sexual predator, the movement truly began. Since then, the righteous mission to hold predators accountable has run parallel to a tiki torch mob aimed at anyone accused of assault.

#MeToo represents a watershed moment in history where women stood side by side to say enough is enough. Powerful men who used their status and wealth to intimidate and take advantage of women would no longer be able to get away with it.

However, with the rise of #MeToo came the fall of due process. Existing no longer is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A right we have been guaranteed in our Constitution has been nullified by the court of public opinion.

What remains most upsetting about the Kavanaugh case is the way Sen. Dianne Feinstein used Ford as a political weapon. Ford wrote a letter to Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee on July 30, alleging physical and sexual assault at the hands of Kavanaugh at a party in the early 1980s.

If Feinstein believed the allegation to be credible, she should’ve acted on it immediately.

Instead, on Sept. 12, after she and 64 other senators held private meetings with Kavanaugh, after more the 1,000 questions had been submitted and answered by Kavanaugh, after Kavanaugh testified for more than 30 hours under oath, she finally sent Ford’s letter to the FBI.

Feinstein claims to have waited because Ford wanted to remain anonymous – a problem that could have been avoided simply with the redaction of her name.

If she had shared the allegation with the committee at the jump, it could have been investigated discreetly. If Ford’s account was supported, Kavanaugh would have been forced to withdraw his name from President Trump’s shortlist of candidates without Ford’s name ever being released.

But Feinstein did not want transparency. She wanted the upper hand. She waited until it was politically convenient to make her move.

In waiting almost two months to take action, Feinstein failed survivors of the #MeToo movement. She has further perpetuated the optics of a political stunt in appropriating the severity of sexual assault.

On the contrary, Republicans should’ve seen this move coming in the chess game. Character assassination is hardly a new tactic in politics. The refusal to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, in March of 2016 was the beginning of the end. Feinstein brought the battle to the next level.

Although Ford appeared genuine in her testimony, her account remains largely uncorroborated. There are holes in her story that may be impossible to fill over 35 years later. She still doesn’t recall the location of the party or how she got there.

If the Senate Judiciary Committee wanted to get to the bottom of things, they would have subpoenaed Mark Judge, the only potential eyewitness to the alleged assault. Instead, senators used their allotted time for political grandstanding and soliloquies of moral condescension.

By using the majority of their time to ask about Kavanaugh’s drinking history, preparatory school party culture and yearbook entries from over three decades prior, rather than directing their attention to the incident in question, Democratic senators can look no further than their mirrors when they wonder why many struggle to believe Ford’s account.

The hearings came after denied requests for Ford to testify AFTER Kavanaugh, a violation of a judicial norm that would’ve placed the burden of proof on the defendant to deny allegations before hearing the final version of Ford’s story.

Ford’s testimony was indeed emotionally compelling and calm. Kavanaugh, however, spoke with anger and defiance, an appropriate demeanor if we grant him the presumption of innocence we are constitutionally required to.

For a man fighting for not only a Supreme Court seat, but for his honor, this reaction was still disqualifying in the eyes of many Democrats on Twitter who claimed his anger correlates with guilt.

It would be nonsensical to expect a wronged man to be anything less than angry. His reputation is on the line.

The last two weeks could not have been easy for either Ford, Kavanaugh or their families, but we can’t allow the customs of our American institutions to be destroyed in this war.

We must remember that the #MeToo movement is real and women are still living through trauma on a daily basis. We must continue to support women and encourage them to speak out when they are victimized, but we cannot abandon the rights of the accused.

Sexual assault has undoubted lasting effects on an individual, but the aftermath of false accusations can also be devastating on the accused and their family.

We may never know for sure what, if anything, happened between Ford and Kavanaugh, but we do know we must certainly hold our elected officials to a much higher standard.

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