I have been to this movie before. I know how it ends, and it doesn’t end well — not for anyone, by the way.
This much we know: A woman writes a letter in July. It’s about something that happened in high school. Pick your words. An assault? An attempted assault? A drunken grope? It was more than 30 years ago.
She wants to remain anonymous. She’s right about that. Trust me, she’ll end up the victim here, again.
Now, the powers that are might have decided that if that’s all it was, a drunken party, a bad night, a one-time mistake, it should not disqualify a man from serving on the United States Supreme Court three assault-free decades later. And that proving decisively and fairly what happened that far back, with opposing accounts, is simply not possible.
But before you reach that conclusion, you’ll probably look into it more, see if others witnessed inappropriate behavior, if there was a pattern here, a continuing problem, a reason for concern. I assume they looked and found none.
Then the Republicans and Democrats and their respective staffs and investigators ought to decide whether even standing alone, it should be addressed in the testimony, disclosed to the public. The woman should’ve been invited to testify before, not in a series of post-hearing leaks. If she had declined, a report could’ve been read into the record. Judge Kavanaugh would’ve gotten to answer. Two high school friends would’ve said he’s terrific. Fair enough.
Is it more important than his comments about “abortion on demand,” or his support for assault rifles? If he were a Democrat, would it cause everyone to switch sides? Would it have been the focus of the hearings if it had been simply included in the background reports?
Instead, it comes up when the hearings have ended and the votes have seemingly been counted. Instead, the issue becomes whether this woman is telling the truth. Instead, she will now go on trial.
No one wants to stand up there and say, “It doesn’t matter,” even though we have all supported candidates who did worse.
So instead, the Kavanaugh defenders will say it’s not true; it’s all politics, just the left making up bogus charges to sink an unsinkable nominee — even if the left didn’t make up the charges and it won’t sink the nominee.
The president of the United States brags about grabbing women by the private parts. There’s a line of women with charges and payoffs and nondisclosure agreements. None of it was from high school. Forget about sex; four of his top aides are convicted felons. Ho-hum. Hypocrisy runneth deep. It will not stop the tweets. How dare they ...
Democrats behave as if they’ve never heard of a drunk guy groping a girl in high school, which will almost certainly lead right-wing hosts to sponsor contests for women to come forward with stories of the Democrats who groped them in high school.
Republicans don’t really want to disagree, so they have to paint the woman as a liar and a pawn of the left, even though there is absolutely no evidence that she is either.
How about this?
How about we agree that the woman is telling the truth without making her relive it, without cross-examination, without her husband’s testimony or her therapist’s notes? Let’s just say she is telling the truth to the best of her recollection.
And how about we agree that Brett Kavanaugh just doesn’t remember it that way at all, and neither do the guys who were with him?
And let me just tell you, not about these two but from experience, that memory is a funny thing in sex cases. I’ve been doing this for decades. It’s not that everyone lies. It’s just that memories work differently: The girl will tell you she had nothing to drink, and the boy will say he never pushed at all, and the boy will say she unbuttoned it herself, and the girl will say she pushed his hand away, and that is how they remember it ...
So there it is. Save us the spectacle. Does it disqualify Brett Kavanaugh or not? Does it change anyone’s votes? Can we talk about Roe v. Wade instead of high school?
This is not the right place, not the right time, not the right way for a national referendum on the Me Too movement. And even if the headlines try to call it that, we should at least be honest enough to admit that isn’t what this is at all.
Susan Estrich is a columnist, commentator and law and political science professor at USC.