Bob Dunning’s False Equivalency Regarding the Testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh
Although Bob Dunning and I agree on one thing (that Dr. Blasey’s testimony was “compelling and believable without holes or hesitation”), I otherwise find much to disagree with in his recent column in the Davis Enterprise, “Truth gets lost in the crossfire.” In particular, I object to his casting this as a purely political disagreement, where Republicans are taking Brett Kavanaugh’s side and Democrats are taking Christine Blasey Ford’s side, where “reasonable people can disagree over which person they believe,” and where “if everyone in America believed that Judge Kavanaugh had assaulted Dr. Ford, he would not be confirmed.”
Maybe the debate over Kavanaugh’s nomination started out as a purely political disagreement a month ago, but it stopped being that the moment that Dr. Blasey came forward with her testimony of sexual assault – her testimony that, 36 years ago, Brett Kavanaugh laid on top of her, tried to rip off her clothes, covered her mouth so that she couldn’t scream and couldn’t breathe, and then laughed about it. And that the only thing that saved her was that he and his buddy, Mark Judge, were too drunk to follow through on what they had begun.
Women were not riveted to their radios, TVs, computers, and smart phones on Thursday just because they disagreed with Kavanaugh’s political beliefs, although that undoubtedly played some role. Once Dr. Blasey’s story (and the stories of Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick) broke, this became question of whether this would be a repeat of how Dr. Anita Hill was treated or whether this time, the credible, articulate woman with everything to lose and nothing to gain would be believed, and if believed, found that she was saying something that was desperately important.
Because Drs. Hill and Blasey speak for many of us. If they can be heard, maybe we can all be heard. On the other hand, when people say “I don’t believe Dr. Hill or Dr. Blasey,” what they are saying – what we hear – is “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that this happened to you; I don’t believe that you wouldn’t have told the authorities if that had really happened; I don’t believe that whatever happened to you is significant or reflects badly on your assailant in any important way.” This is personal. Deeply personal.
Can “reasonable people disagree over which person they believe”? Let’s not forget what this is. This is not a court of law. Kavanaugh is not facing jail time. He is, essentially, being interviewed for a lifetime position where he will be interpreting legal decisions that have ramifications for millions of people for decades to come. Is it appropriate for a judge to refuse the gathering of further evidence, as Kavanaugh did when he refused to agree to FBI questioning (questioning that Dr. Blasey had readily agreed to)? Is it appropriate for him to rant about the Clintons and Democratic conspiracies? To redefine commonly used slang terms (for those of us who went to school in the 1980s, anyway) in a way that strains credulity to the breaking point?
I certainly wish it were true that “if everyone in America believed that Judge Kavanaugh had assaulted Dr. Ford, he would not be confirmed.” But the evidence for that claim is not in your favor, Mr. Dunning. Listen to five Republican women downplay what happened to Dr. Blasey, saying, in effect, this is just what boys do in high school and we shouldn’t be too upset about it (“boys will be boys”). Or take a look at this recent poll showing that a majority of Republicans think that committing sexual assault would not disqualify Kavanaugh from serving on the Supreme Court.
Will this be the time that we finally say, enough is enough, this behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated or brushed off? Will it be the time when we finally recognize that when women risk their professional and personal lives to retell traumatic stories that they would rather not think about anymore, that they should be believed? Will it be the time that we recognize that a person who would treat another person like that, regardless of his political beliefs, should not be a judge in the highest court in the country?
I fervently hope so, and I fervently hope that my Republican sisters will join me in standing up for all women, past, present, and future.