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Bob Dunning’s False Equivalency Regarding the Testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh

Ford-kavanaughAlthough 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.


Karen Kane

Thank you Roberta. Well said, and I agree with 100%. (And Mr. Dunning's position is absolutely appalling.)

Roberta L. Millstein

Thank you, Karen. I found it appalling, too.

Sarah Perrault

I also thank you for writing this. And like you and Karen, I am appalled by Mr. Dunning's statement.

Roberta L. Millstein

Thanks, Sarah.

Nancy Price

Thanks Roberta.

Let's not overlook with the emphasis on the sexual assault, that Sen. Leahy, Lisa Graves and others in the early 2000s working for the Democratic side of the Senate Judiciary Committee have presented serious credible evidence that in earlier confirmation hearings, and including the present one as well, Kavanaugh committed perjury when he denied he'd received confidential material from someone that stole these important Dem. strategy documents on earlier Supreme Court nominees prepared by Leahy's office and sent them to Kavanaugh who was then in the GW Bush White House..

So if he has clearly perjured himself about that, why should we believe his denials about sexual assault, drinking, parties, etc?

Roberta L. Millstein

Good point, Nancy.

And to add to what you've said, the fact that he has perjured himself should also be a non-partisan/non-political reason why he doesn't belong on the Supreme Court. Or, if there are those who doubt that he perjured himself, the FBI should include this issue as part of its investigation this week. We should not be confirming a new Supreme Court justice with all of these question marks about illegal behavior hanging over his head.

Matt Williams

Add to Roberta's comments the very simple fact that Kavanaugh's confrontational and emotional testimony was/is part of a job interview. Using "proper impeachment material" criteria Noreen Mazelis referenced in her comment in the Enterprise, if any of us were interviewing a job candidate who behaved the way Kavanaugh did, and lost control of his/her emotions the way he did, the job interview would have quickly resulted in an absolute disqualification of the candidate. Only in a "no one is accountable for their actions" venue like Reality TV would such a performance have been tolerated, and then only if it was seen as being good for the show's ratings. Time to end this job interview, and move on to interviewing the next candidate.

Roberta L. Millstein

Good point, Matt. It's hard to imagine any job where you could behave like that in an interview and still get the job, much less a lifetime position on the Supreme Court.

Agreed -- there are many other qualified candidates.

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