Research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school are serious and merit a full investigation. But, realistically, a “full investigation” is likely to be extremely short.
Three of the handful of young people identified by Ford as having been at the party where Kavanaugh allegedly attempted to rape her have now denied any memory of such an event. A brief flurry of excitement on Wednesday over a schoolmate of Ford’s, who claimed on social media to remember hearing rumors of the incident in high school, died down after Christina King replaced her Facebook post with one saying, in part, “I do not have first-hand knowledge of the incident that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford mentions.” Ford herself says she told no one for decades, and has provided few details that can be corroborated or disproved — no contemporaneous evidence, no location, not even a year.
At this point, there seems to be only one loose end to tie up: hearing from any remaining guests whom she has identified from the alleged party. No other women have come forward, as has often happened in the past year after accusations of sexual misconduct become public, to say “Me, too.”
What we have left are a therapist’s notes, which were taken 30 years later, don’t mention Kavanaugh by name, and differ from Ford’s current account in several significant details. And there is Ford herself, who seems to be a sane, responsible professional woman — one who is, yes, a committed Democrat, but then, so is a large percentage of the American population.
And on the other side is Kavanaugh, also a seemingly sane, responsible professional, who says the incident never happened. Absent a late-breaking revelation, the conflicting accounts are going to have to be weighed against each other. Which means that the Senate, and the country, needs to hear from Ford. And given that Democrats leaked the letter containing Ford’s allegations so close to the midterm elections, the sooner the better.
That makes the recent behavior of one of Ford’s lawyers, Lisa Banks, perplexing: She ignored the Senate Judiciary Committee’s attempts to contact her for more than a day, and then announced — to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, not to legislators — that her client “is not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday.” Instead, Banks said, Ford wants the FBI to investigate before she testifies at a later, unspecified date.
There’s little doubt that Ford, as Banks says, has suffered through an undeserved torrent of abuse since coming forward. Any woman who has spent some time in the public eye knows just how devastating that is. You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t deeply shaken the first time someone offers to rape you, or emails a photo of your house with a gun sight superimposed on it, or suggests all the creative violence they’d like to do to your family. It would be natural for Ford to seek a delay so she could recover and give investigators time to follow the remaining tenuous leads.
Unfortunately, the way Banks has handled matters has created the appearance, however unfair, that Ford is working with Democrats who want to push Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote beyond the midterms. For her own sake, and the sake of the country, Ford cannot afford to be seen as helping the Democrats, which might suggest a motive other than the pursuit of justice. And given that Democrats almost certainly created this mess by leaking Ford’s letter at the last possible minute, they are in no position to allay those suspicions, or to complain that the process is being rushed.
That doesn’t mean Republicans would be justified in racing willy-nilly to resolve the matter. Some delay is reasonable, and Republicans should be generous in granting it, both to ensure that Ford has a pause to regain her emotional strength and to ensure that senators have full command of the facts going into a hearing. But there’s no reason that the fact-finding needs to be conducted by the FBI instead of Senate investigators. If Ford balks at cooperating with the committee to set a definite timetable to testify in the next few weeks, Republicans would be justified in holding the hearing without her, and then voting to confirm Kavanaugh.
I say this not because I lack sympathy for Ford — having been through lesser versions of the storm she is now suffering, I know how devastated she must be. It’s appalling that Senate Democrats have put her, and the country, in this position, but, unfortunately, they did. Nor do I diminish the accusations against Kavanaugh. If the preponderance of the evidence suggests that they’re true, he should not be confirmed.
But it’s precisely because they’re so serious that they should be resolved not hastily, but expeditiously. No one, least of all Ford herself, can afford to send the message that in a case such as this, politics matters more than justice.