First, Harris pointed to the wrongdoing in the executive branch. She excoriated the “sham” process by which Kavanaugh reached the Supreme Court. She recalled that while sitting on the Homeland Security Committee she used the opportunity to ask FBI Director Christopher A. Wray who determined the scope of the FBI’s investigation. He answered, “The White House.” Harris argues that the White House did the “orchestrating, choreographing, curating” of evidence, in effect “suppressing evidence.”
On Tuesday, she sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.) requesting that he investigate the limits put on the investigation and whether there were discrepancies in Kavanaugh’s testimony. She further suggests an independent task force assisted by an outside counsel, but says she leaves it to the House to decide on the proper action. She is not demanding impeachment hearings. This, it seems, is exactly the correct approach.
As I have argued, what is essential now is not to engage in a fruitless effort to remove Kavanaugh, but rather to explore who precisely was involved in the “orchestrating, choreographing, curating.” Who decided Kavanaugh wouldn’t be questioned? Who knew of the Stier allegation? This is not a matter of illegality but rather of deceit and a refusal of high-ranking officials to conduct the full and fair investigation that the White House promised. All those party to this charade should be held accountable. (Likewise, senators who assented to the sham should be held responsible by voters at the ballot box.)
Harris’s second point was equally compelling: The charade not only damaged the integrity of the court but also played a cruel joke on the victims of sexual assault. Practically no one has made a point of returning to the real victims of the sham: Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and victims of sexual assault more generally. It is not a matter of believing every claimant, but it is a matter of taking every claim seriously, of investigating and laying out the facts. That this was never done sent a very public message to victims and perpetrators that the system can be manipulated to protect the latter and demean the former.
In all of the discussion about a miscarriage of justice, Kavanaugh’s credibility and the damage to the Supreme Court, we seem to have lost track of the actual women involved. They have been damaged, their reputations ruined and their claims not taken seriously. Taking them seriously would have required the FBI to question all of the witnesses whose names were provided to the FBI. The lesson the Senate, the FBI, the president and Kavanaugh sent to victims was: The male perpetrator can orchestrate, choreograph and curate the process to avoid accountability. No matter how late in the process, Ramirez and Ford deserve a complete investigation.
Harris suggested that if the Congress won’t act, a special prosecutor could be named. That raises the intriguing possibility that if Democrats win the White House, the president and her attorney general will have the chance to do just that.
This episode points to one of Harris’s underlying strengths, namely the ability to see policy from the point of view of the victim, the vulnerable and the powerless. The ability to personalize the debate is critical. You know, if we spend three years holding out for single-payer, there are a lot of people who will needlessly have gone without coverage. Frankly, when the choice is between the inconvenience to the gun owner and the trauma to children or to families, I’m going to side with children and families every time.
Voters want to feel as if they are being seen and listened to. Now and then, it’s a good idea to actually see policy from their eyes. We’ve got an empathy shortage in politics now, and the candidate who can fill that void will get credit from people who feel they have no voice, no power, no choices and no one who can relate to their struggles.