In the narrowest Supreme Court confirmation in over 130 years, the Senate voted on Saturday 50-48 to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination following a week-long FBI investigation into the contentious past of the nominee. With swing-vote Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.) voting in support of Kavanaugh, his confirmation has left this country as divided as ever. While Republicans are quick to celebrate this victory for the Trump administration, Democrats have just as hastily contended that the investigation was neither adequately long nor extensive enough.
The controversy began when Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, publicized 36-year-old sexual assault allegations sent to her in May by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, toward the end of the confirmation process. Following an immediate wave of protest, Dr. Ford was called before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify, leading to the week-long FBI investigation which was considered unnecessary, staged, and drawn-out by Republicans, and entirely insufficient by Democrats.
The Senate gave the FBI one week to complete the investigation, during which interviews were completed involving ten people: four of Kavanugh’s high school friends, one of Ford’s friends, and five witnesses who remain unknown. Julie Swetnick, the third Kavanaugh accuser, claims to have never been contacted by the FBI, and the FBI also reportedly refused to contact several of the friends whom Ford recommended for interviews. Further, Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford were not directly interviewed by the FBI, either. In the FBI’s defense, given that this case is not criminal, they were unable to use subpoenas and search warrants as they normally might.
Nonetheless, one point stands true: If the allegations held enough legitimacy to merit an investigation, limiting the FBI’s investigation to one week was horribly insufficient when it came to evaluating the character of a man who will sit on this nation’s highest court for decades to come.
It also bears mention that the allegations against Kavanaugh are not the run-of-the-mill sexual assault allegations which normally plague the media, such as claims that Trump kisses women “without permission” and had quid pro quo sexual affairs. Dr. Ford claims that Kavanaugh, while drunk at a party, held her down, groped her, attempted to rip off her clothing, and shoved his hand over her mouth so that she could not scream. While the former kind of assault is utterly unacceptable, it is by no means to the degree of the latter, which is attempt to rape, legally speaking.
I’m by no means saying that Kavanaugh is guilty without trial or investigation simply because an accusation was made. In all honesty, there are pieces to the puzzle that don’t add up on Dr. Ford’s side either, such as why she didn’t speak up when Kavanaugh was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006.
Yet, there are also disturbing and unavoidable factors that bolster Ford’s claims, such as the therapy notes from years ago that document the traumatizing event, long before such a story would have held any political significance. At the end of the day, while there was no way to substantiate Dr. Ford’s claims, there was enough circumstantial evidence to merit a full investigation.
The last pertinent point is simple: If Brett Kavanaugh committed this act, he is not fit to sit on the Supreme Court. Anyone who claims that Kavanaugh committed this act when he was a teenager and therefore the assault is not relevant today horribly belittles the evil of sexual assault, as well as the honor of being named a Supreme Court justice. If a man committed grand-theft, or aggravated assault, or animal abuse at seventeen, and then argued that he was a different man today, he would nonetheless be wholly unfit to sit on this nation’s highest court. So too, anyone who attempts to belittle this act due to its time-frame effectively sets this country back a century in terms of women’s rights.
Ultimately, the Senate’s decision to rush this confirmation boils down to a fundamental flaw in our nation today, much bigger than this particular issue itself. That is, this sexual assault claim is not a political one. It should never have been a battle between Republicans and Democrats.
It is a claim that affects the morality, dignity, and respect of our nation, and it is one that should have unanimously called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to have begun a comprehensive investigation, subpoenaing childhood friends, co-workers, acquaintances, students, and relatives of both Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. In our era in which CNN and Fox News have become as partial to the GOP and the DNC as the Korean Central News Agency is to Kim Jong-un, we have sacrificed our ethical standards for a political win.
It will not be until we, as a nation, reprioritize honesty and integrity over political polarity that proper legislation, judicial review, and executive oversight will once again be the backbone of this country.