When The Past Becomes Your Present


Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

108 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This was beautiful written, Em, over and above it’s inherent power.

    Thank you for writing it.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    Thank you for this. Thank you for the clarity and directness with which you tell your story. I can only imagine the work you’ve had to do to get to the point where you can do that, though training as a prosecutor probably doesn’t hurt.

    The only woman to confide a rape story to me personally did so with great indirection and distance. I didn’t blame her, as it was an entirely personal story.

    I think it is very valuable to all of us to hear this testimony, even if there are no legal consequences to them. We are so ignorant as a culture about them. I could say “we men are so ignorant” and that wouldn’t be wrong.

    But until we can talk about something openly, I think it’s accurate to describe the culture to be ignorant, even though many members of that culture are not at all ignorant.

    Again, thanks.Report

  3. Avatar Murali says:

    Thank you for this.

    Ford’s accusations pretty much disqualify Kavanaugh. I don’t know how much of it will hold up in court, but beyond reasonable doubt is not the standard to be used for nominating a Supreme Court Justice.Report

  4. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    1) When she did report this, to her therapist in 2012, there were four attackers, not two (and Kavanaugh wasn’t mentioned by name). The one witness she names says it didn’t happen. We don’t have enough info to see if it passes or fails a RollingStone style sanity check.

    2) She’s a self described liberal activist in a situation where the liberal activists have made it clear the normal rules don’t matter and Kavanaugh’s big crime is being a conservative nominated by Trump.

    3) I’ve been stating on this board, for months, that the Dems best move was to paint Kavanaugh as a Nazi late in the process, and that all the GOP efforts to make him look like a really nice guy were being done to counter that. So basically this was the obvious, expected move.

    4) If we’re going to give this issue the fully hearing it deserves (and it does deserve it), then we need to invent a time travel machine and go back to July and tell Nancy that she should tell everyone then and not wait until a full investigation means losing Trump his choice.

    Does this mean that she’s lying? No it does not… but the clock is ticking and there needs to be more support than what I just listed to merit even a delay in the process.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Dark Matter says:

      As I said, I think there are valid reasons to doubt her (I don’t. Her story rings true to me). I was just pointing out that these other “reasons” I keep seeing-not reporting it then, the timing, her being a functional human being- are ridiculous.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to Dark Matter says:

      The guy’s been a US circuit judge since 2006, based upon wikipedia, so that’s kinda the first time this issue could have come up. (Not really since I’m sure Ford could have written the same letter earlier, but let’s assume that away.) They guy got a public vote in 2006 and NOW this is brought up? It’s a curious development……Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Damon says:

        It’s not that curious. She only barely came forward this time and tried to do so anonymously, when the stakes were even higher.Report

      • Avatar giovanni da procida in reply to Damon says:

        The guy’s been a US circuit judge since 2006, based upon wikipedia, so that’s kinda the first time this issue could have come up. (Not really since I’m sure Ford could have written the same letter earlier, but let’s assume that away.) They guy got a public vote in 2006 and NOW this is brought up? It’s a curious development……

        The issue could have come up at his circuit court confirmation? I guess it could have, but how likely is that? How curious is it really?

        Would Professor Ford have known he was getting confirmed for circuit court in 2006?

        How much coverage does confirmation for a US circuit court judge get? Does it get covered on the nightly news?

        Would the confirmation of a circuit court judge for the Washington DC circuit get much coverage in Northern California?

        I’m a scientists and I’m a pretty heavy consumer of news. I can name all eight supreme court justices off the top of my head. I can also name three circuit court judges off the top of my head: Merrick Garland, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Barrett.

        You know why I can name those three? Because two of them were nominated to be on the Supreme Court, and the third one is the one my very conservative cousins/aquaintances wish Trump had picked instead of Kavanaugh (There’s also the guy Trump keeps toying with, but I can’t remember his name).

        There’s also this point that Em raises near the end: she deals with this trauma one day a year.

        If Kavanaugh becomes a Supreme Court justice, for the rest of his life, he is one of those people who are likely to be in the news a lot.

        Assuming Ford is telling the truth, that means that for decades she will be frequently confronted by the name of her attacker on TV, online, in the newspaper, in political discussions, in professional settings (she teaches law). As a circuit court judge, how often will she encounter his name (see my early questions). From that point of view, it may not be worth it to come forward at his confirmation for circuit court (all the crap you will have to put up with versus the risk you might hear his name every now and then), while it may be more worth it to come forward when he is nominated to the Supreme Court (all the crap you will have to put up with versus the risk that you will hear about the guy who tried to rape you every damned day for the rest of his life).Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to giovanni da procida says:

          *Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Leslie Millwee, Monica Lewinsky, Jennifer Flowers, Sally Purdue, and Dolly Browning could not be reached for comment.Report

          • Avatar giovanni da procida in reply to George Turner says:

            *Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Leslie Millwee, Monica Lewinsky, Jennifer Flowers, Sally Purdue, and Dolly Browning could not be reached for comment.

            “I am so sorry this woman was outed without consent,” Lewinsky tweeted on Sunday. “I’m sorry for what she endured as a teenager. and thank her for her bravery stepping forward.”Report

          • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to George Turner says:

            George, I recognize your comment is just meant to be a cheap dig at the Democrats.

            But it was Kavanaugh’s job to investigate allegations of Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment and sexual assault for the Independent Council’s office. The investigation never treated the claims of Clinton’s victims with any seriousness and Kavanaugh is on record that he thinks the investigation was a waste of time and a distraction for the president.

            What does it mean that the person tasked with investigating whether Bill Clinton might be a sexual predator himself? I would *love* to hear what Clinton’s victims have to say about it.Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to giovanni da procida says:

          “Would Professor Ford have known he was getting confirmed for circuit court in 2006?”

          Well, according to some of his defenders, they all knew each other, having grown up together….running in the same circles…in a company town. How unlikely is it? To what degree? Can’t say. I can say it smacks of a set up. I seem to recall a certain senator had this letter for several months….

          My eyebrow continues to be raised.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

      What clock is ticking?Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        What clock is ticking?

        The start of the new SC term for one, the elections (which the GOP expects to lose) for another. They need to place a supreme while they can, which is why the Dems keep squeaking about “more time” and trying to delay the game.

        Which is presumably the entire purpose behind hiding this for 3 months.Report

        • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Dark Matter says:

          I have no idea what Feinstein was doing. I would love to know. If she held onto it at Ford’s behest, ok, but I can agree releasing it now seems strategic.

          I just don’t think the way Dems handled the information is any indictment of th story itself.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Thank you for this.

    Erick Erickson has a very revealing tweet where he basically pleads that Kavanaugh must get through because this might be the last chance to reverse Roe and bring back Lochner. The Supreme Court has become such a powerful institution, capable of controlling the ideological direction of policy regardless of who controls the other two branches, that even the most serious allegations can not be taken seriously by one side.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The problem Republicans face, if this is enough to disqualify Kavanagh and they alsp want to get Roe v Wade overturned, seems to be that they need a judge who doesn’t respect women’s bodily autonomy, who also has a solid track record of respecting women’s bodily autonomy.

      So their best bet is probably what they’re doing – believe that he will continue to interfere with women’s bodily autonomy if given increased authority to do so, and also that he had never interfered with a woman’s bodily autonomy.

      Other commenters here are right that the smart strategy would have been to bet on a female candidate for the job. But then that’s never been their strong suit.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators were luke warm on Kavanagh and thought he would be the hardest to get through the confirmation process. Trump insisted on him because of the “I want an Ivy League guy” snobbery.

        This makes me wonder whether the incident came up during the vetting process, whether Trump was warned about it by his staff and/or Republicans in Congress, and whether Trump decided to go full speed ahead anyway.

        I think Lee is right. This is a solid chance for the right-wing to gain a majority on the court and one that will last for decades. They know what they want, they know how to get it, and they aren’t going to let anything screw it up.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Doesn’t Thomas look to retire sometime in the next 10 years?Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:

            Thomas was always more ideologically consistent than Kennedy. Kennedy was part of the Casey three. Suppose he does retire in the next ten years, we very well could be in a Democratic Presidency and a Democratic Senate. Maybe not but it is a good possibility. That would shift the Court to the left. Kennedy’s retirement is a chance to shift the court to the Right with Alioto, Gorsuch, Thomas, and whomever making 4 solid conservatives and Roberts (who was to the right of Kennedy) being the new median Justice.Report

            • Avatar Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              I think we should worry more about Ginsberg and Breyer. They’re the oldest among the remaining justices. If they retire during a trump or pence presidency, the court would shift really right. You’ve got to hope that they can hold on for at least the next 6 years.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Trump insisted on him because of the “I want an Ivy League guy” snobbery.

          Personally, I think Trump wanted Kav because he saw someone with moral flexibility. Unlike the other short listers, Kavanaugh has been deeply involved in conservative partisan politics as an adviser and strategist, and has shown he isn’t afraid to lie under oath to conceal the role he played. Couple that with his radical conception of the unitary executive and he’s Trump’s dream nominee.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Stillwater says:

            “his radical conception of the unitary executive”

            Please explain.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Pinky says:

              He doesn’t think sitting presidents can be indicted, he sees no distinction between the WH and the DOJ, his belief that the CFPB is an unconstitutional infringement on Presidential power, his rulings that regulatory agency decisions are unconstitutional on the same grounds, that metadata searches and collections without a warrant are constitutional if ordered by the President …Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Stillwater says:

                But sitting presidents can’t be indicted, can they? I mean, it’s never happened. It’s arguable that a sitting president could be indicted. All of these things, or at least the ones where I can tell what you’re referring to, are arguable within mainstream judicial thought. There’s nothing radical about them. In fact, the position that decisions by regulatory agencies aren’t equivalent to law is pretty strongly against the unitary executive.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky says:

                Nobody knows if a sitting prez can be indicted. It is not in anyway settled law that they can’t. Saying a prez can’t be indicted does sort of put them above the law.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to greginak says:

                Not really. It puts him in a unique category during his time in office, but he’s not immune to impeachment and subsequent indictment. We wouldn’t say that a soldier is above the law when his actions fall under the UCMJ.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky says:

                A soldier has laws they must follow or have a designated legal procedure and consequence. I’m not even sure how the analogy fits.

                Impeachment is a political process. I don’t’ see how making a Prez above the law until after they are out of office is a good thing. No i don’t think Caeser is a good analogy but it does leave us open to a Prez, not to mention any current names, openly going after an investigation involving their own campaign and officials.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to greginak says:

                There are a lot of processes that are described in the Constitution that are acted out in political ways. The creation of legislation, for example, or our electoral system. They’re legal in the sense of being laid out by our primary legal document. The same with impeachment. To say it’s political isn’t a denial that it’s legal.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky says:

                The investigation into and possible indictment are factors that should be part of “high crimes.” If a prez has been indicted by a grand jury that sure as hell is something that might suggest impeachment.Report

              • Avatar aaron warfied in reply to greginak says:

                Or, it could suggest a coup was taking place. There is a reason that the Prez. has a specified length of term, impeachment proceedings are laid out only needing a simple house vote (50% +1) to start, with a required 2/3 senators to convict. This is to keep what is inherently a political act from being used to stage a soft coup. The best way to remove him is to vote him out, usually done by showing that your candidate is better than him.

                The president is elected by state representation ie more areas of the country have voted for, rather than against the holder of the office, and a simple majority cannot be used to remove the holder. This is a federation of states, not a mob.

                As it is said often enough, a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich, which proves nothing about indictments. Anyone can be indicted. Innocent until proven guilty is still the standard in the United States.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to aaron warfied says:

                No not a coup in any way. A coup is an extra legal removal of an office holder. Impeachment is written in the darn constitution. An indictment if a formal legal process. If a prez is indicted the House and Senate can decide to impeach. Even a prez who idn’t indicted can be impeached so none of this is a coup.

                Voting him out is fine. That still leaves the prez, at least while sitting, above the law. Not above a political remedy but above the law.Report

              • Avatar aaron david in reply to greginak says:

                “Voting him out is fine. That still leaves the prez, at least while sitting, above the law. Not above a political remedy but above the law.”

                A lot of that is because Congress over the last few decades has abdicated its responsibilities, pushing them off to the executive branch. Rein that part in with a strong Congress and much of this goes away. But that is why impeachment has a fairly low threshold to start but a high bar to clear. If you can’t get 2/3’s of the Senate to say, “Yeah this is bad” then the nebulous Crimes and Misdemeanors being presented may not be that bad.

                “The investigation into and possible indictment are factors that should be part of “high crimes.” If a prez has been indicted by a grand jury that sure as hell is something that might suggest impeachment.” This is where we disagree. An indictment is nothing and should be treated as such as far as being “part of high crimes”, per your comment that I was talking about.Report

              • Avatar aaron david in reply to aaron david says:

                I am realizing I am kinda jumping the gun on your comment. I was initially reading it as an indictment should be the/a trigger for impeachment, which on closer reading I don’t think is what you were saying. So, my apologies.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

            That could be true. There is also the fact that because they nominated and freak elected the odious Trump, there is no way they can go to someone else and say “it was a bridge too far.”

            Suppose that Kavangh gets turned down l and Ford’s accusation is that a teenage attempted rape is disqualifying for the high bench. What does it say about all of Trump’s actions.

            The GOP might have no options but to double down.Report

          • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

            Seconding this. Trump wanted Kavanaugh because he believed Kavanaugh would be more likely to side with him or at least the Presidency in any challenge he might face in courts.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          This makes me wonder whether the incident came up during the vetting process,

          Yes. He had a letter with 65 signatures ready to go. So either they knew about it, or he’s lying about the signatures.

          From the current facts, if it came up in vetting it didn’t come up from the victim. It might have from the friend — Judge. He might have been honest in a vetting process, and the dude’s got some skeevy views on women.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

            Though my initian assumption was that they had the names lined up, I don’t think it’s actually true. They’re denying it, the signators are denying it, and that’s the sort of thing that would be hard to hide. To get 65 names, you’d need to contact a lot more than 65. At least one of those people who said “no” would have spoken up by now if they’d been contacted a month ago, and probably one of the 65 would say “Woah, when I signed that I didn’t know about these accusations!”. So I believe the claims that there was rush that night. (That does make me think that they took every signature they could find and there was a lot “Oh, if you vouch for him then I’ll vouch for him too” going on.

            As for why they were lukewarm about Kavanaugh, I would guess that is *mostly* because of his work with the Bush Administration (which has indeed been a bit of a problem). There may have been some vague concerns about his frat boy days, but probably not this in particular.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to dragonfrog says:

        I think that Republicans have a couple of maneuvers still at their disposal. They can ditch Kavanaugh and 1) Confirm another justice in the lame-duck session should they lose the Senate (still a long shot) or 2) Confirm another Justice with the new Senate if they retain control of the Senate.

        I don’t know if they are going to dig in or bail, and they probably haven’t decided this yet. They will probably have figured this out by next Monday, though.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Amy Bartlett would have been the safest choice for the Republicans. Solid conservative Catholic like Kavanaugh. The worst thing about her is that she wrote a bunch of embarrassing law review articles on such topics how Brown v. Board of Education is problematic under originalism but this should be ignored because of special circumstances. It would make for an embarrassing confirmation hearing. The problem is that she apparently came off as a smarty pants know it all in front of Trump. That’s a bad idea, especially if you are a woman.Report

  6. Very well written, especially given how awful it was. I honestly don’t know what to make of Ford’s claim at this point. But it’s disgraceful how it’s become a political football.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Yeah, I’m down with Kavanaugh not being admitted to the Supreme Court over this.

    But I’m struck with seeing how this is, effectively, unknowable. Like, the only thing we can measure is the credibility of the various people involved. Is she credible? Well, let’s analyze her claim! (And that feels creepy.) He said it never happened. Let’s analyze that claim! (How in the hell can we analyze that claim?)

    So we’re going via gut feelings all the way down.

    But given what happened with Garland, it’s not like Trump wasn’t asking for his nominee to be Ginsburged.

    He should have nominated Amy Coney Barrett.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Jaybird says:

      Absolutely right, it is unknowable, ultimately.
      For me, the details sound realistic.
      A woman who has studied false rape accusations posted a twitter thread about the hallmarks of false rape claims. What stood out to her with Ford’s story was the relatively minor extent of the incident- false accusations are generally framed for maximum effect, painting the accused in a very cruel light.
      The other thing she noted was the element of “comic relief”, referring to the part of the story where she says the other boy in the room basically tackles them and knocks Kavanaugh off of her, (playfully, not to “rescue” her.) The woman said that kind of detail would be very unusual for a false allegation.
      And finally, Ford’s age and the decades long delay are also atypical of a false allegation.
      It could be a very clever story set up by some nefarious democrats, I guess, but if so that’s a pretty long game.Report

  8. You are one hell of a writer and OT is lucky to have you.

    And that’s true every day of the year.Report

  9. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    Thank you all, truly.
    It was a rough day. I didn’t know how this would land. I didn’t want to seem like I was fishing for sympathy or to claim some moral high ground to render my opinion unassailable.
    I just related so hard to everything I was reading about this. I wanted to explain why a lot of these “suspicious” factors are maybe not so suspicious.
    Thank you for the kind words (so far). I love this site and the quality of the people here and in the end I knew I wouldn’t regret putting this out.
    Thank you, again.Report

  10. Thank you got this.
    I can only imagine how hard it must have been to put this down.
    Thanks again.Report

  11. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    George Turner: It seems she doesn’t know where it happened or what year it happened, so details are going to be sketchy.

    And there’s the additional twist that Kavanaugh’s mother was the judge that presided over the foreclosure on her parent’s home.

    The complete lameness of the charge also merits a comment. In any frat house of that era such an event would be called “Early Thursday Evening.” As a freshman pledge, my neighbor bonked a girl he just met – on a fire ant mound. They ran screaming and naked into a hotel pool to get the ants off. Later that evening he had sex with a different girl on a pool table as the vast drunken crowd cheered.

    If this is all they can even claim about Judge Kavanaugh, then he’s obviously far better behaved than was Jesus, Lord and Savior. I would venture that every member of Congress, of both parties and both sexes, has done far worse.

    You know why I remember the date? Because I remember that one of my best friend’s birthday was the next day. I’m certain I’d have forgotten the exact date by now were I not still in touch with that friend. I probably would remember it was September, though.

    I don’t understand the relevance of the foreclosure hearing. Is the theory that this is some sort of revenge? That’s pretty weak. Especially since the foreclosure case was dismissed.

    For the rest of the bulk of your comment: if you don’t know the difference between a frat boy with two consenting partners on the same night and a boy attacking a non-consenting girl, there’s nothing more I can say to help you.

    Better behaved than Jesus? I can’t bring myself to dignify that with a response.

    I cut out the confirmation process part because it wasn’t the part I wanted to respond to, but I will, because it’s the only part I agree with you on somewhat. I dislike the way the court has become such a political battlefield. That was never the intent. It got much worse after Bush v Gore (but the root of it goes back to an obscure redistricting case from 1962, which was really the first time the court usurped legislative power.)Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Em Carpenter says:

      There’s an interesting interview with his high-school girlfriend and his college girlfriend who had also been in high school with him. They say the accuser’s story is ridiculous and never happened, and that Kavanaugh was always proper and in control even after drinking a beer. He was the one that tried to keep everyone else from acting up. They also never heard of a party like the one she described, and although one of them had heard of her back then, neither knew much of anything about her. They weren’t in the same circles.

      But those are just ex-girlfriend who say Kavanaugh is a wonderful human being who would never have been involved in such a thing, and wasn’t involved in such a thing or they would’ve heard about it. But who should believe them? They’re just girls.

      BTW, I was sexually assaulted in college by a pair of hot, drunk sorority girls who were trying to make their boyfriends jealous because they were being ignored. One of the boyfriends was a friend of mine, a rich Sigma Nu with a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Anyway, they shoved me into the stairwell, pinned me up against a wall, and started rubbing all over me, while not letting me leave. The assualt continued for quite some time. Only now, 34 years later, do I realize that I should hunt them down and try to destroy their lives, get them fired, and break up their families – because that’s what society demands!Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson in reply to George Turner says:

        George Turner’s comment above should be deleted. It is bullshit and should be treated as such.Report

          • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Em Carpenter says:

            With the part about it being bullshit, I concur.

            As to deleting, I expected a few of these. Let it remain as a token of his character, in case he’s inappropriate again sometime and evidence is needed. You know, so no one need take my word for it.Report

            • I am really glad I’m no longer routinely a part of those kinds of discussions. Good on the editorial staff for tackling them. Good on you, @em-carpenter, for choosing to let the comment stand.Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to Em Carpenter says:

              What is inappropriate about relating details of a sexual assault I suffered that alarmed me like few other things have? It was threat condition red because they were extremely aggressive and their third degree black belt boyfriend was about 10 feet away, on the other side of the hall, and I’m very protective of my personal space. I got the shakes from it. It made me even more guarded and withdrawn than I was before. Thus I dated absolutely nobody at all through college, as I was pretty scared of them.

              But regardless of what they did while drunk, which didn’t actually go anywhere, it would never occur to me to wait 34 years and then try to do something about what was, in retrospect, such a minor and juvenile act.Report

              • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to George Turner says:

                Forgive my skepticism. It’s just that no victims I know refer to their attackers as “hot”.
                If you did view it as assault (and it would be, if it was unwanted), then I am sorry for the trauma you had from it.Report

              • Also, it’s a little weird to call an event that obviously caused serious depression — to the point where you couldn’t date even date other women all through college because it was that traumatic – as a minor or trivial act.

                None of that, though, means it didn’t happen, even if it doesn’t makes sense to other people. Nor does it mean that the effect it had on you at the time and in subsequent years (including your feelings about it today) were or are inappropriate. People respond to dramatic event differently. I’m very sorry that you had to go through that. It sounds like it was a horrific experience for you.

                You might at least consider, however, choosing to be a little more empathetic with people who have been through similarly traumatic experiences. Or not. Up to you.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Oh can I handle this? Pretty please?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Dave says:

                Nothing to handle. If the guy’s a victim of sexual assault he deserves sympathy and empathy.Report

              • Avatar Dave in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                You believe him. I think he’s full of shit.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Em Carpenter says:

                Well, it wasn’t as bad as what happened to me in 7th grade. We had a new cheerleader, the daughter of a teacher, who was what would be termed the beta female of our class, second only to the alpha who always beat me out by a couple of votes for class president. Due to the alphabetical seating arrangement, she sat behind me in English class. One day she started passing me notes telling me I was cute, then she leaned forward and started whispering in my ear that I was cute (I am really cute), and then she started blowing in my ear. All the other girls were giggling at the antics.

                I was trying to focus on diagramming sentences and found her advances REALLY irritating and distracting, and the surrounding giggling was extremely embarassing, if not humiliating. So I spun around and said “QUIT IT!” way too loudly. We had a big open classroom arrangement inside of a wide open floor plan, so pretty much 80% of three grade levels (hundreds and hundreds of students) heard me and spun around to look at the outburst. The teacher exploded in anger, and the cheerleader turned beat red and hung her head. For the next five years she made sure no girls who valued their social position ever spoke to me. I was persona non grata.

                But by my sophmore year one very smart but plain girl didn’t care what the cheerleaders thought, so I started chatting with her at lunch and such. My brother found out and descended upon me with a furious warning of consequences should I ever be caught speaking to her again, and that he had his entire class “watching” me. He’s a borderline sociopath with anger management issues who terrifies me to this day, so I stayed far away from girls in high-school from then on, and they stayed away from me.

                In college, several years after the incident with the sorority girls, I actually did go on a few dates with a girl who lived next door with my housemate’s girlfriend. She was a profound alcoholic with severe anger management issues, and I was mostly dating her to find out what had really been going on with my housemate. He was a definite high-function sociopath who bragged openly about being a sociopath. It was sort of “stunt dating”. She would get drunk, rip off her top, and I would say “Well, I’d better be getting back home.”

                Anyway, about a week later I passed out at her birthday party, and when I woke up I was locked in her basement while my psycho housemate, his girlfriend, and my date called the police to frame me for kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder. I escaped from the basement, completely clueless as to what was going on, and went back inside to say goodnight to my date – because I’m an extremely proper and polite person.

                I was sitting on the couch when about a dozen police cars showed up. It took them about half and hour to determine that I was the world’s most innocent person, so they just sent me home – after getting my parent’s phone number – which they gave to my drunk date and my psycho housemate, who called my parents at 1:00 AM telling tall tales about kidnapping and attempted murder and anything else they could think of. My dad thought it was funny and was glad I had gone on a date.

                The next day was worse, however, as my borderline sociopath brother showed up, heavily armed and with two of his armed thugs, who he told to shoot me in the legs if I tried to run. Things went downhill from there.

                I didn’t go on another date till I was in my mid 40’s.

                So in retrospect, the five minutes with the two sorority girls was probably the least traumatic encounter I had.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to George Turner says:

                Dude, it’s possible to have a point without dousing yourself in gasoline and lighting a match.Report

      • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to George Turner says:

        There’s an interesting interview… They also never heard of a party like the one she described, and although one of them had heard of her back then, neither knew much of anything about her. They weren’t in the same circles.


  12. Avatar LTL FTC says:

    It’s September 2022. President Sarsour nominates Tarana Burke to replace Chief Justice Roberts, who choked to death on a chicken wing earlier that year. Predictably, it’s politically heated, with the GOP predicting (predictably) apocalypse if she gets appointed to the high court.

    Hearings are coming to a close and, having failed to peel off any Dem senators, things are looking up for Burke.

    Then, the nearly unimaginable: an oil executive who went to high school with Burke claimed she sexually assaulted him at a party 35 years prior. No witnesses, no contemporaneous evidence, nothing but one man with an accusation and one woman with an indignant denial. How should Senators vote?

    It’s just common compassion to believe someone when they tell you something on an interpersonal lever. That’s “decent human being” territory.

    Kavanaugh will be an awful Justice and a BAMN strategy would be better suited for a situation in which there was any hope of a better option. Hypocrisy be damned, it doesn’t matter if the country is too gerrymandered to elect anyone worthy of being accused of it.

    However, rendering any claim non-falsifiable makes for awful criminal law and broken “advise and consent.”Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to LTL FTC says:

      I believe her. It doesn’t necessarily follow that I think she can prove it.

      This is not criminal law, and if it were, it would be an extremely weak case. But “beyond a reasonable doubt” is not the standard here.

      That said, testimony is evidence. As a prosecutor it was often all I had, and sometimes it was enough and sometimes it wasn’t. It depended on the trier of facts’ opinion as to credibility.

      I don’t think it is going to derail his nomination, unfortunately, but I believe it’s relevant information.Report

      • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Em Carpenter says:

        I understand this is not a criminal matter. That’s simply not something I said.

        For the record, if I had to pick sides, I believe her. I know deep down that’s about 70% because it flatters my beliefs about white male young republican types. I’m also almost as suspicious of over-the-top male feminists. If I knew no demographic information about either of them, and it was unclear whether it was WM-WW or BM-WW (the history on that particular combo fills volumes) or something else, I’m not so sure.

        But the potential for weaponization is huge here. And we might not like what happens when it gets used against “our people.”Report

        • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to LTL FTC says:

          Apologies. I was referring to your last sentence which seemed to imply we should be applying the standards of criminal law to this situation.Report

          • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Em Carpenter says:

            I meant any standard at all and should have been clearer.

            Claims rendered nearly unfalsifiable by time, absent a scintilla of corroborating evidence, should fail under both the criminal and civil standards. That’s not to mention the more nebulous “advise and consent” standard, if you can call it a standard, for Senate approval of SCOTUS justices. It’s just too open to partisan, racial, class or other abuse.Report

            • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to LTL FTC says:

              No, I meant any standard at all. Unfalsifiable claims, absent a scintilla of corroborating evidence, should fail under both the criminal and civil standards.

              Exactly that. She’s convincing, her statements would be unusual for someone making all this up. That’s fine but it’s not enough.

              I’m waiting for some of her statements to pass a basic sanity check (the 2012 documents talking about 4 attackers and not giving his name doesn’t pass that bar). Between the Internet and the Government we have unlimited resources for this case. She’s given enough detail that someone should be claiming that was their party, their house, etc.

              At that point we should be able to say they’ve met and a party did happen. That wouldn’t be enough to convict him in a court of law but it’d be the “scintilla of corroborating evidence” LTL mentioned. If, with the resources we’re going to bring to bear, it’s impossible for us to find any evidence that passes any sort of sanity filter, then I don’t see how we can treat this as passing any sort of sanity filter.

              The following are the two best links I could find on what we actually know.



            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to LTL FTC says:

              I’m sympathetic to the idea that we shouldn’t just accept any gossip or accusation.

              But using the legalistic concepts here doesn’t work.
              Kavanaugh isn’t being put on trial, he isn’t being put in front of a disciplinary board, he isn’t being subject to any sort of punishment at all.

              He is applying for a lifetime promotion to the highest court in the land, an incredible position of trust and power where he will be deciding the fates of millions of Americans, for decades to come.

              We the people and our representatives are interviewing him to see if we are comfortable giving him this power.

              That’s all we need, is our gut instinct and level of trust.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Ask yourself, who does “gut instinct and level of trust” help? Does it help the marginalized? Probably not, at least not usually.

                If all it comes down to is that it’s the gut instinct of one group to distrust white young republican prep school bros because of the shibboleths they’ve built up, and the gut instinct of their opponents to trust those same people even more and distrust California social science profs in a similar fashion, we haven’t done much to get to the truth of the matter.

                “Gut” is the worst of all possible worlds. Of all standards, from American criminal trial to campus title IX tribunal, “gut” is the bottom of the barrel. It might be right sometimes, but a “gut” decision doesn’t prove anything but the willingness to pick a side.

                We just flatter ourselves by assigning veracity to whichever cultural markers our “gut” prefers.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to LTL FTC says:

                And yet, every single elected official in our democracy is given their job, on that very same gut instinct.

                Because that’s what this is- Kavanaugh is campaigning for a promotion, and is asking us to judge his character.

                You’re right, elections frequently do turn on bigotry and prejudice, but we work on that as a separate problem to be solved; We don’t go around saying an incumbent has a right to remain in office unless we can prove he is unfit.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to LTL FTC says:

      I have vague memories that people raised similar concerns around Anita Hill’s accusations against Clarence Thomas [1]. Since then, there have been (if I’m counting right) 10 nominees to the Court, two of which were not confirmed for reasons that had nothing to do with personal moral turpitude [2].

      And it’s not like there’s zero evidence beyond what Kavanaugh and Hill themselves say now. I don’t see why it would be different in the case of your hypothetical Dem nominee. If it is different, well, it’s different.

      [1] Vague because this happened when I was in junior high.

      [2] Harriet Miers, who just seemed unqualified for the job, and Merrick Garland, who was the victim of pure partisanship.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to pillsy says:

        The big difference between Anita Hill and now is that white guys are not the de facto heads of one of the major political parties.

        Bipartisanship seemed to work when white guys were in charge of both parties. There are still plenty of liberal white guys. There are still plenty of white guys in the Democratic Party but overall the Democratic Party is nominating more women, more people of color, or a combination thereof.

        Jeffrey Rosen had an essay in the Atlantic about how we are suffering from the tyranny of the majority and not listening to Madison. A lot of people rightfully pointed out that his essay was wrong. Trump supporters are a minority trying to hold onto power by all means necessary.

        You can’t but help and here the subtext of the Rosen essay as being “things were easier when white guys controlled both parties.”Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I think this both true and troubling. A cursory reading history and past events reveal that democracies get fragile when political parties are too tribal in their membership. To a certain extent political parties are going to be tribal, based on gender, race, and class as much as ideology. Too much tribalism seems to turn everything into a constant war over every little thing. The other side is simply the enemy, something to be defeated. The Republicans suffer from this tendency a lot more than the Democratic Party but its starting to spread among Democrats to.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Jamelle Bouie wrote a good rebuttal of the Rosen piece.

          I don’t think that sort of fear is motivating every concern here; in particular, a most of the “due process”-ish concerns (like the ones raised by @ltl-ftc ) are obviously in good faith, even if I don’t find them that persuasive given the specifics of what we know about Kavanaugh and Hill.

          However, I’ve seen a lot of much less defensible sentiments, especially among high-profile Rightwards hacks, that it essentially is irrelevant if Hill’s accusation is correct. The argue that Kavanaugh should be forgiven for conduct that happened a long time ago, despite the fact that in this instance they’re arguing for forgiving conduct that Kavanaugh denies, and the “forgiveness” in question means a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the Country.

          Those arguments are hard to take at all seriously. I’d say that they reflect very poorly on the people making them, but frankly most of the people making them have been flagrant scum for roughly ever.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter in reply to pillsy says:

            The argue that Kavanaugh should be forgiven for conduct that happened a long time ago, despite the fact that in this instance they’re arguing for forgiving conduct that Kavanaugh denies…

            Or doesn’t remember. Even if everything happened exactly as she says, it was a long time ago, he was very very drunk, from his point of view nothing memorable happened.

            , and the “forgiveness” in question means a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the Country.

            One can reasonably believe you’re much more than the guy you were on the worst day of your life, especially when we’re talking about minors and alcohol.

            All that showcasing the GOP did of Kavanaugh being a decent, honorable man with lots of female colleges who think highly of him? Assume that’s true.

            Assume everything everyone has said is true. He did it, he doesn’t remember it, it was totally out of character not only for who he is now but who he was then. At some point, maybe even from that, he learned not to let himself get that drunk and he’s long forgotten the details.

            The alternative to Kavanaugh is NOT Garland-as-a-compromise after the Dems take control of the Senate, nor is the alternative we wait with 8 Supremes until the next Presidential election. The alternative to Kavanaugh is some random Joe that Trump will push through without vetting during a lame duck Congress.

            And Trump will know darn well that this one won’t be vetted and can be trusted to take advantage of that. He might even not use his list, we’re fortunate none of his kids are lawyers but whatever.

            So is Kavanaugh really the worst guy on Trump’s list? Does that one incident as a minor really make him more of a scumbag than whoever Trump puts up there next? At one point some Dem thought they could do a lot worse, but I didn’t follow the details then and don’t recall them now.Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:

              The alternative to Kavanaugh is that we cement in place a norm that elevation to the Supreme Court is a privilege restricted to only those who we feel safe enough to entrust that power.

              “You could do worse” might work for the application to night manager at QuikeeMart, but not here.

              If Trump horks up another, worse hairball than this, and if the Republicans cravenly surrender and confirm him, the American people will have their chance to express an opinion come November.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Dark Matter says:

              I assume the alternative to Kavanaugh is another Federalist Society ideologue who I would hate for all of the ordinary reasons I’d hate a Federalist Society ideologue for, but none of the additional issues with Kavanaugh.

              I don’t trust the GOP to do much, but this is the brass ring they’ve been going for. They didn’t let GWB (back when he was a highly regarded member of Team Red!) push through Harriet Miers, and they sure as hell won’t let Trump elevate Jeanine Pirro or Milo or somebody.

              I think having someone like Amy Barrett on the court would be awful.

              But less awful than having Kavanaugh on the Court if he did what he’s accused of. A lot less awful than that.Report

            • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Dark Matter says:

              This is clearly wrong. Even if you think doing this, and having it not be memorable, is not disqualifying, he would still be lying about it right now. So let’s judge him for the response now, not “his worst day as a teenager” if you think the latter doesn’t get you there.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matterd in reply to Nevermoor says:

                he would still be lying about it right now.

                So… she gets a pass on not remembering who took her there, why she was there, who took her back, etc, on one of the most significant nights of her life, but we’re supposed to think the guy who was falling down drunk remembers the bad idea he failed to implement?

                Her claim is he was stupid drunk. He might not have remembered the next day, much less after 35 years.

                Everyone carries around a reality filter which makes themselves look better. If Saddam Hussein can go to his grave thinking he did everything for the good of his country, then K can believe the next day he threw a drunken heavy pass and got shot down. I don’t see why this should be memorable for him unless someone was there telling him he almost became a rapist.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Dark Matterd says:

                Ford’s lawyer’s latest statement makes me think that her lawyer doesn’t want her to provide sworn testimony under any circumstances.

                Her refusals of Chuck Grassley’s wide ranging offers for her to testify privately, and even for him to meet her in California, support that view, as does her demand that the FBI conduct an investigation of a non-federal crime 37 years in the past and Diane Feinstein’s failure to give the committee the letter she’s been sitting on since July, despite it being requested from her ever since she revealed its existence.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                She’s asking for FBI investigation, which would include sworn testimony.Report

        • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Bipartisanship seemed to work when white guys were in charge of both parties.

          I disagree. I think Washington appeared bipartisan because the parties were less internally-consistent. Democrats were the party of social liberals and southern racists. Republicans were the party of old-money Northerners and western individualists. So on many issues there would be a way for one segment of each party to find common ground.

          In the last few decades, the parties have realigned to each be much more ideologically pure, and non-overlapping. Which makes the old “bipartisanship” (in the sense that members of one party could get votes from fellow travelers who belonged to a different party) much harder regardless of whether it’s an old boys’ club.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Nevermoor says:

            Now, the Republicans are internationalist libertarians and working-class white isolationists, and Democrats are wealthy white atheists and poor black Christians.Report

            • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Pinky says:

              With no overlap on any meaningful issues (at least between politicians, I’m not talking about non-professionals). To the extent we buy your labels, the “internationalist libertarians” sure won’t vote with democrats to stop foreign conflicts. The “isolationists” won’t vote with democrats on workers rights issues. And there isn’t a segment of the democratic party that will support the bills proposed by either of those two blocs.Report

  13. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    Dark Matter: He might even not use his list, we’re fortunate none of his kids are lawyers but whatever.

    Tiffany is in law school… just saying.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *