As two women have now come forward and said that they were sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Republicans are taking a public stand of their own: they do not care. More than just that, they are reframing sexual assault as a kind of adolescent rite of passage. Pay attention: The powerful men are outing themselves.
Last week, an unnamed White House lawyer told Politico, “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” Fox News contributor Ari Fleisher recently asked, “How accountable are we for high school actions, when this is clearly a disputable high school action? Former Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, “And remember this: If stupid, bad, or drunken behavior as a minor back in high school were the standard, every male politician in Washington, DC would fail. Every single one. Hypocrites.” On Sunday, rightwing radio host Erick Erickson tweeted, “I gotta think there are a lot of suburban mothers horrified that one day their innocent son could be accused and presumed guilty of false claims.”
“I’m thinking, is there any man in this room that wouldn’t be subjected to such an allegation? A false allegation?” Iowa Rep. Steve King said at an Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event on Saturday. “How can you disprove something like that? Which means, if that’s the new standard, no man will ever qualify for the Supreme Court again.” King called the allegations “character assassination.”
If Kavanaugh is guilty of the behavior Ford alleges, then, according to these lawmakers and pundits, so is every man they know. All of this tells us very little about the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez and everything you need to know about these men.
The purpose of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are to assess whether Kavanaugh has the character and fortitude to be a fair judge for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the country. But on Fox News Sunday, South Carolina Senator and Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham said that the allegations have had no impact on his opinion of Kavanaugh. “You can’t bring it in a criminal court, you would never sue civilly, you couldn’t even get a warrant,” Graham said. “What am I supposed to do? Go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation? I don’t know when it happened, I don’t know where it happened, and everybody named in regard to being there said it didn’t happen.”
“Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this,” Graham said.
Graham’s comments reveal another face of this logic: the worst thing that can happen to a powerful man is to answer for his own actions. No wonder so many are terrified.