Editorials

Just vote no: If Brett Kavanaugh is guilty, Claire McCaskill can’t support him

Judge Brett Kavanaugh (left) and Sen. Claire McCaskill
Judge Brett Kavanaugh (left) and Sen. Claire McCaskill File photo

If the Senate vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court is held any day between now and the day that allegations he sexually assaulted a young woman in high school are disproved after a serious investigation, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill must vote “no.”

Not only because her Democratic base would revolt, though they would. Not only because voting to confirm Kavanaugh wins her no additional support in her toss-up of a race with Republican Josh Hawley, though that’s true, too.

You don’t have to be a leading voice on preventing and prosecuting sexual assault, as McCaskill is, to know that if the accusation is true, President Donald Trump’s nominee doesn’t deserve the seat. If it’s not true, of course, then we need to know that, too — and Kavanaugh deserves to have his name cleared.

Like other senators in both parties, McCaskill wants to hear much more about Palo Alto professor Christine Blasey Ford’s report that Kavanaugh tried to pull her clothes off at a party and held his hand over her mouth so no one would hear her screaming.

“I am deeply troubled by these allegations,” McCaskill said in a statement. “They should be examined thoroughly and fairly by the Judiciary Committee without any artificial timeline.”

Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt echoed that: “These are serious allegations that need to be looked at closely by the committee before any other action is taken.”

Ford says the incident caused her a lifetime of anxiety, while Kavanaugh says he wasn’t even at the party.

And even now, not every officeholder has grasped the fact that whether you are Professor Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, any of their loved ones, anyone who’s ever been sexually assaulted or anyone who’s ever been accused of attempted rape, there is nothing funny about this situation.

Among those laughing it up anyway is Missouri Republican Rep. Billy Long, who retweeted a photo of a little boy giving a beaming little girl an innocent kiss on her forehead. “Democrat evidence against Brett Kavanaugh 1963,” it said. Not LOLing, Congressman.

This whole turn of events shows McCaskill was right to wait before taking a position on Kavanaugh, despite the impatience of some Democrats. The process is supposed to yield new information about nominees, and beyond this bombshell, it has.

She was also right to meet with the nominee. Two years ago, Blunt did not extend Barack Obama or his nominee Merrick Garland that courtesy; as we’ve pointed out before, Blunt said at the time that he would oppose Garland no matter the facts. That strategy worked, but it was also wrong.

Many Republicans quickly decided that Ford’s allegations are a dirty trick because of the “last-minute” timing, though given that she passed a polygraph, and without naming Kavanaugh told therapists about the incident years ago, it’s no stretch to attribute the timing to the very real possibility that the young man who attacked her all those years ago is up for a Supreme Court seat now.

Anyone who thinks of coming forward, now or at any other time, as an easy decision only has to look at the high price that Anita Hill paid for her testimony against Clarence Thomas. Every woman who reports a sex crime knows that the overwhelmingly likely outcome is that she’ll be seen as dishonest and unhinged. Would you come forward in that situation? Would you advise your daughter to?

One of the most pernicious myths about sexual assault is that whatever happened in the dark can’t ever be proved in the light years later. It can be, and in this case, must be.

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