OPED: What Kavanaugh’s supporters get wrong about credibility

Tricia Bishop
The Baltimore Sun
This image released by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018 in Washington, shows Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh's calendar, from the Summer of 1982. (Senate Judiciary Committee via AP)

It’s he-said/she-said — we’ll never know the truth, so what’s the point? That’s how the argument goes. It assumes that even if Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers are deemed credible, it doesn’t matter, because his denials of the sexual assaults they describe are credible too.

He says he’s still got his appointments calendar from high school, after all, and, apparently, it doesn’t have an entry for “get wasted, attempt rape.” I totally believe him, too — because, doesn’t everyone keep a calendar of parties they attend at that age? And hang on to it for the next 35 years? I’m sure he’s also got the TRS-80 he used to schedule football practices and meet-ups with Renate Schroeder, the girl he and his Georgetown Prep classmates bragged about passing around like a basket of buns, according to their 1983 yearbook entries.

Here’s what proponents of this line of thinking are getting wrong: They’re equating Mr. Kavanaugh’s credibility — which is waning as the bodies mount, by the way — with the women’s. And they were never equal to begin with: The women’s credibility is weighted.

It’s a simple calculation. Mr. Kavanaugh’s public accusers, which as of this writing number two, have far less to gain from making these allegations than he does from denying them. The only motivation that makes sense for the women — each of whom describes a teen-aged Brett forcing himself on them while others watch, complicit — is carefully considered public service, with a side of long overdue comeuppance.

What other reason could there possibly be? Mistaken identity might have been plausible if a second accuser hadn’t come forward with a tale of assault similar to the first. And the Democratic plant theory is just plain ridiculous. The women are most certainly being used by the Democratic party, but that’s not their fault. No sane person is going to put themselves and their families through this kind of hell to benefit a political party when they’re not even a politician.

Christine Blasey Ford, now 51, came forward first, with a story of being 15 and pinned to a bed by a drunken 17-year-old Brett, who groped her, covered her mouth and attempted to remove her bathing suit before she escaped. Within 36 hours of going public, the college professor says she was targeted with violent threats, her family was forced to flee their home, and her email was hacked. Deborah Ramirez, who is now 53 and works with domestic violence victims, is currently under fire, accused by Kavanaugh supporters of everything from confusion to collusion for detailing an incident during her freshman year at Yale in which Mr. Kavanaugh allegedly stuck his penis in her face in front of a group while playing a drinking game.

So that leaves crazy, which neither of these women appear to be, or truth telling as the inspiration. The odds are on the latter just based on the statistics. We already know most women today have experienced sexual harassment or worse (81 percent), most assaults aren’t reported (63 percent), and false accusations are rare (between 2 percent and 10 percent). And if the Senate is still unsure, members are free to push for that FBI investigation Ms. Ford wants.

More:Ford’s lawyers submit 4 statements backing up assault story

More:With newfound aggressiveness, GOP ramps up Kavanaugh fight

In a tweet Friday, President Trump demonstrated just how little he knows about sexual assault reporting, saying “if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”

Fact is, young women are the least likely to report assaults. More than 90 percent of those that occur on college campuses, for example, go unreported. Why? Because it’s bad enough to go through the assault the first time, much less relive it in public while having your character also questioned.

Ms. Ford and Ms. Ramirez, as grown women, may regret their youthful silence, but they’re speaking up now. And their words very simply carry weight.

And if you ask me, Kavanaugh’s don’t. He doesn’t sound credible — or even judicial. He sounds political. “This is a smear, plain and simple,” he’s said, referring to “this alleged event” with Ms. Ford. The dog whistle message is that Ms. Ford is a plant. Hooey.

He’s the plant — a wolf dressed in judge’s robes. He told Fox News on Monday that “the vast majority of the time I spent in high school was studying or focused on sports and being a good friend to the boys and the girls that I was friends with.” Tell that to Renate Schroeder (now Renate Dolphin), who learned this week that Mr. Kavanaugh and “friends” referred to themselves as the “Renate Alumni.”

“The insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue,” she told the New York Times. “I pray their daughters are never treated this way.”

Ten days earlier, she was one of 65 women who signed a letter saying Mr. Kavanaugh “behaved honorably” toward women in high school. It appears he fooled her for three dozen years.

We shouldn’t let ourselves be similarly duped. He is being vetted for a spot on the highest court in the land; the position requires impeccable personal and professional ethics. He doesn’t have them.

I believe the women.

— Tricia Bishop is The Baltimore Sun’s deputy editorial page editor.