Get ready for Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas redux

supreme courtNext week, we get to see how far we’ve come, if we’ve come any distance at all, since the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas fiasco of 1991.

On Monday, an extraordinary Senate hearing will examine the allegations made by a California college professor, Christine Blasey Ford, that she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Both Ford and Kavanaugh will testify, which, just, wow.

We’re already getting a glimpse into how Republicans are playing things here, with the throaty criticisms of how the news is coming out so late in the confirmation process – Kavanaugh had been set for an up-or-down vote on Thursday, which is now obviously being delayed.

Oh, and Orrin Hatch, usual suspect that he is, is going on the record, as he did in the Hill-Thomas story three decades ago, muddying the waters with a story that Ford must be mistaken, because Kavanaugh is a fine man.

What is most telling here is that Ford didn’t first tell anybody about the incident with Kavanaugh this week, this month, this year.

No, actually, Ford first told of what had happened in 2012 in a session with a marriage counselor, whose notes from six years ago confirm the details of what Ford says occurred: at a high-school party, when she was 15, Kavanaugh was 17, Kavanaugh reportedly held her down and clumsily groped her, with one of his friends in the room apparently acting as a lookout.

The Trump political machine, cranked with the volume turned to 11, is casting Ford as a political ideologue who is making everything up as part of a political plot by Democrats to subvert the will of the American people, which, OK, Merrick Garland, folks, Merrick F’g Garland.

There are legitimate questions to be asked, for example, of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who talked cryptically at a Senate hearing last week about being in possession of a letter with information about Kavanaugh, which turned out to be a letter from Ford that Feinstein received on July 30.

Feinstein is hiding behind her insistence that Ford had requested the information be kept confidential, but then, why talk about it in front of the Senate and the world at all, then, if that’s the case?

One could spin Feinstein’s odd approach to the allegations as playing her ace in the hole, certainly. It could just as easily be the case that the media organizations chasing that story down – The Intercept and The New Yorker – forced her hand, and that without the pressure from the media, the story about the alleged assault would have been shoved quietly into a file that would then collect dust in an unknown building in D.C.

Feinstein, coincidentally, was elected to the Senate in 1992, in the first wave of women elected to the Senate in the wake of the fallout from the Hill-Thomas Supreme Court hearings from a year earlier.

Now, in the era of #MeToo, which, hey, it’s gotten awfully quiet on that front the past few months, the momentum from the revelations involving Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves having slowed to a crawl, if that, and apparently limited pretty much to those two guys, we have to ask the question: do we still not take allegations that powerful men engage in sexual predation seriously?

The answer is depressing: we clearly don’t, which is why next Monday’s hearing will play out very much the same way the Hill-Thomas TV spectacle did a generation ago.

Column by Chris Graham

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