Apart from any other feelings one might have in response to the sentencing of Bill Cosby, one-time comedian, it was impossible to ignore the coincidental timing with the Senate confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Yes, the Cosby case involved criminal charges involving sexual assault, and, by comparison, we have a job interview going on with Kavanaugh.
But both involved allegations of sexual misconduct that were decades old—both from the early 1980s, that had come from women concerned only with their own well-being, not about preserving the status of the man involved, and both were denied vehemently not only by the man charged but by the coterie that surrounds them. Both are really about abuse of power, limits and social values.
Indeed, the Kavanaugh allegations on the record of now of three women will open today as more bishops of the Catholic Church also face decades-old charges from literally thousands that had been buried for years. It comes as Harvey Weinstein goes to court and as more corporate officers are being ousted from their jobs – all for sexual misconduct.
We have a problem with sex and with recognizing where it meets violence. We have a problem with self-limits and understanding “No.” We have a problem with respect. We have a problem with exerting power. We have a problem with recognizing the anguish of others, particularly women. We have a problem with not understanding violence. For that matter, we have a problem with priests and young men as well.
We have a complex of problems that come wrapped as #MeToo. We also seem to have a problem with binge drinking and behavior under the influence of stimulants.
The Republican-majority Senate already has scheduled the start of its confirmation vote for Kavanaugh for Friday morning, less than 24 hours after today’s public session in which they expect to hear from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, one of the two women alleging sexual assault 36 years ago, and the strident denials of Kavanaugh, the nominee. But they also want to be seen as having extended themselves to hearing Ford out, to having run the allegations to ground.
The president, who was coached by aides into appearing to show openness to hearing the women out, has blasted that plan out of the water, heartily rejecting any allegation as a Democratic “con.”
It wasn’t Democrats who were sexually assaulted three decades ago; it was two women who have names and deserve thanks for stepping forward. More importantly, even in his attacks, the president, himself a target of sexual assault allegations, cannot seem to summon empathy for the women, only for the men as being unfairly charged.
The women have not to date even suggested that their history would automatically disqualify Kavanaugh. That privilege has been left to the Senate Republicans, who can put on the court a second justice with sexual misconduct charges to change the majority of justices who will decide on a long list of issues affecting women.
But forget Kavanaugh.
Let’s talk sex, or power, or our inability to recognize women when they call foul. Let’s talk culture wars. Let’s talk about a president who thinks it is perfectly fine to deny his own 19 women complainants, to talk openly about assaulting women himself, to dismiss anyone complaining about his behavior as political trickery.
The pictures of Bill Cosby, blind and in his 80s, being taken to prison in handcuffs was startling, despite all that we have come to know about how he drugged women before raping them. He has been branded formally as a sexually violent predator, a public menace, and will spend at least three years in state prison in Pennsylvania.
There were pictures of the Pope, too, on another stop, still apologizing for his bishops worldwide who never stopped the abusive behavior of their priests.
The pictures of Kavanaugh and wife, taking to a softball interview on Fox TV, told quite a different story about those youthful years than reflected in multiple interviews now. Meanwhile, it has been news reporters, not the Senate, not the FBI, who have found others from the high school and college classes involved to pose the questions that will never emerge at the public hearings.
Lawyers for Brasley Ford were clear this week in saying that it was not their job to provide confirming details and testimony, and called repeatedly for the FBI investigation that Republicans have blocked in order to push through the confirmation.
Neither Cosby nor Kavanaugh has said a word of regret or showed remorse or even empathy for what these women report happened to them. They were too busy proclaiming innocence.
The cases are different, of course, as are the levels of proof necessary to provide judgment.
But the anger, from both men and women, well, that’s the same, and it will show up to vote in November.