This Morning

This morning I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do it yesterday, either, but that’s when I knew that I had to.

I don’t want to write about abortion any more. I already said everything I wanted to say, as well as I could; it was exhausting and depressing — though happily, I got a positive response from the post, for which I’m grateful (though that also tells me that I was mainly preaching to the choir, which is expected, but unfortunate) — and even though I said in it that I would try to present an emotional argument to complement the logical argument I was aiming at, I just couldn’t make myself do it. Not least because I don’t want to exhaust people who read this blog with post after post of difficult, tiring, angst-inflicting subject matter like abortion.

But I have to do this. Because Clarence goddamn Thomas is on the Supreme Court of this country, and therefore has a platform for his bullshit that I can never match: and it is exactly that reason, that imbalance in our respective influence and reach, that means I have to throw myself at his mighty marble pedestal of bullshit, and try to knock off a chip or two.

Let’s start with this: Thomas shouldn’t be on the Court in the first place. He was underqualified, having spent only two years as a federal judge when he was nominated by President Bush in 1991 — not a disqualifying fact, of course, but certainly not in the “Pro” column. And then Anita Hill stood up. The accusations brought against Thomas by Hill during his confirmation were supposedly nothing but “He said/she said” claims. The same sort of thing that Brett Kavanaugh also recently stamped past, waving his chubby fists angrily in the air,  winking at the other bro-type fellers who we all knew would be frowning seriously for a full thirty minutes before they voted to confirm him (As an aside, there’s a remarkable quote from the article about the Hill/Thomas hearings which I will be referring to in a moment: ‘When apprised of Hill’s accusations, Senator Howard Metzenbaum, the Ohio Democrat, said, “If that’s sexual harassment, half the senators on Capitol Hill could be accused.”‘ The idea that it couldn’t possibly be considered sexual harassment because all kinds of rich powerful white fucksticks are guilty of it is really a stunning position to take on, well, anything.). Except in the case of Hill and Thomas, they weren’t just a “He said/she said” set of accusations:

For viewers at home, it looked like a typical he-said, she-said sexual-harassment case, in which it was nearly impossible to determine who was in the right. Believing Hill required believing that a federal judge on the verge of Supreme Court confirmation would perjure himself; believing Thomas required believing that Hill would have fabricated vivid allegations out of whole cloth.

This appearance of irresolvable conflict was neither wholly accurate nor accidental. Four friends of Hill’s testified that she had told them about the harassment at the time, lending more credibility to the claims. Three other women were willing to testify about being harassed by Thomas, too. But Biden chose not to allow one of them, Angela Wright, to testify publicly, instead releasing a transcript of a phone interview with her. Strange Justice, a 1994 book by reporters Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer, concluded the Judiciary Committee had failed to follow up leads on allegations against Thomas and had conducted only a cursory investigation. Whether such testimony would have been adequate to convict Thomas in a court of law is unclear, but perhaps also beside the point. It was as strong or stronger than the evidence that has toppled several members of Congress, including Senator Al Franken.

Source

A corroborated story, part of a pattern of behavior, should have raised enough questions about the man to shift his 52-48 confirmation vote the other way, even if they were afraid to appear racist by voting against him. I certainly see the value of having an African-American person on the Court, but I personally find it pretty hard to believe there wasn’t another, better, African-American nominee than Clarence Thomas to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall. (Perhaps a black woman?) But we all know perfectly well that Thomas was not nominated for his race, he was nominated for his conservative views and his willingness to follow the script. He was confirmed because of his race. The fact that the  ultra-white Senate and particularly the Judiciary Committee ran away from confronting Thomas head-on shows one of the many reasons why the government should not be monocultural. Can you imagine if Thomas had told Maxine Waters that she was carrying out a high-tech lynching? Or Kamala Harris?

(And though I really don’t want to get off the topic, let’s all remember who headed the Judiciary Committee in 1991, who failed to follow through on the leads in this investigation, and gave us this piece of shit on the bench because he couldn’t stand up to a black man who played the race card, as Thomas did [Too many asides and I should have written about this whole thing when Kavanaugh was pitching his hissy fits: but how the fuck were Anita Hill’s accusations against Thomas a “high-tech lynching?” Because it was being broadcast on the televisions? That’s fucking high tech? Seriously? You talked to her about how big your dick is, sir: this is not high anything: it’s low brow, it’s low class, it’s low quality. Enough, sorry.]: Joe Biden. Please, I don’t want to pick the Democratic nominee before the process plays out, but whatever you do, don’t fucking vote for Biden, okay? Pretty please?)

So as I was saying, Clarence Thomas shouldn’t even be on the Court. Once he got there, he should have been impeached for his consistent refusal to recuse himself despite serious conflicts of interest mainly through his wife, a political activist who started a Tea Party PAC in 2010. Thomas has had clear conflicts in the Citizens United case, and in the Affordable Care Act case, and yet, he voted, and we have those decisions in the books.

(Summary of Thomas’s conflicts of interest, though it is out of date)

So here we are: and Thomas has something to say. About abortion.

It’s racist.

That’s right, abortion is racist, sexist, and ableist, Thomas opined in his concurring opinion on Tuesday after the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to split the decision on an Indiana abortion case: because abortion is the tool of eugenicists.

I mean, it’s not.

But Thomas says it is — and Thomas is an honorable man.

Here: this is Thomas’s opinion. It’s full of legalese, of course, and the writing is honestly pretty bad, but you are welcome to look and judge for yourself. Let me give you the tl;dr version of it.

Essentially, Thomas claims that abortion is a weapon used by eugenicists to reduce the number of unwanted people in the world in order to purify or improve the genomic quality of the human race. He says that people who want to make the human race better want to remove anyone who is of low intelligence, or who is not white, or who is a woman. To prove this, he cites Margaret Sanger, Alan Guttmacher, and various members of the American eugenics movement of the first half of the 20th century. He takes the Court’s decision not to decide on part of the Indiana case as a reason to get all fired up in defense of all non-white babies, women babies, and babies with limited capacity or genetic complications.

Here are the problems with his argument. Ready?

  1. Margaret Sanger, while she had some genuinely fucked up elitist views, never promoted abortion. She promoted birth control. She never conflated the two; and Thomas fucking admits it in his opinion: ‘She [Sanger] recognized a moral difference between “contraceptives” and other, more “extreme” ways for “women to limit their families,” such as “the horrors of abortion and infanticide.”’ That’s right, Clarence: she thought abortion was a horror. Not a tool of eugenics. Not birth control. (But Thomas says that Sanger was a pro-abortion eugenicist; and Thomas is an honorable man.)
  2. Alan Guttmacher, while he was arguing that abortion should be legalized in the 1950’s, said this (Taken from Thomas’s opinion):

    He explained that “the quality of the parents must be taken into account,” including “[f]eeblemindedness,” and believed that “it should be permissible to abort any pregnancy . . . in which there is a strong probability of an abnormal or malformed infant.” … He added that the question whether to allow abortion must be “separated from emotional, moral and religious concepts” and “must have as its focus normal, healthy infants born into homes peopled with parents who have healthy bodies and minds.”

Here’s the thing, Your Honor — and stick with me, now — it should be permissible to abort any pregnancy for any reason whatsoever. In fact, it is permissible to abort any pregnancy for any reason whatsoever. We can talk about the proper time to do it, and I suppose we can wax poetic about why women should want to keep their children and all that jazz: but none of that fucking matters. What matters is not why a woman chooses: what matters is that the woman chooses. Period. The end. Full fucking stop.

But let’s stick to the matter at hand. I will agree that Guttmacher’s comments can be seen as preferring people without genetic abnormalities or birth defects. “Feeblemindedness” of course is a code word for conditions such as Down’s Syndrome (Which Thomas also refers to in his opinion, also getting his facts wrong on that as a reason for abortion — but Thomas says Icelandic women abort 100% of children with Down’s Syndrome, and sure, he is an honorable man.), and so Guttmacher might be saying that people with such genetic conditions should be aborted.

No, wait: no he’s not. He’s saying that abortion should be allowed. Not that it should be sought. Not that it should be promoted. Not that it could be used to build the Ubermenschen. He’s saying that the debate over abortion should focus on healthy children in healthy homes: meaning that situations that are unhealthy are reasonable places to see abortion as an option, as a means of avoiding a dangerous and harmful situation. You want to read that as referring to parents or infants with Down’s Syndrome? Go for it, but that’s not what Guttmacher said. The closest he comes to it is the one word “normal” in reference to the children: and if you are going to read “normal, healthy children” as referring to only children without Down’s Syndrome, then you are the one arguing that Down’s makes one abnormal and less than healthy. Which makes you, Justice Thomas,  the ableist.

Motherfucker.

But I was trying to enumerate the problems with Thomas’s argument that abortion is the tool of eugenicists. Let me just boil it down: the eugenicists he refers to, which did include Sanger and might have included Guttmacher, never promoted abortion as a means of accomplishing eugenic goals. They preferred birth control — and where they were fucked up Nazi types (and plenty of eugenicists were fucked up Nazi types), they promoted forced sterilization. [Great article about this: Thomas refers to a book about Carrie Buck, a woman who was forcibly sterilized by Virginia, and then the Supreme Court in 1927 supported the state’s right to do that to her. Except Thomas misunderstood the book’s point. Because the book is not at all about abortion. Weird.] And even if they did really want to use abortion as a means to a eugenic end, THOSE PEOPLE ARE ALL DEAD NOW. None of them are setting the policy for the country, for Planned Parenthood, for abortion providers, for anyone. They are not behind the laws the Supreme Court is ruling on, they are not behind the challenges to those laws. They are irrelevant. They provide interesting historical context: but they do not show problems within the modern day argument over abortion. It’s like saying that the Republicans are corrupt because Warren G. Harding was a corrupt Republican. Or that they’re tall because Lincoln was. This is (ironically) called the genetic fallacy: presuming that something is wrong because of where it came from — that Planned Parenthood is evil because Margaret Sanger thought we should sterilize poor people. It’s also an ad hominem attack, going after the people rather than the argument; and it’s a red herring, because Sanger and Guttmacher and the rest were not arguing for abortion even when they were arguing for eugenics, and they weren’t arguing for eugenics when they were arguing for abortion. It’s the Fallacy Trifecta. I know we see that kind of shit all the time on the internet — but God, why do we have to see it from a Supreme Court Justice?

The nonsense continues: Thomas pulls out some shit about African-American women seeking abortions at a higher rate than white American women, which is true — but he never even tries to examine the real reasons, which are the systemic poverty and the lack of access to health care which ensure that African-American women are less likely to have good access to birth control, or to have the resources to carry healthy pregnancies to term. Instead he throws down this tired, out-of-context quote from Sanger: ‘We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.’ (To be clear, she is not saying that she wants to hide their true motive of genocide from the African-American community, she wants to make sure that people don’t come to this INCORRECT conclusion, exactly as Thomas is doing here. The proof? The phrase “straighten out that idea” does not mean “cover up the truth,” it means “correct a mistake.” And she wasn’t writing to the ministers themselves, so she’s not trying to sugarcoat her actual meaning. My kingdom for a Supreme Court Justice who understands rhetoric.) So apparently, because he misunderstands Sanger, Planned Parenthood is still following her direction and aborting African-American children more frequently than white children.

Sure.

Then he grabs some crap about Asian women seeking sex-based abortions, meaning that Asian women abort female babies more often than male babies, which is also true — but he never even tries to show how that means we should limit abortion access in this country. Come on: try to make an argument out of it. Chinese women, under that country’s disastrous and appalling one-child policy, more frequently aborted female children, a trend that is also common in India because of the social importance of sons over daughters. And therefore American women should not be able to abort their pregnancies because . . . ? As goes New Delhi, so goes New Jersey? If America ever imposes a one-child policy then Asian-American women will repeat this pattern — uh . . . because . . . ?

Here: this article spells it out well. Read it just for the point about Down’s Syndrome abortions and Iceland.

Look, this is really pretty simple. The right to an abortion, which Thomas opposes (And he gets salty about in his conclusion, when he claims the court created a Constitutional right to abortion which didn’t exist previously), is an individual right, and it is protected within the Constitution under the right to privacy. But whether it is protected as private or not, it is a right: because a woman has the right to determine what happens in her own body. She has the right to decide if she is going to be pregnant or not. You want to argue with me about that? Read this. But otherwise, start from that point. A woman’s choice to abort is her right.

Now: tell me that women might abort pregnancies because of the fetus’s presumed race.

A woman’s choice to abort is her right.

Tell me that a woman might abort her pregnancy because the fetus is female.

A woman’s choice to abort is her right. 

Tell me that she might do it because the child might have genetic abnormalities or birth defects, or ill health, or any other serious complication.

A woman’s choice to abort is her right.

Do you see? Do you get it? The question is not what happens to the infant: it dies. We know that, and it’s ugly. And we may frequently disagree with why a woman makes the choice she does. But that does not matter. That is not the question. The woman having racist or sexist or ableist reasons does not change her rights: she has the right to bodily autonomy, she has the right to privacy: she has the right to choose. That’s it. And though I was being facetious earlier when I said that Thomas’s reading of bias in Guttmacher’s statements reveals Thomas’s bias, this is for real: the theory that eugenicists would use abortion as a tool to achieve some kind of racial purity presumes that women have no ability to think and decide for themselves, but would simply be led to abort pregnancies they otherwise would want, because eugenicists told them to do it. And that is about as sexist as it gets. (Or else it presumes that women with the very qualities that eugenicists deplore would wish to eliminate their own traits from the gene pool and would therefore abort their own pregnancies to accomplish that goal. Which is just — I mean, it just exhausts me.)

So to sum up.

If you tell me that you have the right to freedom of speech, and then I say you might use that free speech to call Clarence Thomas a fucknugget, I hope you can see that I have in no way argued against your right to free speech. If you tell me that you have the right to bear arms, and I say you might use that right to bear arms in such a way that it would lead to the deaths of disproportionately high numbers of African-American men (Won’t . . . bring up . . . police killings . . . NO!), you should respond that my comment has nothing whatsoever to do with your right to bear arms. (A better example: if you use your guns to hunt legally, and I say that’s gross, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to bear arms. Even though hunting is gross.) If you say you have the right to refuse to allow British troops to be quartered in your home, and I say that means they’re going to be trampling all over the azaleas and shitting behind the rhododendrons, you should still not allow redcoats into your home and give them your Netflix password.

Want me to keep going? I can keep going. There are a great many personal rights specifically enshrined in the Constitution, and a great many more protected by its strictures on government power. Not a one of those personal rights is granted by the Constitution: they are human rights and civil rights, rights that we possess as a condition of our personhood and our citizenship. Not a one of them is predicated on the reason why we use them or how we use them. Not a one. There are restrictions on how we use those rights, as there are restrictions on how abortions can be performed; but never why. The argument Thomas is trying to make — and he comes reeeaaaaalll close to making it explicitly — is that abortion is a violation of the fetus’s rights. That abortion is discrimination against the fetus on the basis of sex or race or physical or mental disability.

But the fetus doesn’t have rights. Not in preference to the rights of the mother. Neither does society. Not even if the mother does decide to terminate her pregnancy for eugenic reasons. It is still her body, it is still her right.

Period.

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Investigation

There should be an investigation.

Sorry: I assume that I don’t need to give any more explanation than that of my topic here; but in truth, there are several things happening right now that could lead me to call for an investigation, so I should certainly give my audience a little more than that.

There should be an investigation into the accusation of sexual assault made against Brett Kavanaugh.

There. Is that clear enough? Mmm, perhaps not; I know this story has exploded into unavoidability, but I also know that many of my fellow citizens, and many interested parties around the world, make a point of staying away from the mass media and the political news cycles; those people may need more information. I don’t expect that any of them read this blog – not sure that anyone will read this blog once they have realized what my subject is – but in case they do, I should explain.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, currently an appellate judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. District, has been nominated by President Trump for the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court vacated by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Judge Kavanaugh is on the fast track to confirmation, partly because he’s a fine conservative judge with excellent experience and credentials, and therefore a good choice for the seat (if you don’t mind the fact that he’s a perfect fit for the mold of Republican Honky, having grown up wealthy and privileged and white, attending private schools and Yale, working for the Bush White House, et cetera, et cetera. He’s even married with two children whom he coaches in softball, for God’s sake. He’s a Republican Ken doll. Does that make him a good or bad choice for the Supreme Court? Honestly, I want to help my party stop playing identity politics, because identity politics are bullshit, and so I’m going to say we should let Judge Kavanaugh’s stereotypical markers go, and focus on his actual record of words and deeds), and partly because the Republican-controlled Senate wants to fill Justice Kennedy’s seat before the November elections, when the Democrats may win control of the Senate, and may then cast out any Republican judicial nominations while chanting “Merrick Garland! Merrick Garland!”

I have to say: I had this splendid and insane idea. What if the Democrats, should they win the elections in November and take control of Congress, could call Merrick Garland for a hearing, and then vote him into Kennedy’s seat? I mean, he was nominated for the Supreme Court by a President, and he wasn’t voted down by the Senate, simply never given a chance to be considered. Could they go back and pull his nomination out of the cold case files, so to speak, dust him off and put him through the process now?

The answer is no, sadly. His nomination officially expired when the 114th Congress closed in January of 2017. Too bad. Think how sweet that would have felt. It might even have precipitated the second civil war, and about time, I say. I don’t mean that.

Anyway. Judge Kavanaugh was going forward with his successful bid to become an entrenched 30-year bastion of conservatism, when suddenly the car went off the road and crashed down a hillside. It is currently flying, in super slow motion, over a cliff’s edge; it is not clear yet whether it will flip over, smash into the ground and explode in red-white-and-blue flames, or if it will glide perfectly onto another roadway on the other side of the narrow chasm it may currently be flying over. That is to say: Kavanaugh’s nomination has suddenly gone awry, but it may still straighten out and land him in a seat at the Supreme Court.

The reason the Kavanaugh car went off the road is a woman named Christine Blasey-Ford, Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, who has stated publicly that, when she was a teenager known simply as Christine Blasey, she was assaulted at a party by a drunken 17-year-old boy who pushed her down, lay on top of her, groped her and kissed her, tried to take her clothing off, and when she tried to scream for help, he put his hand over her mouth to silence her. That drunken assault was committed, according to Dr. Ford, by Brett Kavanaugh.

Okay. Cue outrage. Cue insanity. Cue tens of millions of people all saying, “Oh, shit.” I know I certainly did, several times, when I first heard this story after it broke. But after the outrage and insanity and the Oh-Shits have passed, we now have to deal with this situation. And the question is, what do we do?

It’s not fair to treat this as a special case because of the political ramifications. If Dr. Ford’s story is true, then she was attacked by a drunken savage, who may quite possibly have raped her had his equally drunken buddy, a man named Mark Judge, not jumped laughingly atop the two while they struggled on the bed, knocking all three to the floor and enabling the young woman to get away. (I have to say, though maybe I shouldn’t, but I have to: that’s the part that makes me think Dr. Ford’s story might be true exactly as she said it. That is not the kind of act someone would make up, because it’s so absurd, so entirely dumb; it turns an attempted rape into a bad Three Stooges skit. It makes the rape attempt seem less serious, which would undercut the narrative if Dr. Ford wanted to invent an attack to use as a weapon. But it is also clearly something that a drunk-ass teenaged boy would do. I also think it is something that a guy would do if he thought his buddy was taking a joke too far, and he suddenly got disturbed that maybe this wasn’t a joke, to his buddy: according to the story Dr. Ford recounted, Mark Judge was laughing wildly the whole time, and he jumped on top of them twice, only knocking them off the bed the second time. I can quite easily see that young man doing that intentionally to make Kavanaugh stop, maybe after seeing Kavanaugh do something that wasn’t playful and funny in that Ha-ha-we’re-drunk-guys-assaulting-a-girl-but-not-really kind of jokey way. Maybe putting his hand over her mouth after she screamed? However: I also have to note that there is no indication other than Dr. Ford’s testimony that the two guys who carried out this, to me, realistic-sounding attack, were actually Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. So I believe the event happened. I do not know for certain if Kavanaugh was the one who did it. That depends on whether we believe Dr. Ford. Is it believable that she would forget who did this to her? It is not; trauma creates strong memories, and she knew both boys’ identities at the time. Is it possible, since memory is often deceptive, that she has mixed up the identities of her attackers in the intervening years? It is possible, and it is also possible that Dr. Ford is lying intentionally. So I can’t be sure; there is a reasonable doubt. Forgive the ridiculously long aside.) Whether that savage would-be rapist is now a judge, or nominated for the Supreme Court, or if he was just some dude who drove a bus or sold insurance or ran a car wash would make no difference. Dr. Ford’s account should be considered carefully, and the reasonable next steps should be taken. We are well past the statute of limitations, so there cannot be any criminal or civil action taken against Dr. Ford’s attacker; but the purpose of acting on an accusation of assault shouldn’t be for the sake of punishing the attacker: it should be for the sake of trying to make things right, however that can be done. The truth is, of course, it can’t be made right, because Dr. Ford can never be relieved of the burden of what happened to her; but that makes it more important, not less, that we try.

At the same time, this case can’t be separated from the politics. The potential stakes have been raised, all the way to the highest court in the land. This may be important not only for those involved, but for the entire country. It doesn’t change the situation, but it changes the extent of it, and therefore changes the extent of our response to it. Howsoever far we might be willing to go for the sake of doing what is right for Dr. Ford – and I’d argue that that should be pretty goddamn far – we have to be willing to go much, much farther to do what is right for all of us.

So what is the right thing to do? Let me start by stating, as I think I’ve been doing all along, the obvious: we should not be playing partisan politics with this. And as is always the case, neither party is innocent of that crime, the crime of exploiting intense suffering, perhaps even causing intense suffering, for the sake of partisan political gain. It is utterly appalling that the Democrats, specifically Senator Dianne Feinstein, sat on the accusation for two months, revealing it only when it was the last bullet in the gun and could be used to delay Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination as long as possible. It seems likely that the political calculus here also sought to make it impossible for President Trump to nominate a replacement in time to get someone confirmed before the midterms if he and the GOP should decide to abandon Kavanaugh, which means they have little choice politically but to stick with the man accused of sexual assault, which will surely be used to make much political hay regarding the President and the rest of the privileged white dudes in power and their tendency towards sexual violence and misconduct. That’s a disgusting abuse of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh and the entire political system. (Honestly, if I may be allowed another aside, I have to say that I think President Trump did nothing wrong here. I’m already seeing memes associating Trump with all of the sexual misconduct in the GOP, and though he certainly bears responsibility for his own alleged crimes and multiple verified instances of misogyny and sexual misconduct, he didn’t make the Republicans, nor the Democrats who have also committed crimes and sexual misconduct, into the scum that they are. He could not possibly have known about this assault accusation against Judge Kavanaugh, and so he should not be taken to task for picking a man who had this hidden in his past; it was hidden too well and too deep for anyone to know, which is why Judge Kavanaugh has the title and the position that he does. I saw Trevor Noah of the Daily Show making a comment about how Trump seems drawn to other sexual assaulters, and while that may be true, it also hides the truth that people who commit sexual assault are not always, not even often, clearly criminal in their demeanor. There is nothing to show, on the outside, that someone may have committed sexual assault in their past. The nicest guy you know might be guilty of sexual assault, and still seem like the nicest guy you know. There’s no particular reason to think that Trump could sense if Kavanaugh is guilty of this, and he couldn’t have known that Kavanaugh would be accused of it. That being the case, I actually think the honorable thing for the President to do is to stand by his nominee until and unless the truth is proven; and that’s what Trump is doing.) I don’t believe the cover story of protecting Dr. Ford’s anonymity; it wouldn’t even be hard to bring up the accusation without details but with enough information to scuttle the nomination before it went to committee. Senator Feinstein could have gone to President Trump’s advisors and presented the situation, and they absolutely would have steered the President to a different nominee; it’s not like Brett Kavanaugh is the only good Republican Ken doll in the judicial branch, and there were a dozen other possible names floating around for the seat. No, it seems clear that Senator Feinstein held this grenade until the very last second so as to inflict maximum damage, and that is simply gross.

On the other hand, the idea that the Republicans can push this nomination forward to a vote without properly pursuing the matter in a manner befitting the seriousness of the allegation, and the potential impact of putting a man guilty of sexual assault onto the Supreme Court for the rest of his life, for the sole reason that that man is also a conservative, is just as utterly disgusting. I can’t imagine being so cynical that I could do what the GOP seems to have done, which is to find a way to spin this that seems acceptable to enough of their base that they can then go ahead and do what they planned to do before this came to light: put a fifth conservative justice on the Supreme Court and start laying down precedents that will help them win the culture wars. But all I hear from them is, “Well, she’ll have a chance to speak, but we can’t delay this nomination. Don’t have time. Got to get this done fast.” Their reasoning is clear, and grotesque.

The right thing to do politically would be to go to a vote and vote Kavanaugh down, right now, and then get a second nominee through the process as fast as they possibly can; I would also argue that this would be the right thing to do for Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, because it would take all of the ungodly pressure and scrutiny off of the case, and Dr. Ford could pursue it as she saw fit. It should be pursued, now that it’s out, both for her sake and because even if he is not headed for the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh is currently a judge on the Court of Appeals: he may not be one of the nine most powerful judges in the country, but he is one of the 188 most powerful judges. But bringing an accusation to light, proving the allegations, and potentially calling for Kavanaugh’s impeachment from the appellate court, none of that has the same insane heat as this does. And that way, the GOP could go ahead and get their fifth judge on the Supreme Court. Without inflicting a second justice, along with Clarence Thomas, who may be (is, in Thomas’s case) guilty of criminal sexual acts. (And Democrats worried about the long term effects in the culture wars should keep Thomas in mind. He is 70 years old, and he will not want to live out his last years as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is doing, working into her 80’s through ill health because she needs to keep her seat and do the right thing. Thomas does not have a hundredth part of Ginsburg’s strength, and his moral character is essentially nil. So make sure that Congress is Democratic, and Trump is out by 2020, and you’ll get a fifth liberal judge when Thomas steps down.)

But this is all beside the point. Because this is not a political issue. There are political issues attached to it, which change the dynamics of it; but they do not change the core issue. The core issue is that a woman has said she was attacked. And while there is no evidence beyond her word that Kavanaugh was the man who did it, there is evidence that it happened, both in her willingness to come forward with the accusation when there is little evidence that she gains thereby (I say “little evidence” because she might be using this allegation to hurt Kavanaugh and Trump, and her gain might be their loss. But there’s no evidence that Dr. Ford is a fanatic who would throw away her entire life for the sake of sticking it to Trump, just so he could nominate a different Republican Ken doll to the court after tossing out Kavanaugh. Also note that if her intent was political drama, she would have made the very same play that Feinstein made, coming out publicly at the most intense moment, rather than sending a letter to her congresswoman two months ago.), and in the fact that she recounted the attack to her therapist in 2012, long before she could have predicted she’d make an allegation against a Supreme Court nominee. It is not clear that she is telling the truth, because it is not clear that she definitely recalls the truth; that it happened seems likely, but that it was Kavanaugh is in some doubt. She took a polygraph test and passed it, but that isn’t good evidence; the therapist’s notes from 2012 differ from her story in critical ways (The notes say there were four males in the room when she was attacked. Kavanaugh is not named in them.); she can’t recall many details about the overall situation (though she has not had the opportunity to speak about this and answer questions, so we don’t yet know everything she recalls, only what her initial public statements describe); the other people in the room deny her allegations. That Kavanaugh denied it doesn’t show he’s innocent, because of course he has quite a lot to gain from denying it and nothing to gain from admitting guilt; the testimonials of his good character and the fact that there are many women whom he hasn’t attempted to rape do not, of course, mean anything at all.

So what do we do when there is a credible but not airtight accusation of a serious crime? It depends. What would be gained from pursuing the matter? What would the costs be? If this was just two people with an old trauma between them, then there wouldn’t be much for society to gain, and it wouldn’t be worth very much to pursue it; it would of course be worth the world for Dr. Ford to pursue it, and people who could help her would be, I think, honor bound to do so if they could, for her sake. But this is a 35-year-old crime, and if she brought it to a Maryland prosecutor, even if the statute of limitations didn’t exist (And by the way: it shouldn’t. The statute of limitations is that “Boys will be boys” bullshit made into law – “Well, shucks, he hasn’t raped anybody since then, so what’s the big deal?” – and it’s everything wrong with our justice system.), the prosecutor might not pursue it because there are other crimes and other criminals that pose larger threats. I think the story should be published, because there is not a better way to find out if other women might have suffered similarly; and if there is a pattern of behavior, suddenly there is much more reason to pursue charges against the assailant, to protect other innocents from harm.

I recognize that publishing an unproven allegation would ruin a man’s reputation. I face that possibility myself, all the time, because society believes someone like me, a man in his 40’s who spends all day with teenagers, is already probably 40% of the way towards child molestation; a credible public accusation would be more than enough to end my career forever, and prevent me from ever working in anything remotely like this field again. But the truth is that victims are destroyed by sexual assault, and it is the work of a lifetime to rebuild themselves; many can’t ever do it, particularly not if they are victimized more than once. Coming forward in our society with an accusation is even more dangerous than being accused: Brett Kavanaugh might lose his nomination for the Supreme Court; Dr. Ford has received death threats and has had to move out of her home, just in the last week. There isn’t an instance of public accusation that doesn’t go approximately that way: for all the grief that Bill Clinton (And Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore) got because of Clinton’s misconduct, it wasn’t a patch on what Monica Lewinsky went through. Laughing stock of the entire nation, for – well, for life, really, though she has done an admirable job of rebuilding herself since then. If I were accused of sexual misconduct, I’d be ruined; but the one who accused me, because I am a successful and popular teacher and a good guy, would be the target of every single bit of anger and hate that all of my friends and family could bring to bear. It would be bad. If someone were willing to do that to themselves, it would stand as reasonable evidence that the allegation were true. Proof? Of course not. But evidence. And because I recognize that, I work hard to make sure I don’t ever make it easy for someone to bring a false accusation against me, and I work even harder to make sure that no one could make a genuine complaint about my behavior, could accuse me of harassment or discrimination or something similar.

Plus, I’m not a rapist. Which makes it a lot easier to avoid accusations of rape.

I have to say, I got drunk as a teenager, more than once. Really drunk, sometimes. At parties, even. And I never even jokingly pretended to rape anyone. There is a difference between someone who will commit an act this heinous when their inhibitions are lowered, and someone who would never commit the act. That difference matters. And it has nothing to do with age and nothing to do with alcohol. People who say “Boys will be boys” about sexual assault, or who use a phrase like “drunken hijinks,” need to learn that.

So as I said above, what do we do when there is a credible but not an airtight accusation of a serious crime? We investigate. Of course we investigate. We ask questions. We send professionals in to interview everyone involved, and everyone who might know the truth, and we find out everything we can about it. Everyone should want this: Kavanaugh is already at risk from the accusation; if he’s innocent, an investigation is the best chance to prove it. If it were me, I wouldn’t be satisfied with being able to deny it – even if I categorically denied it, as Kavanaugh has – and then move on, I’d want someone who knew what they were doing to ascertain the truth, and make it known as an objective fact. Dr. Ford should want an investigation in order to prove that she’s telling the truth, and to bring herself one step closer to justice and the good rebuilding of herself from her trauma. And indeed, Dr. Ford has asked for, even demanded an investigation. Well, one out of two ain’t bad. The Republicans should want an investigation because it will be far faster than pursuing another nominee if Kavanaugh is innocent, and far better than either confirming an attempted rapist to the Supreme Court if he’s guilty, or abandoning a man just from an accusation, which is neither good nor politically savvy. For those concerned about how a mere accusation can do irreparable harm to a man’s reputation, an investigation would increase the penalty for those who make false accusations, and show that the accusation alone is not the end of the story.

For all the rest of us, an investigation would help ensure that we get a decent person on the Supreme Court (Partisan politics aside, please: a decent person who is a conservative is a decent person; many and many a conservative Justice have made decisions that have been good for the country. And remember that any decision does not have to be the end of the fight, because even the Supreme Court can be overridden by the will of the people. Even if we don’t get Kavanaugh, we are going to get a conservative: because even if the Democrats win in November, they won’t take control until January, and that’s plenty of time for a whole new nominee. So let’s get a decent one). An investigation would help us learn the truth, and help a victim work through a trauma, and those are both good things regardless of other considerations. An investigation would help us remember how seriously we have to look at sexual assault, and if Kavanaugh is guilty, it may help us start thinking seriously about how we can work to prevent similar things from happening, and also how we can’t assume that all sexual assaults happen in the same way, or that all those who commit sexual assault are the same kind of person, or that finding 65 women who think you’re nice shows that you couldn’t possibly have tried to rape a 15-year-old girl, and gagged her when she tried to scream.

Nobody knew about what happened at that party when it happened, because society has stigmatized victims more than attackers, and girls more than boys, for millennia. We have to change that. We should make sure we all know now what happened then. There should be an investigation, a complete investigation by the FBI, intended to help ensure the best outcome for our national interest, as well as do the best we as a society can do for the victim.

Christine Blasey-Ford has been silenced once before. Now she should be allowed to speak.