There are some sound defenses one could make of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. For example, a Republican senator could note that the allegations of sexual misconduct against him have yet to be directly corroborated by third-party eyewitnesses — and thus, his nomination to the Supreme Court should not be withdrawn until an extensive investigation into the matter has been completed.
There are also many bad defenses that Republicans have made of Trump’s high court pick. For example, Utah senator Orrin Hatch’s argument that Democrats decided the allegations against Kavanaugh were true before they even looked into them — and also, Deborah Ramirez’s claim that the judge indecently exposed himself to her is “phony” because “I know it is, that’s why!”
But for the very worst defenses of Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court, one must turn to North Dakota’s lone congressman, Kevin Cramer — who apparently wants the core message of his Senate campaign to be “Make Sexual Assault No Big Deal Again.”
Cramer insists that the allegations against Kavanaugh are not credible (or, in his words, “even more absurd” than those that Anita Hill made against Clarence Thomas). And yet, for some bizarre reason, he nevertheless insists on arguing that even if these obviously false allegations were true, it wouldn’t matter in the slightest.
“These are teenagers who evidently were drunk, according to her own statement,” Cramer told a local radio news program last week. “They were drunk. Nothing evidently happened in it all, even by her own accusation. Again, it was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere.”
By Ford’s “own accusation,” a 17-year-old Kavanaugh corraled a 15-year-old girl into a bedroom, held her down against the bed with the weight of his body while trying to remove her clothes, and then covered her mouth when she screamed, using so much force in his bid to silence her protests that Ford feared for her life. By “her own accusation,” the trauma of this experience caused Ford immense psychological pain in the ensuing years, a portion of which remains with her to this day.
Asked Monday to clarify what he’d meant by “nothing evidently happened,” Cramer explained, “My point was is that there was no type of intercourse or anything like that. That was my point, that nothing happened in terms of a sexual … event, beyond, obviously, the attack.”
Cramer’s comments are comprehensible if one posits that all a woman has to lose from being sexually attacked by a man is her virginal honor. By contrast, if one assumes that having another human being violate your bodily autonomy — and treat you like a disposable object, to such an extent that you fear he might kill you — is traumatic, even if you emerge with your “purity” intact, then Cramer’s remarks are baffling.
Not content to merely belittle sexual assault, Cramer proceeded to suggest that even if Brett Kavanaugh were a pathological liar, he would still be qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.
“Even if it’s all true, does it disqualify him?” Cramer asked, rhetorically, during an interview with Valley News Live Monday. “What if, what if something like what Dr. Ford describes happened. It’s tragic … It should never happen in our society but, but, what if 36 years of a record where there’s nothing like that again?”
Cramer is far from the first conservative to make this argument. But the fact that he is echoing it, at this late hour, is truly mind-boggling. It would be one thing to argue that Kavanaugh’s contemptible actions as an inebriated adolescent did not impugn his character in the present day — before Kavanaugh categorically denied that those actions took place. But the Supreme Court nominee has now spent more than a week insisting that Ford is either lying, or cannot trust her own memory of the events in question. Thus, if Kavanaugh did, in fact, attempt to rape Ford when he was 17, then he has either been knowingly gaslighting a woman he sexually assaulted — or at best, lying about how certain he is that he did not commit the assault in question (given that he was allegedly inebriated at the time, it’s conceivable that he genuinely does not remember it), at the age of 53.
Cramer does not need to make these arguments. The allegations against Kavanaugh have not been dispositively corroborated, and likely never will be. The North Dakota Republican could simply emphasize the evidence most favorable to Kavanaugh’s account. But, for whatever reason, he feels compelled to make a principled argument that it is perfectly fine for high-ranking public officials to sexually assault women in their youth, and then gaslight their victims in middle age.
In a few weeks, the people of North Dakota will need to decide if they think this way of thinking is worthy of a senator. As of this writing, Cramer holds a slim lead over Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp in the polls.