Christine Blasey Ford told us her story. She told it honestly, quietly, intelligently and movingly. She recounted the details of the assault and its subsequent impact on her life, and she assured the Senate and the world that she was “100 percent” certain that her attacker had been Brett Kavanaugh, nominated by President Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court:
“The details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult ...
“Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.
“Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.”
When his turn came, Kavanaugh told his own story, emphatically, angrily, tearfully and emotionally, denying the allegations of sexual assault and attributing them to a political conspiracy:
“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.
“This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade confident and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country. And as we all know in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.”
One of the two is lying; one of them is telling the truth.
However, a convenient escape hatch seems to beckon for those who would seek it. If you want to believe Kavanaugh’s denials but also find Ford’s testimony sincere and powerful, if you just can’t bring yourself to accuse her of lying, is there not some way by which both people can be telling the truth, at least as they know it? Can we cut this baby in half, and call it good?
More specifically, could Ford honestly be recalling a true-life traumatic sexual assault, but could her recollection of the perpetrator be mistaken? That explanation has been floated in various forms by conservative defenders of Kavanaugh for weeks now. As Sen. Lindsey Graham complained after her testimony, Ford claimed to be able to name Kavanaugh without a doubt, yet she could not recall the house where the assault took place, what time it took place, what date or day of the week it took place.
As sexual-assault experts can attest, however, there is an obvious explanation for that gap in memory. A house did not assault Ford; a time did not assault Ford; a date or day of the week did not assault Ford. A man did, and Ford claims the identity of that man is seared into her brain.
Think about it: If someone in this he said/she said drama is not recalling events correctly, why would it be Ford, a woman with no known history of heavy drinking? (If such a history existed, believe me, we would know it.) Wouldn’t it be the boy who was treasurer of the 100 Kegs Club, who by many eyewitness accounts would drink extremely heavily, whose best friend in high school has since admitted in a memoir to often drinking to the point of blackout, who was forced to concede in Senate testimony Thursday that he drank to the point of vomiting, which he attributed to a weak stomach?
Would it be the girl whom most parties in this controversy agree was the victim of an assault that be unforgettable, or would it be the boy who by most accounts spent weekends and summers in beer-induced haze?
A reopened FBI background check would probably not definitively answer our questions about what happened in that room somewhere in suburban Maryland that night -- the universe of potential witnesses is three, and two of them have now spoken. (The fact that the third alleged participant has never been interviewed by anyone is astonishing evidence that those with the power to determine the truth do not wish to know that truth.)
However, the universe of witnesses available to either challenge or confirm Kavanaugh’s honesty about his drinking would be significantly larger, and the truth is that Kavanaugh knows what those witnesses would tell the FBI. He does not want an investigation that might clear his name because he knows or fears it would do the opposite.
In the end, you have to choose. Senators have to choose. Voters have to choose. We have all the evidence and testimony that we are likely to get, and forced to choose, I choose Christine Blasey Ford. On the evidence we have seen, I would never vote to convict Kavanaugh in a criminal court, but forced to choose, I would choose not to confirm the angry, partisan, bullying and self-pitying man we saw testify today to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.