Those like me who watched the American television in the last one month may have been impressed by the search for truth about the allegation of sexual assault made by Prof Christine Blasey Ford against President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. It appeared as though the ‘Me-too” movement, which led to the rolling of heads of many mighty men, was making its way to the Supreme Court and the White House itself.Tears rolled down the cheeks not only of the accuser, but also of the accused, when their alleged teenage activities were discussed in lurid details in the US Senate. No other issue dominated the public discourse in the US as the confirmation process marked by high drama and a sense of foreboding.
The public opinion appeared to be swinging from one position to another, at times convinced about Ford’s sincerity, and at other times about the ferocity of Kavanaugh’s denial as the two made emotional appeals to the Senate and the media. The President himself said at one point that he was keeping an eye on the Senate hearings as he found a ring of conviction in Ford’s allegations. But in the end, Judge Kavanaugh was appointed to the top US court with a 50-48 vote, marking a triumph for himself as well as for the President. It was clear again that the more things change in society and politics, the more remain the same. Male superiority and Presidential authority remained intact, as the Senators voted on Party lines, despite the dictates of their conscience. A couple of Senators hummed and hawed, but the final tally reflected the reality of the political division in the country. Many Republicans may not approve of many of the Presidential actions, but they remain within the confines of the Party for their sheer survival. Personal convictions are set aside for the sake of Party solidarity. Democracy was saved as nobody asked, as Justin Pilate did, “What is Truth?”
The Supreme Court Justices in the US are selected for life by the President, but they are appointed only after a Senate confirmation. There have been occasions when the Senate held up the appointments for one reason or another. Much depends on the standing of the President and the transparency with which the nominees are selected. Donald Trump's court choice generated a controversy that captured the nation's attention in a way that few political issues do as the President’s credibility was pretty low and serious allegations were made on the grounds of the newly sensitive issue of sexual harassment. It generated daily headlines rivalled only by the US quadrennial presidential elections. "We will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness," was the dictum that prevailed.
Blasey Ford, who subjected herself to the humiliation of recounting her experience said she was "100%" sure that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her. Judge Kavanaugh denied the allegations that he drank to the point of memory loss in an emotional manner considered unworthy of a Judge in a feisty confrontation with Senators. Even those who felt that he was innocent doubted his ability to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court with the kind of temperament he exhibited. The conclusion was that Ford may have been honest about her experience, but there was no evidence to show that it was Kavanaugh who attacked her. He confessed to his love for beer, but denied the claims of Ford and a couple of other women who made allegations of indecent exposure and drunkenness, while he was at Yale University. The Senate gave an opportunity to FBI to do a short investigation of his background, but the report produced no incriminating evidence to support the charges. President Trump, who claimed that he was a teetotaller, defended Kavanaugh and brushed aside the charges against him to clear the way for the Senate confirmation.
The one lingering question for which there is no answer yet is why Ford came up with her allegation only after Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court. She said that she had revealed her dark secret to others engaged in her therapy, but did not want to go public. She felt, however, that her childhood attacker would be on the US Supreme Court for life was a possibility, which horrified her. Strangely enough, no one accused her of playing into the hands of the Democratic Party because she appeared genuine in her agony. There was sympathy for her plight, but not for her passionate appeals to reject him. There was also an element of doubt as to whether a teenage misdemeanour should go against a Judge, who had an unblemished record of service as testified by several FBI investigations at different stages of his career.
Kavanaugh fought for his survival, even though there were occasions when he appealed for public sympathy rather than fairness for his plight. He went to the extent of saying that, far from being a sexual predator, he was a virgin in school and much later. His confession that he loved beer was not considered serious enough to block his nomination. President Trump appeared to be open to withdraw his nomination when public opinion seemed to swing towards Ford, but it was evident that Kavanaugh was crucial for him because of the Judge’s declared position that no punishment should be imposed on a serving President. Given the fact that the investigation about the alleged Russian interference in the US elections were taking several twists and turns, President Trump wanted not only a Conservative majority in the Supreme Court, but also a committed Judge like Kavanaugh. The fight was tough, but he won with simulation and dissimulation and misdirections, as concluded by ‘The New Yorker’.
The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh has brought up once again the persisting doubts about the system. It permits assertion of the President’s wishes as the democratic process in the Senate is weak and partisan. The Supreme Court Justices, who are not elected, hold office for life and remain arbiters of US law for a lengthy period of time. The present case, which was the most controversial process in a century, is particularly significant during a volatile Presidency. Similarly, it is worthy of note that the extraordinary prominence that gender issues have assumed in recent days made no difference to the reality of political partisanship. In the world over, gender equality and concern for violence against women still remain matters of pious sentiment rather than reasons for change.