Imagine you’re on the committee to hire the next CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You’ve got a stack of impressive résumés, but one is a standout.
Then you hear this:
- A woman says your top pick sexually assaulted her, pinning her down on a bed at a party when they were in high school, a story she told a therapist years ago.
- A second woman says he exposed himself to her as a student at Yale. Classmates gossiped about it for decades.
- A third woman says your applicant was a bystander when she was, in her words, “gang raped” at a high school party. She says she once saw him in a line of boys preparing to gang-rape another student.
- She also said that he and his friends spiked drinks with drugs and alcohol to make women unable fight off unwanted sexual advances.
- In response to all this, your top pick presents himself as a virgin choirboy. Half a dozen of his old friends gasp, telling the Washington Post that, in fact, he was an aggressive “sloppy drunk” for years.
Do you hire him anyway?
Even the most forgiving hiring committee would hesitate after looking at a list of people claiming that their finalist is a sexual predator, a liar, or both. The decision probably wouldn’t be, “We’re going to plow right through,” as Mitch McConnell has said is his plan for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. At the very least, there’d be an investigation into the claims. Accusers would be interviewed at length, so would anyone else with relevant information — supportive or exculpatory.
The central question a company asks when making a hire, especially for a job that comes with power and influence, is whether the candidate is worth the risk to the company. Is the person going to contribute more than they’ll cost in salary, in workplace productivity, or in harassment lawsuits?
In the case of Kavanaugh, Republicans are asking the inverse. They aren’t weighing the potential risk he poses to the credibility of the Supreme Court, to their own party, or to victims of sexual assault or harassment, whose cases he is very likely to hear. Instead, they are asking what risk these accusations pose to Kavanaugh, accusations that Kavanaugh vehemently denies.
”What am I supposed to do, go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation? I’m just being honest. Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party in high school, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Kavanaugh will testify after her. This should be a moment where the committee rises to the occasion, comes prepared, and takes the information-gathering seriously. It should be the toughest job interview of Kavanaugh’s life.
But that’s not how Republicans are treating it. Conservatives are calling for “due process” and “evidence,” but the hearing isn’t even a kangaroo court where participants pretend they don’t know the outcome. The outcome for Kavanaugh has been predetermined, and Republicans are open about it. “We’re going to be moving forward. I’m confident we’re going to win. I’m confident he will be confirmed in the very near future,” McConnell told reporters two days before the hearing.
The only argument that this is any kind of court proceeding is to look at Ford as the one on trial. She’s been treated like the accused, not the accuser. Members of the all-white, all-male Republican panel, who don’t want to look bad on television, brought on a female sex crimes prosecutor to question her.
There’s been no serious, nonpartisan pre-investigation, despite requests from multiple accusers. Republicans have refused to call other witnesses besides Ford and Kavanaugh. They’ve accepted a perfunctory denial from Mark Judge, a friend of Kavanaugh’s who Ford alleges was in the room when she was assaulted.
Judge is now accused by another woman, Julie Swetnick, of involvement in a gang rape and spiking drinks. An ex-girlfriend says Judge once told her he and other men had sex with an inebriated woman. She is willing to speak to senators. Amid all this, Judge fled Washington and is now holed up in Bethany Beach, Delaware. He hasn’t been subpoenaed.
Perhaps the biggest tell that this is not on the level: Republicans already scheduled a committee vote for Friday.
Meanwhile, more troubling accusations have trickled out, but Republicans are just running harder at the accusers. President Trump is reportedly taking it upon himself to shepherd Kavanaugh’s confirmation, going on the offense against accusers and one of their lawyers.
Other Republicans are following his lead. On Wednesday, Graham dismissed Swetnick’s claim that she witnessed Kavanaugh at a party in the 1980s waiting in a line of boys who were allegedly planning to rape a fellow high school student. While he was at it, he wove in a not-so-subtle victim-blame: “I have a difficult time believing any person would continue to go to — according to the affidavit — ten parties over a two-year period where women were routinely gang raped and not report it,” Graham tweeted.
Kavanaugh, who has denied all the allegations but hadn’t explicitly called Ford a liar, took on a much Trumpier tone on Wednesday after Swetnick’s accusations surfaced. “This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don’t know who this is and this never happened.”
Perhaps there are jobs where it doesn’t really matter if a candidate has a dubious past or if he’s a liar. Supreme Court justice is not one of those jobs.
The Senate is faced with a critical hire; whoever takes the open seat on the Supreme Court will help decide key legal questions for decades. This person must have the faith of the public. Only a serious hiring process by Senate Republicans can make this happen. Thursday’s hearing will be a political stunt billed as a trial. It shouldn’t be either. It should be a job interview.