Is an alleged assault by a 17-year-old boy, 35 years ago, relevant?
That’s the question some are asking with reference to Donald Trump’s second nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
The Judge has been accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault while “stumbling drunk” at a teen party in Montgomery County, Maryland, 35 years ago.
Yes, the eye-rolls are pretty funny.
The defenses on Judge Kavanaugh’s behalf take two paths. First, that it was all too long ago and no one should be judged for the rest of their life for something awful they did as teenagers.
The second is that everyone concerned in this story are either willfully or unwittingly inaccurate.
Both of these defenses have a lot going for them.
I support rehabilitative justice and no one should be under fire for a youthful misdemeanor, especially if it was a rare lapse.
But here’s the problem with Judge Kavannaugh. He’s not pleading that point, nor admitting he might have misremembered what happened with Ms Ford. His defense is that Ms Ford is lying.
As a judge one might have expected a more nuanced view of the ethical dilemmas of the situation. No one will ever know what really did happen 35 years ago, at that party in Maryland. Ms Ford has one version of events. Judge Kavannaugh and his friend (confusingly named Mark Judge) have a different version.
So no one will ever know. And perhaps it doesn’t matter anyway what did or did not happen.
But it might have behooved the Judge to acknowledge the difficulties of remembering the past – and to accept that youthful indiscretions (if any) are something that young people do.
Back to the question then: Is an alleged assault by a 17-year-old boy, 35 years ago, relevant?
Yes, if he’s about to assume a lifetime appointment on the highest court in America.
As Ezra Klein wrote on Vox: “I agree with Kavanaugh’s defenders who say that none of us deserve to be defined by the worst thing we did as teenagers. But none of us are entitled to a Supreme Court seat, either. Deciding whether Kavanaugh deserves the highest position in American law requires investigating Ford’s claims, knowing whether Kavanaugh did what he is alleged to have done, and, if so, judging whether his subsequent treatment of his victim and the truth proves him worthy of the office he seeks.”