Confiding in a friend about what happened to you 35 years after the fact is a form of corroboration, although it sure ain’t “contemporaneous” corroboration. But it’s worth something. The fear about Christine Blasey Ford, after all, is that she invented the story about Kavanaugh after he became a shortlister for the Supreme Court this summer. A friend now tells the Mercury News that that isn’t so, that Ford told her last year that someone who went on to become a federal judge had attacked her when she was much younger. Who was that “someone”? Ford didn’t say.
In an interview Monday with this news organization, [Rebecca] White said that Blasey Ford had told her about the alleged assault — without naming Kavanaugh — in late 2017 during the height of the #MeToo movement and long before Kavanaugh was a Supreme Court nominee.
Last year, White had added her own #MeToo story about being raped as a teenager to a Facebook post.
“She reached out to me afterward, supporting me and my story and that she had something happen to her when she was really young and that the guy was a federal judge,” White said. “She said she had been assaulted. She said hers had been violent as well, physically scary, fighting for her life.”
That makes twice that Ford has recounted the incident to a third party with no record of her having identified Kavanaugh specifically. Her husband told WaPo for its bombshell story on Sunday that she did name Kavanaugh as her assailant in couples therapy sessions in 2012 — but the therapist’s notes don’t record that.
If you’re inclined to believe that this is either an out-and-out smear or a case of Ford misremembering who attacked her for whatever reason, you might note that Kavanaugh’s name was floating around last year too as a prospective Supreme Court nominee. Maybe Ford read or saw something about him in the news in connection with that and that somehow led her to zero in on him. The wrinkle in that theory, though, is that he wasn’t in serious contention for the Scalia seat that ultimately went to Gorsuch. A check of our archives reveals that we didn’t mention him once despite weeks of blogging news coverage of the SCOTUS search process. He *does* appear occasionally in news at the time as a footnote, regarding who might fill the next Supreme Court vacancy (see here, for example), but it’s not as though his name was on everyone’s lips. Why would he have been on her mind when she spoke to Rebecca White?
Besides, you know what Ford’s defenders would say. If she had seen him mentioned at the time in connection with a position of such awesome power, that itself might have finally emboldened her to identify him. Maybe it even jogged a fuzzy memory, helping her to recall that he was her assailant.
After all, memory can be a tricky thing. Megan McArdle:
It’s a cliché that memory is fallible, but in recent years, thanks to researchers such as Elizabeth Loftus, just how fallible it is has become clear. People can sincerely forget things you’d think they would remember, or they remember details or even whole events they couldn’t possibly have experienced. Loftus herself describes inadvertently confabulating a vivid memory of finding her mother dead in the family’s swimming pool when she was 14. Her mother did die in the pool, but Loftus wasn’t there when the body was discovered.
It could be that Kavanaugh’s memory is the one that’s faulty, of course, but Ford specifically told WaPo that she doesn’t remember basic details of the incident like the date or even the place where the alleged assault happened. Per the Mercury News, she went so far as to tell a different friend this past July that “I’ve been trying to forget this all my life, and now I’m supposed to remember every little detail.” This is why truly contemporaneous corroboration, when memories are fresh, is so valuable. In Ford’s case we’ll be asked to settle for a reference last year, 35 years after the fact, to an unnamed federal judge who’d victimized her after Ford has already admitted that she’s spent decades trying to forget the particulars of what happened.
None of this much matters, though. The core of the lefty case against Kavanaugh rests not on the details, which are all but unknowable by now, but on the idea of “rough justice” for too many victims whose allegations of sexual assault by powerful people were blithely dismissed for ages. (Sometimes because the victim was intoxicated, an irony in this case given that Kavanaugh’s own booze intake will be a key attack line on his credibility at the hearing on Monday.) ABC pundit Matthew Dowd was admirably, and terrifyingly, clear about this yesterday:
Enough with the “he said, she said” storyline. If this is he said, she said, then let’s believe the she in these scenarios. She has nothing to gain, and everything to lose. For 250 years we have believed the he in these scenarios. Enough is enough.
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) September 17, 2018
“[I]t is a dangerous thing to proceed toward a judgment, even a political judgment, based on prejudices such as ‘this thing happens all the time’ and ‘it’s consistent with stories we know,'” wrote Michael Brendan Dougherty at NRO yesterday. “The sensation of finding archetypal victimizers and victims is what made false stories about Duke’s lacrosse players and the University of Virginia’s fraternity brothers go viral across the culture.” I think it’s worse than that, though. Dowd’s point, as I take it, isn’t that Kavanaugh’s guilty because “this thing happens all the time.” His point is that it doesn’t matter if Kavanaugh’s guilty. “Balancing the scales” of justice requires nuking this guy even if he’s innocent, if only to atone to all of the women whose own accounts of being victimized were ignored when they shouldn’t have been. Whether the Senate believes Kavanaugh did it or not, he’s likely to end up being borked and ruined pour encourager les autres.