While the Democrats did their feeble best to slow down the process, it looked like Brett Kavanaugh would sail through quickly and smoothly. Then an accusation by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came to light. Blasey claimed that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers. Kavanaugh has denied the accusation. While the incident is alleged to have taken place over thirty years ago, his recent denial makes the event immediately relevant. After all, if it did occur, then Kavanaugh’s denial would be a lie (assuming he remembered the incident; if he did not, then his denial would merely be untrue). As such, the fundamental question is whether the claim is true.
While it is common for such accusations to be met with attacks on the accuser, the Republicans have decided to focus on attacking the Democrats rather than Blasey. This is, of course, after some efforts to attack the alleged victim. From a pragmatic standpoint, this is a smart approach. After all, the #MeToo movement has (at least temporarily) made it so that attacking purported victims tends to be either ineffective or counterproductive. Once the #MeToo movement fades, this might change, and the old tactics might become the standard once again.
As would be expected, one of the main responses to the accusation by Blasey is that the Democrats are using her accusation as a political tool to slow down the process. As of this writing, Blasey has stated that she wants the FBI to investigate the matter before she testifies. This could be a reasonable request: Blasey does not want to go before congress in a mere “he said, she said” situation. An FBI investigation would provide much more in the way of facts, thus allowing the accusation to be supported or countered. Blasey’s supporters have claimed that this desire to have the FBI investigate is additional evidence that she is telling the truth. If she were lying, she would not want the FBI to investigate the matter and show that her claim is untrue.
Those who are critical of Blasey can contend that she runs no risk by asking the FBI to investigate the incident even if they find nothing to support her claim (or even evidence against it). They can also point out that this investigation would delay the confirmation process and argue that the Democrats are trying to slow down matters until the upcoming election. While these points are relevant in terms of showing that the Democrats have an interest in the matter (which biases them), they obviously do not prove that Blasey is lying. After all, the accusation can both be true and be used by the Democrats to slow down the process. As such, the fact that the Democrats are benefiting from the accusation does not disprove the claim. What is needed is, of course, evidence for or against the claim.
While Blasey claims that Kavanaugh assaulted her, he denies it. Blasey also alleges that Mark Judge was present at the incident. Both men deny the event occurred and even deny being at the party. Since Blasey claims that only Kavanaugh and Judge were present, the only available evidence at this time is their assertions, thus making this a “he said, she said” scenario. However, since Judge and Kavanaugh deny attending the party, there would be witnesses for that claim. There is, however, the obvious problem that people would be asked to recall who attended a party over thirty years ago (assuming there is no other evidence, such as photos).
Supporters of Blasey do point to 2012 notes from a therapist in which Blasey mentions being attacked and that she told her husband one of the men was Kavanaugh. While this does provide some support for her claim, an objective analysis does reveal some problems. One point of concern is that the 2012 therapist notes are based on what she said—so if her claim is in doubt now, pointing out that she also made it earlier would not address that doubt. A second point of concern is that her husband is, one would infer, biased in her favor. This does not mean that he is not telling the truth, but it does impact his credibility. What the notes do, however, is provide evidence that she did not suddenly make up an incident in 2018 to use against Kavanaugh. However, this does not prove that her claim about Kavanaugh is true.
One point raised against Blasey is the fact that she waited until now to bring this matter to light. This does lend some apparent credence to the claim that the accusation is being made simply to slow down the process until the elections. However, there are some plausible replies to this delay. As has often been noted, women who bring forth such accusations against powerful men (or men in general) tend to be subject to doubt, abuse and attacks. Even when the accusations are credible, it is often the victim who is shamed and blamed. As such, it is not surprising that Blasey would have been reluctant to come forward in the past. In terms of being willing to do so now, her supporters could point to the fact that the #MeToo movement has made coming forward less awful (although Blasey claims she is getting death threats). There is also the fact that there is a great deal at stake, since Kavanaugh is being nominated for the Supreme Court. Naturally, her detractors will focus on the fact that so much is at stake that a person might be willing to lie to achieve a political end. While deceit has always been a political tactic, the Trump administration has made it an everyday tool—so it is natural that the Republicans would suspect deceit.
Unless additional evidence is forthcoming, the assessment of the claim comes down to a matter of assessing the plausibility of the claim itself and the relative credibility of the witnesses. That a drunk young man would assault a young woman at a party has considerable plausibility. However, the plausibility of this general claim does not prove that Kavanaugh engaged in the alleged assault. Assessing this is a matter of assessing the relative credibility of those allegedly involved. Naturally, people will tend to be influenced by their political views and values. Democrats, obviously enough, will tend to believe Blasey and Republicans will tend to favor Kavanaugh.