Senate Republicans and Donald Trump, if you could spare a moment from plowing Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court, listen to Andrea Constand tell a Pennsylvania court Tuesday what a sexual assault by a powerful man did to her. To this day, she leads a shrunken life and is so quiet she put her statement on sentencing in the Cosby trial in writing rather than speak in court. In her letter to the judge, Constand wrote, “Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it.”
True there’s almost nothing about a criminal trial that's germane to Kavanaugh’s troubled confirmation hearing except one big thing: how a sexual assault burrows so deep inside a person it’s paralyzing. It takes your voice away, like the nightmare where you are screaming for help but no one hears.
There’s another point of intersection. It’s where Constand answered the question posed by Trump and repeated by many Senators to justify sight-unseen and voice-unheard opposition to Ford. “If it was so bad,” why didn’t she report the attack years ago? Constand explains: “shame, self-doubt and confusion kept me from turning to my family or friends… unable to trust anyone.”
Norms have changed since Cosby assaulted Constand which gives her a second chance to make another point: that an otherwise "good" man can do bad things. Just because no one else saw them, doesn't mean those things didn't happen. While Constand's first complaint was dismissed for insufficient evidence, the second trial proceeded and ended with Cosby in handcuffs, denied bail, to remain in custody until being removed to a state prison for three to ten years. Times do change.
Until his dress rehearsal for the hearings on Fox Monday night, we didn't know that Kavanaugh like Cosby would be relying on the "good" man defense to the point of painting himself as a boy scout, despite his friends remembering quite the opposite especially in his wet work as treasurer of the 100 Kegs or Bust Club. He also called Ford's charges a smear, which impugns her credibility and character. Up until then, Kavanaugh had done his denying in private at White House prep sessions where he was tutored in how to defend himself without offending women. He forgot.
But he remembered not to open himself up to an FBI investigation and asked instead, some 17 times, for a fair process, which doesn't include one. No new information and no witnesses insures that Thursday will be a stalemate of He (powerful man) said versus She (not powerful woman) said. Fairness aside, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump speak openly about everyone having made up their minds to vote yes on Kavanaugh right after the hearing is now nothing more than a formality. They've outsourced their questions to a female attorney from Arizona specializing in sexual assault so they can't be accused of disrespecting Ford. But the early days of protecting the 15-year-old “beautiful, young spirit of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford" are gone.
For years, Cosby preened around the country as a moral arbiter of young men, earning huge sums for concerts, getting awards, having gotten away with assaulting Constand. Finally a judge saw the harm he’d caused, the crimes he’d committed, and pierced through the good man facade of Dr. Huxtable, the Jello-Pop commercials, the philanthropist on ten boards. Now he may die in prison. Times do change.
Watching Mrs. Kavanaugh on Fox sitting by her man, it was hard not to remember Hillary Clinton standing by hers on "60 Minutes." It saved Clinton's campaign if not secured his victory, and seemed to erase all his earlier predations. That was until the Starr investigation commenced. Clinton, like Kavanaugh, split hairs and brought up technicalities, oblivious to the fact he was not on trial where something could be taken from him but asking to keep a high honor where guilty beyond a reasonable doubt was not the standard. By offering up that he did not have sex in high school, college, and beyond, Kavanaugh echoed Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman,” technically true but beside the point.
It may well be that Kavanaugh has Clinton rumbling around in his mind as he faces his own nightmare. Kavanaugh authored the memo convincing Ken Starr that it would be "abhorrent" not to ask the president and Monica intimate and invasive questions and to publish the answers. While Kavanaugh lost on impeaching Clinton, he cost the president his legacy, his daughter's dignity, and his wife's ambition. Standing by her man saved the president from impeachment. It didn’t save her in the eyes of women who saw her complicity and didn't make her president. Times do change.
Kavanaugh better hope there is no cosmic justice at hand. Clinton's interview paved his way to the presidency but Kavanaugh's interview 25 years later, his wife beside him, might not pave his way to the Supreme Court.
Times do change and time, as Constand finally showed Cosby, has a way of catching up with you.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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