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Friday Talking Points -- This Is Why Women Don't Report Sexual Assaults

[ Posted Friday, September 21st, 2018 – 18:35 PDT ]

Brett Kavanaugh was supposed to have been confirmed by the Senate to a seat on the Supreme Court by now. That was the original plan, at any rate. But this plan was blown out of the water last Friday when Christine Blasey Ford came forward and publicly accused him of attempting to rape her when the two were in high school. The fallout still continues, and will continue to do so for some time to come.

The overwhelming rush to confirm Kavanaugh, of course, was entirely made-up to begin with. There is absolutely nothing stopping the Senate from taking as much time as it needs to vet Kavanaugh, putting the lie to all of the Republicans' talk of it being "the 11th hour." There is no deadline. None. Republicans argue that they want to allow the Supreme Court to begin its next term (which starts at the beginning of October) with a full bench. But they were fully content to have only eight justices on the court throughout all of 2016, which completely undermines their position now.

The most ludicrous of the GOP's many shifting positions this week has been that "there is no time" for the F.B.I. to investigate Ford's claim. This is pure hogwash. First, there is no deadline, period. Second, the F.B.I. did indeed conduct an investigation into Anita Hill's claims, back in 1991, and it only took them three days to do so. Which means that, had the investigation begun immediately after Ford made her claims, it could easily have been over by now. In fact, they've still got the time to do so before Ford will testify. The Senate committee and Ford's lawyers are still haggling over what day this will take place (as of this writing nothing has been finalized), but it seems it is going to take place either next Wednesday or next Thursday. Again, this should be more than enough time for the F.B.I. to fan out and interview everyone who may have knowledge of the alleged attack. But, according to Republicans, "there's no time" to do so. Utter hogwash. There's plenty of time.

The hearing next week is a veritable minefield for Republicans on the committee, of course. Of the 11 Republicans on the committee, none are women. In addition, at least a few of them are prone to asking all sorts of cringeworthy questions in such hearings. And, of course, there is the entire debacle of the Anita Hill hearings still hanging over the committee. The Republicans are reportedly so concerned with the optics of the hearing that they're considering hiring a female lawyer to ask Ford questions instead of having the senators themselves do the questioning. This would also lead to some very bad optics, of course. It's really a lose-lose situation for them all around.

Even before the Kavanaugh nomination began, Republicans were already in trouble with women voters. One year after the Anita Hill hearings, a record number of women were elected to Congress. Of course, "a record number" has to be put in context. From a recent Washington Post article, here are the actual numbers:

That's a reference to the elections in 1992, dubbed the "Year of the Woman" after the number of women elected to the House nearly doubled, to 47, and the number of women elected to the Senate tripled, to six.

Since then, these numbers have risen much higher, but back then it was indeed downright revolutionary to even have six women senators (including the first state, California, to elect two women to represent them in the Senate). The article goes on to point out the danger Republicans currently face in November:

Even before the accusation against Kavanaugh surfaced, polls showed women preferred Democrats more than men did and were more likely to disapprove of President Trump, who faced accusations of sexual misconduct by 19 women before his 2016 election. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in late August found 58 percent of female registered voters intended to cast a ballot for a Democrat for Congress, compared with 45 percent of men.

. . .

"Before now, the argument was that the midterm politics played in Republicans' favor, based on the idea that red-state Democrats would feel pressure to support Kavanaugh because Trump is popular in their states," said Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, a group that opposes the Kavanaugh nomination. "But now, if Republicans set out to smear a sexual assault survivor to steamroll Kavanaugh through, it will only further repel suburban women voters, who are already powering the November wave."

Things have gotten so bad that GOP consultants seem to be actually hoping Kavanaugh will fail to be confirmed, because it would help them out politically:

"If [Kavanaugh] doesn't make it, it could be way more helpful as a rallying cry for our base turnout," said one Republican consultant working on the midterms, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal polling. "The Democratic base is already excited. If their base gets any more excited, they might have a stroke."

Male Republican politicians, from Donald Trump on down, have not exactly been making things easier. Trump, astoundingly, refrained from directly attacking Ford for almost an entire week before unloading on her on Twitter. In doing so, Trump suggested that if Ford wasn't lying, she would have contacted either "local Law Enforcement Authorities" or "the FBI" back when the alleged attack happened. This brought condemnation even from Republicans:

"I was appalled by the president's tweet," said Susan Collins (R-Maine). "First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault -- I'm not saying that's what happened in this case -- but we know allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist. So I thought that the president's tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong."

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, called Trump’s tweet "incredibly insensitive."

Democrats were harsher in their assessments.

"These comments reflect exactly why it is so hard for survivors of sexual assault to come forward -- society has doubted, diminished, and attacked survivors," Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) wrote on Twitter. "President Trump is part of the problem, carrying out the same painful attacks, trying to shame and marginalize Dr. Ford."

. . .

Samantha Guerry, a friend and former classmate of Ford, expressed exasperation at Trump's question during an interview Friday morning with CNN.

"The idea that someone would have told the FBI 36 years ago is ludicrous," she said, noting that many women who are assaulted "are extremely unlikely to tell anyone."

"This is a deeply personal, traumatic experience that has a lot of psychological complexity to it," she said. "Anyone who looks at this thoughtfully will see that women who make these claims are often belittled, told they are mistaken, bullied and shamed."

Guerry is right -- the Republicans are answering their own question. They are providing a clear answer to: "Why wouldn't a woman report a sexual assault?" Because, obviously, she would face being shamed, being bullied, and being belittled. All of which has been on naked display since last Friday. This is precisely why women keep silent. In fact, Republicans just keep on providing more proof. Here are just a few examples, from the past week.

Exhibit A:
This one sets the stage, really, since it is the only one not actually uttered this week. From a speech Kavanaugh made a few years back: "What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. That's been a good thing for all of us."

Exhibit B:
Representative Ralph Norman of South Carolina, cracked a joke at the start of a debate with his challenger: "Did y'all hear this latest late-breaking news on the Kavanaugh hearings? Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out saying she was groped by Abraham Lincoln."

Exhibit C:
Senate candidate in Mississippi Chris McDaniel on sexual assault accusations in general: "I'm tired of all these made-up scandals, frankly. Now, granted sometimes these accusations may be accurate. But most of the time, we know what they are. The American left makes it up. They throw it out there. They hope it sticks. You know, I don't fall for it anymore. I hope the American people aren't falling for it. These allegations, 99 percent of the time, are just absolutely fabricated."

Exhibit D:
Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee: "I'd hate to have someone ask me what I did 35 years ago." Parker Molloy, a former writer for Upworthy, dug into this question and reported back: "The answer: busy voting against MLK Day."

Exhibit E:
Mitch McConnell, speaking to a social conservative conference (proving that he's already made up his mind): "Here’s what I want to tell you. In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the U.S. Supreme Court. So, my friends, keep the faith. Don't get rattled by all this. We're going to plow right through it and do our job."

Exhibit F:
Senator Orrin Hatch thinks Ford may have been "mistaken" and that "clearly somebody's mixed up."

Exhibit G:
The Wall Street Journal editorial board opined that "mistaken identity is also possible."

Exhibit H:
Kathleen Parker wrote an entire article for the Washington Post titled: "Is There A Kavanaugh Doppelganger?"

Note those last three strike a similar theme: "Maybe it happened, but maybe it was just someone who looks like Kavanaugh!" Which brings us to the worst reaction of the week, from conservative commentator Ed Whelan. Whelan is close buddies with Kavanaugh and belongs to high-profile inner conservative circles in Washington. He apparently hyped the "it could have been someone else" storyline behind the scenes, promising a revelation. A staffer for Orrin Hatch even added to this hype, directing people to pay attention to Whelan's Twitter feed, in advance. The question of who Whelan coordinated his release with is still very much an open one, since he is friends with Kavanaugh and has reportedly been part of the process of preparing Kavanaugh for his upcoming testimony. Did Kavanaugh or the White House know what he was going to say before he said it? You can bet Democrats on the committee will be asking Kavanaugh about this matter next week, that's for sure.

Last night, Whelan tried to lay out a case that it was another student at Kavanaugh's school -- whom he actually named -- who could have assaulted Ford. He went into great conspiratorial detail, complete with maps (showing a house close to the golf course and country club), drawings of the house's layout, and photos of the interior showing a stairway. He also posted photos of both Kavanaugh and the man he was essentially accusing of attempted rape, which showed them with the same haircut.

The blowback began almost immediately, as pretty much everyone (except, of course, Fox News) immediately denounced such an unfounded conspiracy theory. People who had joined in the hype quietly deleted their tweets. Finally, Whelan himself decided to remove the whole thread from his own Twitter feed, and apologized publicly: "I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh's Georgetown Prep classmate. I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake."

So, once again, why would any woman hesitate to report a sexual assault? Because of what inevitably happens, that's why. And, please note, all of this happened in 2018, in the era of #MeToo. Just imagine what it would have been like back in the 1980s, before sexual assault was even taken very seriously.

The Republicans really have been bending over backwards to answer their own question. This is why women are still reluctant -- even in this "woke" day and age -- to come forward. Because they see what happens when someone does. Even now.

OK, this is running way long (as usual), so let's just whip through some notes from the midterm campaign trail in abbreviated fashion:

Ted Cruz is warning Texans that if Beto O'Rourke defeats him, the first thing O'Rourke will do is ban barbeque in Texas. [OK, Cruz was kidding, but still....]

Up in Wisconsin, Randy "Iron 'Stache" Bryce has the Republican Party worried about holding on to Paul Ryan's House seat. This week, a super PAC announced it would be spending a whopping $1.5 million on ads in this single district. They certainly wouldn't be spending that kind of money unless they were truly worried about their chances in November, to state the obvious.

Elsewhere in Wisconsin, an African-American woman running for a state legislative seat was going door-to-door contacting voters when someone called the cops on her. Shelia Stubbs was with her 71-year-old mother and her 8-year-old daughter, but that didn't stop a man from reporting to the police that a "suspicious vehicle" was "waiting for drugs at the local drug house." The cop actually handled the situation respectfully, but she isn't the first African-American to be reported for "campaigning while black," and, sadly, she probably won't be the last.

In other Republican minority outreach news, down in Texas a Republican ad was placed in Fort Bend County, which has a large percentage of Asian-American voters, which showed the Hindu deity Ganesha, who has the head of an elephant. The text of the ad asked, in truly insensitive terms: "Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours." The party was forced to apologize, but the damage had already been done.

An internal poll by Republicans shows they are in danger of being hoist by one of President Trump's petards. While sane national Republicans are worried about the possibility of a blue wave in November, Trump's been predicting to voters that there will instead be a "red wave" election. Republican voters apparently believe Trump, because few of them are worried that Democrats are going to win control of the House. This lackadaisical attitude may serve to suppress Republican turnout, because why bother voting when you know your party's going to win big?

And some good news: Minnesota has officially kicked off the midterm elections today, because early voting has now begun in the Gopher State. That's how close we are to Election Day, folks -- some people are already voting!

One final story is worth mentioning, since it will probably be a lot bigger next week -- Stormy Daniels has written a tell-all book, and it will soon be released to the public. Salacious details have already been released to the press, including graphic descriptions of Donald Trump's genitalia. So Stormy's book tour should certainly be a lot more interesting than Bob Woodward's was!

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We have two Honorable Mention awards to give out this week, to Hillary Clinton and Anita Hill. Both women wrote articles this week that are well worth reading.

Clinton's article dealt with the crisis our democracy is currently in, and how important it is to send a message to Trump this November at the voting booth. This comes on the heels of Barack Obama re-entering the political fray, because this election is too important to sit out.

Anita Hill's op-ed dealt with her own experience testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her message was an unequivocal warning to the committee:

In 1991, the Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to demonstrate its appreciation for both the seriousness of sexual harassment claims and the need for public confidence in the character of a nominee to the Supreme Court. It failed on both counts. As that same committee, on which sit some of the same members as nearly three decades ago, now moves forward with the Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings, the integrity of the court, the country's commitment to addressing sexual violence as a matter of public interest, and the lives of the two principal witnesses who will be testifying hang in the balance.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is a pretty easy call, because one senator has stood out on the issue of Kavanaugh and the committee. Mazie Hirono of Hawai'i has not been mincing her words this week. Far from it.

Here are just a few of Hirono's statements from the past week, beginning with a tweet:

The entire array of the White House's power is behind Judge Kavanaugh. It not only places Dr. Blasey Ford at a disadvantage, it victimizes her. No survivor of sexual assault should be subjected to death threats and concern about the safety of their family.

During an interview:

I expect the men in this country and the men in this committee... to demand an F.B.I. investigation. But really, guess who's perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It's the men in this country. I just want to say to the men in this country, just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change.

Later she repeated this line as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walked by: "Do the right thing!"

On Wednesday, she was interviewed by ABC News, where she addressed a statement by the Republicans on the committee:

I would like us to come together and figure out what is the best way to proceed. Not this seat-of-the-pants stuff. The latest, being a letter from the chairman to the Democrats saying, "We have done everything we can to contact her." That is such bullshit, I can't hardly stand it.

On Thursday, she further elaborated on how Republicans were handling the situation:

You know what? They’ve extended a finger. That's how I look at it. I’m very graphic in what I say, because this is what’s happening. I'm very upset by this.

Brian Fallows, the leader of Demand Justice (which opposes Kavanaugh's nomination), said of Hirono: "Ninety percent of other Democrats in the caucus could learn a thing or two from how she speaks."

We agree. There's a time for decorum and polite speech. This isn't one of them. This is a time for visceral responses to (as Hirono put it) "bullshit."

During the initial Kavanaugh hearings, Hirono spent a lot of time on questions about Kavanaugh's decision in a case involving native Hawai'ians. While it went mostly unnoticed, she also included in her remarks Alaskan native groups as well. There was a reason for this, and the reason was to convince Senator Lisa Murkowski to vote no. Earlier this month, the Alaska Federation of Natives -- who represent more than 20 percent of the state's population -- announced its opposition to Kavanaugh's confirmation. This week, both the governor of Alaska and the lieutenant governor came out against the confirmation of Kavanaugh as well, further increasing the pressure on Murkowski to vote no.

Mazie Hirono has emerged during the Kavanaugh confirmation battle as one of the strongest voices and one of the best strategists against the nomination. For doing so, and for speaking so plainly, Hirono is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Well done, Senator! Keep the pressure up....

[Congratulate Senator Mazie Hirono on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

It pains us to say it, but this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week is none other than Joe Biden. During the Anita Hill hearing, Biden chaired the Judiciary Committee. And he still hasn't really apologized for what he put her through at the time.

Biden was asked about Hill feeling she wasn't treated fairly last November, and he responded he was "so sorry if she believes that." A classic non-apology apology, in other words. He tried again: "I am so sorry that she had to go through what she went through."

Anita Hill was asked about this at the time, and responded that these remarks were "not enough" and the equivalent of: "I'm sorry if you were offended."

Now that the focus is back on Hill, Biden tried to apologize more directly, but still fell short of the mark: "I am sorry I couldn't have stopped the kind of attacks that came to you. But I never attacked her. I supported her. I believed her from the beginning, and I voted against Clarence Thomas."

Hill, in an interview with Elle magazine this week, responded again:

"People were asking [Biden], 'When are you going to apologize to her?' It’s become sort of a running joke in the household when someone rings the doorbell and we're not expecting company. 'Oh,' we say, 'is that Joe Biden coming to apologize?'" she said. "There are more important things to me now than hearing an apology from Joe Biden. I'm okay with where I am."

That's big of her, but we have to wonder, how hard is it for Biden to issue an actual apology -- one that isn't immediately followed by a "but..." statement.

C'mon, Joe. Do the right thing. Call Anita Hill up personally and apologize to her. Don't try to make yourself look better, just say you are sorry, period. For still not being able to do so, Joe Biden is, sadly, our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Joe Biden is not currently in office or running for office, and it is our standing policy not to provide contact information for such private citizens, so you'll have to look his info up on your own if you'd like to let him know what you think of his inaction.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 501 (9/21/18)

We've got one talking point this week on the Kavanaugh situation, then three pointing out the current troubles and travails of the Republican Party, and then we'll end with three talking points on the subject of the strange things that come out whenever Donald Trump opens his mouth. In other words, about par for the course, these days.

 

1
   Let's hear from the Wasted guy

The book's title should be repeated often by Democrats, for obvious reasons.

"Senate Republicans refuse to call any other witnesses to testify about Christine Blasey Ford's allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, which only goes to show that they really, really don't want the full truth to come out. Why not call the other guy that Ford placed in the room during the attack? You know, the guy who wrote a book titled Wasted: Tales Of A Gen-X Drunk. In it, he tells a story of a character named 'Bart O'Kavanaugh' -- wonder who that could be, hmm? -- who gets so drunk he passes out and throws up in a car. The author, Mark Judge, put a quote on his yearbook page at the prep school both he and Kavanaugh attended: 'Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.' What a charming guy! In his own words, he wrote about 'the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion,' so perhaps he's got some expert testimony worth hearing. Democrats should demand that the Judiciary Committee hear from the author of Wasted: Tales Of A Gen-X Drunk, whether it requires a subpoena to get him to testify or not."

 

2
   Bad news for the GOP [Part 1]

Please, note, this is from their own survey.

"The Republican National Committee just paid for a survey of voters to see how their big midterm message is working. The short answer: not very well. By a stunning two-to-one margin (61 to 30 percent), voters said the big Trump tax cut benefits 'large corporations and rich Americans' over 'middle-class families.' Independent voters were even worse news for Republicans, who agreed that Wall Street and the fatcats benefitted more by a 36-point margin. The survey also found that voters worry that the tax cut will lead to slashing Social Security and Medicare, concluding that 'most voters believe that the GOP wants to cut back on these programs in order to provide tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.' Even worse, the survey found that GOP efforts to demonize Nancy Pelosi have also failed -- 50 percent of the respondents were voting for Pelosi-aligned candidates while only 45 percent favored Trump-aligned candidates. This means the two things Republicans have been running hard on -- demonizing Pelosi and talking up their tax cuts -- are absolute losers with the public."

 

3
   Bad news for the GOP [Part 2]

Trump's tariffs aren't exactly polling well, either -- even among those who they were most designed to help.

"The nation's steelworkers are now on the brink of going on strike. While steelmaking corporations have been doing quite well in the past few years -- even before Trump's tariffs were announced -- with surging profits, absolutely none of the benefits have 'trickled down' to the actual steelworkers. The United Steelworkers Union put out a statement saying: 'Top company officials have given themselves more than $50 million in pay and bonuses since 2015 while the hourly workforce has not received a wage increase over the same period.' Once again, solid proof that 'trickle-down theory' belongs in a book of fables, right next to unicorns and pixie dust. If this strike happens before the midterms, it's going to show the rank hypocrisy of the Republican tax cuts for all to see."

 

4
   Bad news for the GOP [Part 3]

Heading for the exits....

"Les Wexner used to be a big Republican donor. He's an Ohio billionaire who is the C.E.O. of both Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, and he used to be a reliable donor to Republican candidates. But he just announced he's done with all of that, and now he 'won't support this nonsense in the Republican Party.' The reason for his change of attitude? He saw Barack Obama's recent speech. 'I was struck by the genuineness of the man; his candor, humility and empathy for others. I just decided I'm no longer a Republican.' Meanwhile, over in Kansas, former Republican Senator Nancy Kassebaum, the daughter of Alf Landon, has announced she is supporting Democrat Laura Kelly for governor. She joins former GOP governor Bill Graves, who is also supporting Kelly over Republican nominee Kris Kobach. Kelly explained her newfound position: 'I'm a Republican, but that doesn't mean you walk lockstep always with the party.' That's a pretty astounding turnaround for the daughter of the guy who ran on the Republican ticket against F.D.R. for president back in 1936."

 

5
   To declassify, or not to declassify

While little-noticed, Donald Trump was actually forced to reverse himself this week. Since this so rarely happens, it's worth pointing out.

"President Trump began the week announcing that he was going to declassify some documents in order to prove (in his mind, anyway) that Bob Mueller's investigation is a 'witch hunt.' Such document dumps have happened before, but none of them remotely proved his case, of course. Trump, however, was certain that this time around the tactic would work. He even bragged about it in an interview: 'I hope to be able to put this up as one of my crowning achievements' as president (along with 'tax cuts and regulation and all the things I've done'). But by week's end, the intelligence community had apparently convinced Trump that revealing confidential human sources and intelligence-gathering secrets was a bad idea. So Trump was -- thankfully -- talked out of a 'crowning achievement' of revealing spies' names to our enemies. I'm just glad there were a few adults in the room to stop him from this reckless action."

 

6
   Standing water

OK, these last two are just poking fun at Trump's idiocy, because he makes it so easy to do, on an almost-daily basis.

"Donald Trump, in a recorded video about Hurricane Florence, said a rather bizarre thing: 'This is a tough hurricane, one of the wettest we've ever seen from the standpoint of water.' Um, what? From the standpoint of water? Water has a standpoint now? And this was on a recorded video, where they could have quite easily done a second take, mind you. When touring the affected areas, Trump showed his lack of empathy once again, telling a man who had a yacht wash up in his backyard, 'Is this your boat? Or did it become your boat?' Trump later returned to the subject, saying 'at least you got a nice boat out of the deal.' When asked by a reporter, Trump explained further: 'This boat, I don't know what happened, but this boat just came here. And do you know whose boat that is? They don't know whose boat that is.' When Trump met with a local official, he asked an even more insensitive question: 'How is Lake Norman doing? I love that area. I can't tell you why, but I love that area.' Maybe because there is a Trump National Golf Club on the lake's shore? Presidents used to 'feel your pain,' but all Trump is worried about is whether he's going to personally feel any pain himself. So much for our consoler-in-chief."

 

7
   Build another wall!

Astoundingly, those weren't even the stupidest things Trump was reported saying this week.

"When talking to the foreign minister of Spain, Donald Trump suggested that they solve their immigration problems by, quote, building a wall across the Sahara Desert, unquote. The Spanish diplomats tried to explain to Trump that this would be very hard to do since the desert is so enormous, to which Trump responded: 'the Sahara border can't be bigger than our border with Mexico.' For the record, the U.S.-Mexican border is less than 2,000 miles long, while the Sahara Desert is 3,000 miles wide. Also, the Sahara extends across 11 countries in Africa, none of which are Spain. One can only imagine the eye-rolling which took place during and immediately after this meeting."

-- Chris Weigant

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground