Twenty-seven years ago, an all-male Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Anita Hill about her allegations of sexual harassment by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Rewatching those hearings makes for very striking historical context: A panel of white men grills a Black woman who bravely came forward to testify about sexual harassment by a man under consideration for one of the most coveted positions in the nation.
The composition and membership of the Judiciary Committee has naturally changed over time, but some things remain the same. Today, four women senators sit on the committee, all of them Democrats. Three senators on the committee in 1991—Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT)—are still members today. Two of them, Grassley and Hatch, are known for having purposefully shamed and disrespected Hill. These two now seem hell-bent on cementing their legacies as hoary misogynists by attacking the credibility and veracity of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has alleged attempted rape by current Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
They also seem to think we are all incredibly stupid.
Grassley, now chairman of the committee, for example, thinks we can’t tell the difference between an independent and a biased process. Grassley has repeatedly rebuffed requests by Dr. Blasey Ford and Senate Democrats for an independent investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into her allegations prior to any hearings. (Brett Kavanaugh has not asked for an investigation.) Grassley insists that “no other outside investigation is necessary.”
Cmte investigators are following up on the leads from Dr. Ford’s allegations & news stories No other OUTSIDE investigation is necessary for the Cmte to do its investigation. Don’t know why Dems are refusing to cooperate in the cmte’s investigation I hope Dems will join me 4/4
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 19, 2018
Instead, Grassley maintains, Senate staffers can carry out the investigation and question Ford. Which staffers? Grassley’s chief political counsel, Mike Davis! Impartially, of course!
This very impartial man is helping prepare Kavanaugh for the hearings and at 10:22 p.m. EDT on Wednesday night tweeted “Unfazed and determined. We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh. #ConfirmKavanaugh.” The tweets were later deleted, for obvious reasons.
I’d want him to question me about allegations of rape by the man he was devoted to proving innocent no matter the costs. Wouldn’t you? Especially if he did so in private and was the only “witness” to my testimony? The very suggestion that partisan Senate Judiciary staffers should be the “investigators” of an alleged crime they are seeking to disprove at any costs makes clear how little respect these men have for the intelligence and agency of women across this country.
Next, realizing that perhaps in 2018, a panel of grumpy old men grilling a woman about alleged sexual assault might not look great in prime time, the Republicans came up with the brilliant idea of having their female staffers substitute for them in the proposed hearing to question Ford. The newest iteration is to hire a female lawyer as outside counsel to sit on the committee and interview Ford. Either way, they are looking for the real-life equivalent of Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale, the female enforcer of the patriarchy and a world in which women have no rights.
Even today, it’s hard for me to fathom there are people running this country that are this craven or this clueless. Either way, we see right through them.