Trump's 'She Was Drunk' Argument Is a Disaster for Republicans
The controversy over Brett Kavanaugh is now about so much more than the specific allegations against the judge.
Photo of Brett Kavanaugh by Chip Somodevilla/Getty; photo of Donald Trump by Spencer Platt/Getty
In the least surprising news of the day, Donald Trump—who himself has been accused of sexual misconduct by many different women—dismissed Deborah Ramirez's sexual misconduct accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh because she was "totally inebriated and all messed up" during the alleged assault. It was an ugly moment that reveals one of the fundamental tenets of the modern-day GOP: Women are liars.
"The Democrats are play a con game. C-O-N, a con game. They know it's a con game. They know he's high-quality, and they wink at each other. They're winking," the president told reporters after his UN speech on Tuesday. "The second accuser doesn't even know, she thinks maybe it could've been him, maybe not. She admits that she was drunk. She admits time lapses."
Ramirez accused Kavanaugh of pulling down his pants and sticking his penis in her face at a party where they played a drinking game during their freshman year at Yale. “Brett was laughing,” she told the New Yorker. “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants. Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face.'"
Trump's disregard of Ramirez's claims against Kavanaugh—and his assertion that the Democrats are responsible for the Kavanaugh controversy—is of course to be expected. He evidently sees accusations of sexual wrongdoing as a kind of game: During the 2016 election, he held press conferences with the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, even bringing them to one of his debates with Hillary in order to rattle his opponent, at the same time he was denying all of the claims of harassment and misconduct leveled against him. As Tony Schwartz, who co-wrote The Art of the Deal with Trump, said in 2016, "Something I saw early on [with] Trump: most negative things he says about others are actually describing him. Read his tweets with that in mind."
The president's statement also lines up with advice he reportedly gave a friend about allegations from women according to Bob Woodward's new book: "If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you're dead. That was a big mistake you made. You didn't come out with guns blazing and just challenge them. You showed weakness. You've got to be strong. You've got to push back hard."
Kavanaugh seems to be heeding the president's #MeToo advice. He has totally denied all accusations against him. In a Monday night interview with Fox News, Kavanaugh invoked the virgin defense, saying: "I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter... I never sexually assaulted anyone—not in high school, not ever.”
Trump and his fellow Republicans' decision to stand by Kavanaugh is indicative of what little esteem the party has for women. Their strategy of painting the accusers as fabulists or part of a conspiracy has the effect of making them seem callous toward any woman who has a story about a powerful man taking advantage of her. This blatant ill regard for 50.9 percent of the population may hurt the GOP come Election Day. Recent polling has shown women favoring Democrats by huge margins in key Senate races, and younger women are especially hostile to the Trumpian right. Per New York Magazine:
A new Pew generic congressional ballot question posed to a large sample of registered voters, women under the age of 35 tilt Democratic by a 68/24 margin... [This] suggests pretty clearly that odds of a Democratic wave in the 2018 midterm rest heavily on a strong turnout from young women, who are rejecting Trump and his party by near-historic margins.
Moreover, the party's decision not to take the Kavanaugh accusations seriously could alienate Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two Republican female senators whose votes the GOP needs in order to confirm him. “We are now in a place where it’s not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified,” Murkowski told the New York Times on Monday. “It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed... We have to listen to what [accuser Christine Blasey Ford] will say on the record, under oath, and what Judge Kavanaugh will say on the record, under oath.”
Ford is set to testify on Thursday. But thanks in part to Republican smear tactics, the controversy is about more than her, it's about how women are treated when they say they were assaulted. Kavanaugh may be confirmed, but the response by the GOP to Ford's claims may lose a lot of elections in November.
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