In Bre Payton’s memory, we’re republishing some of her best work today, her birthday. This was originally published at The Federalist on September 28, 2018.
When Brett Kavanaugh was given the opportunity to defend himself against allegations of sexual assault before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the eyes of the nation on Thursday afternoon, he delivered a blistering rebuke of the “coordinated and well-funded effort” to destroy his reputation and family that left onlookers gobsmacked.
Throughout the entirety of his 45-minute opening remarks, Kavanaugh remained stalwart in his defense. Regardless of whether one found his accuser’s testimony credible, anyone with eyes and ears could clearly observe that this is a man who is sure of his innocence and is not backing down.
“You’ve tried hard,” Kavanaugh said. “You’ve given it your all. No one can question your efforts. Your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit. Never.”
At times, Kavanaugh was visibly angry — angry that allegations made against him without any evidence or witness validation had devastated his life and family. He was angry that his wife had been receiving death threats, and that he had to explain these horrific allegations to his children. At times Kavanaugh interrupted senators when he was asked an absurd question — like what drinking games he played with his friends in high school or why there was a reference to flatulence in his high school yearbook.
The burden of saving his family’s name rested squarely on Kavanaugh’s shoulders. His defense would determine whether his family lives in shame or carries their heads high. And he did not run from the fight nor did he waver in his defense — a display of courage Washington has not seen the likes of in decades.
When Sen. Lindsay Graham had the chance to ask questions, he used the tail end of his time to chide his fellow Republicans for lack of spine. It was no coincidence Graham said this while staring directly towards Sen. Jeff Flake, who has been floundering back and forth as to whether he will vote to confirm Kavanaugh and soaking up every bit of attention that has come with the drama. If they do not support this man who courageously fought for what he is certain is the truth come confirmation time, then none of them deserve to serve in the Senate.
What both Graham and Kavanaugh did was brave — and not the kind of bravery our society has conditioned itself into believing underlies word. I’m not talking about the Lena-Dunham-in-an-unflattering-bikini sort of “brave,” but real, old-fashioned courage.
Critics Cry Toxic Masculinity
But that’s not how members of the media reported it. Here is the Associated Press’s rundown of events.
He let his anger flare, interrupted his questioners and wept. She sought to present herself as cooperative and respectful. The Kavanaugh-Ford hearing provided a tutorial on gender roles and stereotypes. https://t.co/DSPCE3eqbb
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 28, 2018
And The New York Times‘s choice of photos on today’s front page is. . . interesting. Why is Ford raising her hand with a sincere expression while Kavanaugh is photographed with an angry expression?
— carolynryan (@carolynryan) September 28, 2018
Here’s a Washington Post headline: ‘Ford’s testimony was devastating. Kavanaugh’s was volcanic.’
Then there were those on the left, who described Kavanaugh’s defense as “toxic.”
Oh my god. This is every woman’s nightmare. This is a terrifying image. https://t.co/mIgEN2ALhj
— Maria Shriver (@mariashriver) September 27, 2018
Sexism! Sexism! Sexism!
I will say this…if a woman were to yell, interrupt and cry while being questioned, people would call her unhinged or say she had a melt down. pic.twitter.com/qBDuBP0QHt
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) September 27, 2018
Here’s what “conservative” Jennifer Rubin had to say.
Washington Post writers really covering themselves in glory today. pic.twitter.com/I1C3b3z8mR
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) September 28, 2018
Kavanaugh goes full Trump in his opening: angry, partisan, confrontational, conspiratorial, self-pitying. Worked for the president. But is this appropriate for a judge?
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) September 27, 2018
The visual contrast is striking. pic.twitter.com/R9BeCZ6j2L
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) September 27, 2018
He is a human sneer. And honest-to-god scary.
— Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) September 27, 2018
The notion that Kavanaugh did not have a right to be angry at yesterday’s hearing is insane. Anyone accused of sexual assault — and not just sexual assault but drugging and gang-raping girls repeatedly! — who did not believe he or she was guilty yet had that accusation repeated nonstop for nearly two weeks would get a little hot under the collar. To pretend otherwise is absurd.
Are we so soft as a society that when a man takes a stand against injustice with unflappable certainty that it is easily mistaken by so many as something nefarious? Apparently so. And that is alarming because courage, a virtue that is rooted in self-preservation, ought to be instinctive to human nature.
Which Brings Us To Ford’s Testimony
Here’s how the usual suspects characterized Ford’s testimony.
Dr. Ford, I am in awe of your bravery.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) September 27, 2018
Bravery. Dignity. Integrity. Thank you #DrChristineBlaseyFord for your courage today
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) September 27, 2018
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) September 27, 2018
I find Dr. Blasey Ford extremely credible and sympathetic. I find her responses echo many of the feelings and reactions I have had over the years connected to my own sexual violence trauma and the aftermath of speaking out. I applaud her courage. https://t.co/K7HmLJL22l
— Mira Sorvino (@MiraSorvino) September 27, 2018
In her opening remarks, Ford said herself she was “terrified” to tell her story in front of the nation, as anyone would be. Pushing through one’s fears to do something that is scary, as Ford did, is certainly commendable, but we should note that her command of the facts were as shaky as her demeanor.
To Be Courageous, One Must Stand For The Truth
At nearly every turn of questioning, Ford was unsure about key facts regarding events that occurred as recently as a few weeks ago. When asked about whether she gave the only piece of evidence — notes from a couple’s therapy session in 2012 in which she described the incident she says involved Kavanaugh — to a reporter for The Washington Post as recently as September 16, she could not recall.
When asked about the polygraph test she took on August 7, less than two months ago, Ford said she could not recall important facts, like who paid for the test and what day it was administered. She testified that she met with Democratic Rep. Anna Eschoo and her staff on dates that conflict with the dates she listed in an earlier written statement. She has yet to definitively say what calendar year the alleged assault took place, although she has narrowed it to sometime in the summer of 1982 — she thinks, anyway. Her fear appeared rooted in more than just the intimidating circumstances she faced, but that knowledge that she was not confident in her narrative.
We are being told that Ford embodied courage and to say otherwise would probably make me a monster, but I will say it anyway. Courage is more than just taking a stand — it’s taking a stand for what’s right, while speaking the truth. It seemed Ford’s testimony was devoid of the latter. Don’t gaslight me into pretending that Ford’s squirrelly demeanor and weak command of the facts were some sort of heroic act that I, as a woman, must worship.