Kal Kallaugher shared this 1991 cartoon on social media yesterday, and it was comforting in that it brought back the fury and anger of the way Anita Hill was treated, particularly by Arlen Specter, Alan Simpson and Orrin Hatch.
Even those of us who remember the hearings have, I think, let the memories soften a bit and shifted the focus to the overall frustration of the confirmation. It’s good to remember that we weren’t crazy or naive, and that it really was that bad.
In 1972, just the fact that Thomas Eagleton had been treated for depression forced him to withdraw as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate. By 1991, we’d eased up quite a bit or perhaps our political parties had stopped fretting over what amounted to a disqualification.
I keep saying that it wasn’t so much the dirty jokes and unwelcome dating requests as Thomas’ denial that they had happened, and that’s true.
But Kal’s cartoon brings back the atmosphere in which those denials occurred, and that made them so toxic.
Perhaps you had to be there, but the bludgeoning brutality inspired a young artist named Ann Telnaes to turn her sharp pen to political cartooning, and it drove me to violate journalistic neutrality and make a donation to Emily’s List in hopes of unseating Specter.
Nor did the well-funded rightwing machine let it go once the hearings had ended and Thomas was on the bench.
They brought out “The Real Anita Hill,” a book by American Spectator writer David Brock, who later declared it a dishonest sliming and turned his now-reformed hands to following rightwing deceptions via the progressive watchdog site “Media Matters.”
Brock recently urged senators not to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, whom he knew in the Clinton years, saying “Brett and I were part of a close circle of cold, cynical and ambitious hard-right operatives being groomed by GOP elders for much bigger roles in politics, government and media.”
He goes on to decry Kavanaugh’s role in the Ken Starr investigation, and those who hate Brock as a turncoat won’t credit any of it, but I found this paragraph in Kavanaugh’s memo to Starr’s committee intriguing:
He goes on to suggest questions to be asked of Lewinsky that are of such salacious detail that it reminds me of a pederast priest at a friend’s high school, nicknamed “The Fly” because of how he rubbed his hands together while gazing into the boys’ shower room.
Not that all obsessive prigs are perverts, mind you, but an astonishing number of perverts are obsessive prigs.
The fact that someone comes out so righteously in favor of sexual purity should be less a defense than a caution.
And Signe Wilkinson poses a question that I find interesting in terms of Kavanaugh’s potential impact on Roe v Wade, but even more compelling in view of his problematic dissent in the case of a pregnant 17-year-old immigrant who sought an abortion.
Of course, it’s only a cartoon, because, when a preppie gets a girl pregnant, she doesn’t have an abortion. Mercy, no!
She goes to her family doctor for a D&C.
So, anyway, here we are again, and Mike Thompson poses the same question raised in Kal’s cartoon, but 27 years later, in a very different world.
The #MeToo movement has emboldened women and you slime them at your peril, which puts the GOP more in the position Jeff Stahler suggests: They’d like Kavanaugh on the bench for the next session, which begins in October.
But they’d also like to win their majorities back in November, and, while plenty of women voted for the pussy-grabber, even they have their limits, while the hundreds of thousands who turned out in pink hats a year ago are likely to turn out again on Election Day.
Representatives can play the “La-La-La-La-La” game if they think it will work, but Senators are going to have to put their names on the ol’ parchment-o-rooni over this one, and, well, I guess we’ll see.
For the Democrats to summon the courage to roll the dice, they must weigh the advantage of putting everyone in Congress on the record immediately before elections versus the potential damage of having a diehard rightwing operative on the bench.
I like Matt Wuerker‘s commentary, because Kavanaugh is, indeed, getting the “boys will be boys” treatment from the fat-cat crowd who don’t mind that the President is a pussy-grabber and who insist he couldn’t possibly have hired prostitutes in Moscow because he only sleeps with strippers and Playmates.
And who favor executing 15-year-olds but feel the actions of a 17-year-old are inconsequential (if he’s from the right neighborhood.)
As for Kavanaugh’s denials, I will confess to a few black-out drunks in my younger days, but never to the point where I didn’t at least have odd, momentary impressions that didn’t fit into a full narrative.
I find it hard to believe he could have been able to do what he is accused of and yet have no memory whatsoever, unless it is not the alcohol but a deeper, more troubling defense mechanism.
It is, after all, possible that he doesn’t remember the party, or the girl, or the alleged event. People are calling for him and for Dr. Ford to both take polygraph tests, but you could put Jeff MacDonald or OJ Simpson on a polygraph and they’d pass with flying colors.
Narcissism, after all, is not a choice. It is a condition.
Which makes Ed Hall‘s cartoon, in my judgment, the best summary I’ve seen so far.
That poor old statue of Justice has been getting quite a workout in editorial cartoons, but Hall keeps it simple, drawing the parallel and letting it stand.
And the question before us is “Who else is willing to let that parallel stand?”
The Anita Hill hearings were a long time ago, after all, and today we’ve got a whole generation of voters who did not grow up on Phil Spector songs in which girls sing the words the boys wrote.
And who don’t share their experiences only with psychologists.