My turn: Feinstein was in an untenable position
Like many Americans, I was riveted by last week’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. I experienced a range of emotions: shock, anger, and sadness. But mostly I was inspired by the bravery shown by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Since coming forward, she had been threatened, ridiculed, politicized, and deeply scrutinized. At the hearing, her credibility and even mental stability were questioned. And yet she was willing to stand up in front of the world to tell her story. Because she thought it was important. Not because she had anything to gain. But because she thought we needed to know.
Given the politically charged nature of the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh as U.S. Supreme Court justice, Dr. Ford’s hesitation to bring her claims forward is understandable.
Many sexual assault and harassment victims struggle with the same fears. Unlike with most other crimes, victims of sexual assault often are themselves put on trial.
The defense might insinuate their behavior led to the assault; that they “asked for it,” sent mixed messages, or are hysterical. Now image knowing you might face those questions after enduring the trauma of the assault itself—the deep and damaging personal violation. The sense of having one’s sense of safety forever erased, or feeling a sense of shame. It’s a devastating crime, one from which many victims never fully recover.
If there’s one thing these hearings have exposed, it’s how many victims have never told their stories. Sometimes because they didn’t understand that a crime had occurred, sometimes because they feared no one would take their assault seriously, and sometimes because they were afraid of being re-victimized by the system.
Against this landscape, the accusation has been made that Sen. Dianne Feinstein committed an ethical breach by following the wishes, as she understood them, of Dr. Ford, and that Feinstein made the situation worse by allowing Dr. Ford control over her own story.
It’s easy for others to decide that it would have been better for political or legal reasons for the senator to have handled the information differently. But what appears to be indisputable is that Feinstein was following the instructions of one key individual: the victim herself.
Sen. Feinstein surely understood the explosive nature of the information with which she was entrusted. She was in an untenable situation with no clear rules. And yet she displayed a concern for one priority above all else: the wishes of a terrified victim.
It seems to me that if we really want to encourage victims to come forward, we must create processes that reduce their trauma and place them in a position of control. Shouldn’t it be up to victims to decide if and when to tell their story? Dianne Feinstein gave Dr. Ford that basic respect. She didn’t treat her as a political pawn. She treated her as a human being whose life was about to be irrevocably altered.
I commend the bravery of both women.
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman is a Democrat from Glendale who represents the 43rd Assembly District, firstname.lastname@example.org. She wrote this commentary for CALmatters.
My Turn: I’m a lifelong Republican. Here’s why I’m voting for Kevin de León for U.S. Senate
I am a Vietnam War veteran, a Life Member of the National Rifle Association and a Ronald Reagan conservative who has never thought of voting for a Democrat candidate. Any Democrat.
This year is different.
Our unusual top-two election process has given us a choice between two Democrats for U.S. Senate, incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein and progressive state Sen. Kevin de León, of Los Angeles.
There is no good choice for conservatives. Frankly, I planned not to vote in that race. Feinstein’s conduct during the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh as U.S. Supreme Court justice changed my plan.
I will vote for de León, and I hope other California Republicans will agree.
As far as I’m concerned, Feinstein was generally on the wrong side of the fence but could generally be counted on to follow a more reasonable approach than many Democrats on certain issues.
Over the years I watched her evolve from the reasonable senator to an old guard senator trying to keep up with the progressive movement in California. Her handling of the letter from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Kavanaugh assaulted her when they were in high school was such that Republicans cannot allow her to retain her seat.
Although de León came at the issue from a different perspective than conservatives like me, he hit the nail on the head when he said: “What we have here is a failure of leadership.”
De León alleged that Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, waited to hand over the “disqualifying document” to the FBI, and “pantomimed her way through (the confirmation) hearings without a single question about the content of Kavanaugh’s character.”
As I see it, Feinstein sat on the letter from Ford for 60 days. She met with Kavanaugh after she had the letter and never mentioned it. She had the letter during the initial confirmation hearings and did not mention it. And then she used it to ambush Judge Kavanaugh.
She claims she was trying to protect the “victim” Ford, who wanted to remain anonymous but ended up exposing Ford and dragging her through a media circus with unspeakable personal and family hardship.
She also dragged Kavanaugh and his family through the mud in an unprecedented character assassination, again causing unspeakable personal and family hardship. All for political gain.
Sen. Feinstein needs to be held accountable for her despicable conduct, and de León deserves to be rewarded for apparently recognizing that there are limits to the politics of personal destruction.
I encourage all Republicans to send a message to our current and future senators that we demand some level of decency from our office holders.
James W. Rushford, a former member of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, is a lawyer and former prosecutor practicing in Sacramento, email@example.com. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.