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  • Gina Grahame

Hiding in Plain Sight: Entitlement, Privilege, and Double Standards

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

*image from 'The New Republic'

Many people have expressed shock at the Ford – Kavanaugh hearings, and I am no different. Brett Kavanaugh marked in his calendar that he took a date to see ‘Grease 2’? I didn’t think anyone paid to see that clunker of a movie. If he wasn’t drunk at the time, then his judgement is seriously in question.

Jokes aside, what shocked me was the contrast in treatment of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, and the blatant entitlement, arrogance, and patriarchy on display by Judge Kavanaugh and the men of the Republican Party who stood behind him.

I have no doubt Dr. Ford has endured a horrific attack that altered her life and continues to affect her profoundly. Her testimony was raw, personal, and brutally honest. But I don’t know all of the facts. My expertise is in persuasive communication and what I saw during, and surrounding, the hearing concerns me deeply.

Judge Kavanaugh spoke as if a seat on the Supreme Court was not an opportunity or an honor, but his right. He was equally angry toward those who questioned him as he was with the questions themselves. Condemning not just the allegations and questions, but equating the act questioning of him to attacks on the Supreme Court itself and on the nation as a whole. Judge Kavanaugh’s defensive rhetoric and demeanor were such a mirror of President Trump that I expected him to call the hearing a witch hunt.

Judge Kavanaugh’s outrage culminated with him saying, “my family and my name have been totally and viscously destroyed”. Lindsey Graham was quick to echo and then up the ante to “What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life… I cannot imagine what you and your family have gone through... this is not a job interview. This is hell.

To which I would like to say “Destroyed? Hell?” Seriously? Even if Judge Kavanaugh doesn’t get onto the Supreme Court, the needs of him and his family are well met. He will continue to hold a lifetime job with an salary of over $200k annually. His house is secure. His pension is secure. His kids will go to the same Ivy League prep schools that he did. And yet he, Senator Graham and other rich, white men have the nerve to sit there and say ‘his life has been destroyed’? Tell that to the tens of thousands of Americans who lost their jobs, their retirement, and their homes in the financial crisis of 2009 (without a single person responsible having gone to jail). Tell that to the thousands of American families who’ve been driven into bankruptcy due to a single health care incident. Or tell it to the entire population of Flint, Michigan, who still have to drink bottled water because the water from the tap is too contaminated. Judge Kavanaugh, Senator Graham - how dare you?!

Beyond the hyperbole, I am concerned on 3 points:

1.) Judge Kavanaugh’s blatant biases when the primary qualification for his desired and current job is impartiality.

2) Judge Kavanaugh’s temperament and lack of self-control or preparation.

3.) His statement of never having drank to the point of blacking out or not remembering his actions, given his own notes from the time, along with the published ramblings of his friend, Mark Judge, and the growing list of first-hand accounts from his college days, is completely implausible. Judge Kavanaugh’s inability to admit to this, to put his personal ego and ambition ahead of truth, to willingly lie under oath on this matter, is disqualifying for a seat on any court, much less the highest court in our land.

I was also struck by how differently the Senators viewed Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony when compared to that of Hillary Clinton, to the in-chamber comments of Kamala Harris, or to the public comments of any other woman in power for that matter. Judge Kavanaugh was ‘passionate’, Hillary was ‘emotional’. Judge Kavanaugh was ‘rightfully angry’, Hillary was ‘testy’ and ‘obviously hiding something’. Senator Harris was admonished for not being courteous, yet there was not even a hint of admonishment when Judge Kavanaugh impetuously interrupted Democratic Senators and threw back in their faces the questions they asked of him.

Rather than confront Dr. Ford’s testimony head on, Senator Graham, Senator McConnell, and the others simply choose to act as if it, and she, do not exist. Just prior to Dr. Ford’s testimony, Senator McConnell boasted, “In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court…we’re gonna plow right through it and do our job” he added.

The ease at which women are dismissed by rich men in power is nothing new. What does feel new is how that dismissal seems to be growing within the larger population of men in the Republican party.

The goal of equality is not for women to simply be heard, but to have their experiences and opinions given the same weight and credibility as their male counterparts - full stop. I do not believe Dr. Ford’s testimony alone should disqualify Brett Kavanaugh from serving as a judge--but I do believe his does.

Gina Grahame is Communications Coach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, defacto trainer of Executive Presence at Google, and a political junkie from Macomb County, Michigan, now living in San Francisco.

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