Brett Kavanaugh debate fast becomes political battle

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations against him

President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, denies an accusation of sexual assault, made by Professor Christine Blasey Ford.

There are plenty of reasonable, sensitive questions arising from the story.

First and most important, is the alleged incident true? Do the therapists' notes, which have some flaws, count as corroboration?

If the incident is true, to what extent does it have a relevant bearing on the judge's character today, 36 years later?

If no other women come forward with similar accusations, should it be dismissed as the egregious but one-off failing of a teenager?

If it's not true, why was it raised now and what impact should it have on both the judge and his accuser?

All of these questions are open for debate in a sensible, thoughtful way. I for one don't have clear answers on any of them.

However, it is depressing to see this important discussion devolve so rapidly into political attack and counter-attack.

It is particularly depressing to see the president's son make a cheap, anti-PC joke out of it that begs the question of whether he actually has any interest in understanding what happened.

Donald Trump Jr appeared to mock Professor Ford's allegation by posting on Instagram a fake letter written in crayon by "Brett" asking "Cindy" out on a date.

Above it he wrote: "Judge Kavanaughs [sic] sexual assault letter found by Dems"

If the "boys will be boys" tone of Don Jnr's post reflects a wide section of society, it will make any meaningful discussion of the broader topic of sexual harassment almost impossible.

I do know that incidents of sexual abuse stay with women for a long time. They remain vivid and hard to forget.

The fact that Mrs Ford raised this in therapy years before Judge Kavanaugh was a Supreme Court nominee is an important factor.

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Media captionKavanaugh hearing 'according to mob rule'

It would suggest she was not out to derail his nomination since his nomination hadn't even happened.

There are enough red flags here that Kellyanne Conway, the president's adviser, is correct to suggest that she deserves a hearing.

Mr Kavanaugh has repeatedly and adamantly denied the whole incident. He too deserves to be heard and given a chance to back up his denials.

Republicans have raised a couple of high-profile historic cases of men being wrongly accused of rape (I've heard both the Duke University case and the University of Virginia case raised by Republicans in the past 24 hours) to suggest this is another such incident.

Those cases were awful for the men involved and the accusers were wrong - they do not however, in and of themselves, disprove this specific case.

Yes, a lot is at stake for both political parties but right now what matters is to get to the truth of this incident and assess its importance.

I fear our political environment makes that impossible and both Mr Kavanaugh and Ms Ford are worse off for it.

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