The standard line being mongered by sexual assault apologists about the Me Too movement is that it’s failing to make any distinctions between Harvey Weinstein-style serial rape and telling a couple of dirty jokes or what have you on the other. This is of course not true. In fact, what seems to be happening, if the Brett Kavanaugh nomination is any indictor, is precisely the inverse.
Consider two famous previous cases of sexual misconduct by political figures: Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas.
First, Brett Kavanaugh himself played a key role in getting Bill Clinton impeached for what was indisputably a wholly consensual affair between two adults. Monica Lewinsky has always been perfectly clear on this point. The notion that Clinton sort of maybe kind of sexually harassed her because for a brief time she worked in the White House has always been complete nonsense, although it’s nonsense that’s been repeated by such usually reliable observers as Matthew Yglesias.
Clinton never had any evaluative or supervisory role in regard to Lewinsky’s employment, she worked at the Pentagon for the vast majority of the duration of their affair, and, despite the endless repetition of the claim she was a “White House intern,” she was technically in that position for all of eleven days of the 20 months of the affair’s duration. (She had already accepted a permanent position before her first assignation with Clinton, but her new employment was scheduled to start until the following week.)
And again, Lewinsky has always been 100% consistent in her insistence that Clinton never pressured her in any way, that she, not he, initiated and continued to pursue the affair, and that he, not her, finally broke it off after several unsuccessful attempts on his part to do so.
In other words, their liaison had absolutely nothing to do with sexual harassment, let alone sexual assault, and progressives who muddy the waters on this point are playing into the hands of the proto-fascists who have taken over the Republican party.
As for the claim that Clinton deserved to be removed from office because he lied under oath about a consensual affair, Kavanaugh has lied egregiously under oath during his confirmation proceedings, without even taking into account any of his responses to the allegations of sexual assault against him.
In short, bringing Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky into the equation when discussing Brett Kavanaugh is radically minimizing the seriousness of sexual assault, by equating it with wholly consensual relations between adults. (Juanita Broaddrick’s subsequent allegations against Clinton are irrelevant in this context, as she didn’t make them until after Clinton’s impeachment and trial were completed).
A similar pattern is taking place in regard to the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. Anita Hill was very careful during her testimony not to claim explicitly that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her. Rather, she described a patter of behavior, involving numerous inappropriate comments in the workplace, that a reasonable observer might — or might not — conclude rose to a sufficiently invidious level to constitute the creation of a hostile work environment under federal law.
To be clear, these were in no way trivial allegations, and it’s certainly true that they, by themselves, constituted a sound basis for rejecting Thomas’s nomination (“Perhaps not quite bad enough to constitute sexual harassment” is far too low a bar for a SCOTUS nominee to leap for obvious reasons).
But the equation of the allegations against Kavanaugh with those against Thomas constitutes the pattern the Me Too panic mongers have warned against, except precisely in reverse: Allegations of serious sex crimes are somehow equivalent to a consensual affair on the one hand, and a series of inappropriate workplace comments on the other.
The idea that someone who is credibly accused of multiple major sex assaults should still be considered for a lifetime appointment to the SCOTUS is obviously insane on its face, and it’s a symptom of that insanity that Kavanaugh’s alleged conduct is being compared to the Clinton and Thomas affairs.