Feinstein Should Be Held Accountable For Her Role in the Kavanaugh Mess, but She Won’t Be  

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

The Kavanaugh controversy is like Murder on the Orient Express: everyone involved is guilty of turning Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court into a fiasco.  And no one is more guilty than Sen. Dianne Feinstein.  Her conduct in this mess should be enough to deny her another term in the U.S. Senate, but it won’t be.

As the San Francisco Chronicle editorialized over the weekend, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s treatment of a more than three decade old sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was unfair all around.  It was unfair to Kavanaugh, unfair to his accuser, and unfair to Feinstein’s colleagues — Democrats and Republicans – on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

But most of all it is unfair to our system of justice.  Unless the accusation can be totally disproven, Kavanaugh will have a permanent stain on his character should he make it to the Supreme Court.  Feinstein had a letter describing the sexual assault way back in July before the Kavanaugh hearings even began, but decided to sit on it, apparently because the accuser did not want to go public.

But what right does this accuser have to make this charge without identifying herself?  Apparently Feinstein, or Rep. Anna Eshoo who says she interviewed the accuser months ago, could not keep it quiet, it leaked out, and now has exploded in public, without any time for proper analysis or investigation.

The alleged incident did take place when Kavanaugh was in high school, 36 years ago, but the incident itself is serious sexual assault, and the accuser presents a plausible case that something tawdry did happen, but no one has yet shown proof that Kavanaugh was involved, and the only other witness, a fellow high school student, says he was not.

But that other witness has also written about binge drinking when they were in high school, and has identified Kavanaugh as having a drinking problem in high school.  Did Republicans move along this process too rapidly, should Kavanaugh’s high school drinking been studied more closely?  Now thanks to Feinstein’s misconduct, this matter will be dragged through a partisan political brawl in a way that cannot help but harm everyone involved.

Unless the public hearing next Monday, at which Kavanaugh and the accuser both will appear, fully clarifies the matter, which it probably won’t, this could drag on for weeks.  Democrats and Feinstein now say they want the FBI to investigate the charges.  Well nice timing; that should have happened when Feinstein and Eshoo first became aware of the matter.

Feinstein should be held accountable for her conduct in keeping this under wraps for two months, but will not be.  Here two uniquely California factors come into play.  First, our state’s dying Republican Party completely missed an opportunity to show that it can still be relevant by not even running a candidate against Feinstein who is up for re-election in less than two months.

While she has a reputation for being thoughtful and moderate on many issues, she is still a senator of the left.  In all her elections since 1992, her support has been Democrats and progressives, her opposition always from the right.  In 2012, the last time she was up, 4.7 million Californians, 37 percent of the electorate, voted against Feinstein.  They were overwhelmingly Republicans or voters on the right.

But they have no choice this year; Feinstein’s general election opponent is another Democrat, running to her left.  If we had the old closed primary for statewide office, he would have been eliminated in the Democratic primary and at least someone with “R” after his or her name would have been contesting Feinstein this year.

So Republicans and voters from the right have no way to express their displeasure with Feinstein but to vote for a left wing Democrat who borders on being a socialist.  Most, I suspect, will just leave the office blank.

California should return to partisan elections for statewide office.  The objective of the top two primary runoff always was to open the primary to all voters in safe one party legislative and congressional districts, and to make elected representatives responsible to all the voters in the district, not just the partisan base.  That is still good public policy.

But at the time California adopted the top two, we had a Republican governor and no one foresaw the possibility that Republicans would all but disappear as a statewide party, unable to even get their statewide candidates into a top two runoff.  But twice now that has happened for U.S. Senator, and in this election for lieutenant governor.

The presidential election is not affected by California’s top two primary, because in that election voters are choosing Electors who then elect the president. It should be possible to exempt the statewide offices as well, so at least voters are still guaranteed a choice at the top of the ticket.

There have been six background checks on Judge Kavanaugh, but obviously no one thought to look at his conduct in high school, nor had they reason to.  Feinstein knew way last summer that there was an allegation against him in his high school days, but did nothing to notify the FBI or anyone else.

Democrats are now saying Kavanaugh should be prevented from taking a seat on the Supreme Court if the allegation is accurate, and there is a general feeling in both parties that this is a serious matter.   We are now facing this mess because of Feinstein’s misfeasance in office.  She should be held accountable before all the voters of her state, as she would be in the other 49 states.  But because of our top two runoff, she won’t be.  That system for statewide offices needs to be changed.

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