Law & the Courts

Senator Hirono Didn’t Always Tell Men to ‘Shut Up’ and Believe Accusers

Senator Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), September 20, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
When it mattered in her own backyard, with a male Democratic senator, she turned a blind eye to sexual abuse.

My, how times have changed. My, how liberals have changed.

Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opened the 1991 Anita Hill hearings by declaring that Judge Clarence Thomas must “be given the benefit of the doubt.”

In the end, eleven Democratic senators voted to confirm Thomas. That’s not going to happen with Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii threatens to become the new model of Senate inquisitor. Rather than ask questions of both parties, she has made clear that her mind is already made up: She condemns Judge Kavanaugh and supports Christine Ford.

Hirono made some truly remarkable statements last week. “Not only do women like Dr. Ford, who bravely comes forward, need to be heard, but they need to be believed,” she insisted. She added, “I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change.”

When the Wall Street Journal editorial page pointed out that her statements suggest that the “new American standard of due process will be the presumption of guilt,” she went further. Appearing on CNN on Sunday, Hirono said that Kavanaugh’s basic integrity had been undermined, in her eyes, during his confirmation hearings:

He’s very outcome-driven, he has an ideological agenda, and I can sit here and talk to you about some of the cases that exemplify his, in my view, inability to be fair.

In other words, Kavanaugh was less believable in her eyes because of what she assumed his political views were.

She even went on to imply that the mere allegation against Kavanaugh, even without any evidence to support it, had already damaged his credibility beyond repair:

We already have one person who got to the Supreme Court under this cloud. We shouldn’t have another.

It would be too easy to suggest that Hirono was flirting with McCarthyism in her brazen comments. She is actually flirting with medieval standards of justice, when those in power arbitrarily decided who was telling the truth and who was a traitor.

In Senator Hirono’s case, she had the opportunity to choose sides in the 1990s when credible allegations were made that Daniel Inouye, then a Democratic senator representing Hawaii, had engaged in a pattern of sexual assault.

Lenore Kwock, the senator’s hairdresser for 20 years, said she had been forced into nonconsensual sex back in 1975 and had suffered persistent gropings since then.

Kwock’s story became public after she was tricked by a campaign worker for Inouye’s 1992 Republican opponent into telling her story into a tape recorder. The tape was briefly used in a political ad until Kwock demanded it be withdrawn. Kwock told reporters she had “forgiven” Inouye, even as she stood by her story. But she nonetheless spoke cautiously: “It could cost me my business, and so I speak with tact and diplomacy.”

Nonetheless, Kwock was surprised at the silence of Hawaii’s female political leaders about her account, given that the Anita Hill hearings had riveted the nation just one year earlier. Mazie Hirono, then considered a protégé of Inouye’s as a member of the State House, maintained a studied and consistent silence. There is no evidence she believed Kwock.

Others did more than look the other way. As the New York Times reported, state senator Ann Kobayashi, a leader of the State Senate Women’s Caucus in Hawaii, said she “didn’t want to get into” the specifics of the accusations. An inquiry into Inouye’s behavior was inappropriate, she explained, because “there is no victim.” She later clarified that she meant to say “complainant,” because Kwock didn’t want to press any charges. For his part, Inouye called all the allegations “unmitigated lies.”

One female Hawaii leader doesn’t believe that Inouye — who died in 2012 at age 88 — was innocent. Former Democratic state representative Annelle Amaral, head of the State Senate Women’s Caucus back in 1992, recalled to reporters just last year that Inouye “had been accused and I have said there were nine women I talked to who had told me stories of molestation and rape.” But the women refused to file reports, and a Senate ethics panel dropped its investigation.

One reason for the strange silence was Inouye’s incredible power to direct political patronage and funding in Hawaii. In 1992, the New York Times quoted Neil Milner, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, as saying that “cowardice” explained much of the silence about Inouye. In a one-party government, “everything depends on behaving yourself,” and challenging Inouye at the time was highly risky.

As the New York Times reported from Hawaii in 1992:

There are stirrings of fear here. One local social service agency, for instance, sent a memorandum to its employees warning that “statements regarding Inouye’s guilt or innocence may severely hurt us at this time politically.”

Given the immense power that the late Dan Inouye wielded in Hawaii until his death, I can’t place too much blame on her and other feminist Hawaii leaders for ducking the issue and letting a victim such as Lorene Kwock fend for herself.

But spare us the hyper-moralizing speeches, the condemnation of half the human species simply because they are male, and the insistence that women who say they’ve suffered sexual assault must automatically be believed.

Senator Mazie Hirono today poses as a brave feminist cultural warrior, but when it really counted in her own backyard in Hawaii, she was AWOL. The same holds true when Bill Clinton’s predations were in the news in the late 1990s.

Hirono’s involvement in the effort to sink the Kavanaugh nomination is nakedly political. She told Politico last Tuesday that she may try to derail for as long as two years any future Trump appointment. “I think we’ve had those kinds of vacancies before, and we certainly had over a one-year vacancy with Merrick Garland,” Hirono said. “So the world does not come to an end because we don’t fill all of the nominees.”

Perhaps not, but if Senator Hirono’s radical new standard of political and legal due process — presumption of guilt — gains traction through the Kavanaugh hearings, an essential bulwark of our legal system could be demolished.

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