So the Senate Judiciary Committee has agreed to delay its vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court until after he and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused him of sexual assault, testify Monday.
That testimony is coming after Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski said they could not vote for Trump’s nominee without hearing him, and his accuser, testify under oath after Chairman Charles Grassley, who’d initially shrugged off the accusations, proposed a phone call with her. And surely the Republican women on the panel will ensure that Ford is treated with respect.
Or they would if there were any Republican women there. In fact, Republicans haven’t seen their way clear to elevate a woman to the sought-after committee since they disgraced themselves with their brutal treatment of Anita Hill in 1991.
Collins was in a box after Ford came out by name late Sunday night. A few months back, Collins had called limp allegations against Sen. Al Franken — consisting of one staged photo and mostly nameless claims of his wandering hand during photo ops — “credible, disgusting and appalling.”
Compare that to Ford’s allegation that, when they were in high school, Kavanaugh jumped on top of her and tried to tear off her clothes. When he put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams, she thought he might inadvertently kill her.
Ford, who’d previously told her husband and therapist about the assault, has passed a lie detector test. And she is clearly acting against her own self-interest. #MeToo has helped women to be heard but not to be protected from shame and smears. Ford the accuser risks becoming the accused.
For his part, Kavanaugh has his rectitude and good cheer, except when he turned to stone when the father of a Parkland victim tried to shake his hand. And his daughters, whom he's trotted out at every turn. Did you hear he coached their teams, and he also has a mother who was a civil rights attorney? His daughters are just a few years younger than Ford was when she says Kavanaugh attacked her.
Kavanaugh also brought out a high school classmate, Mark Judge — who it happens wrote a book about his blackout drinking teenage years — to declare that the night in question didn’t happen. Kavanaugh also had 65 women sign a letter attesting to his character, including high school girls whom he miraculously recalls when he can’t remember Ford.
One thing not relevant in these cases are character witnesses. A burglar doesn’t break into every house or tell every friend about his work. I have two former colleagues who were accused of sexual misconduct. I would have said it couldn't be true. I would have been wrong.
The outlines of Republicans’ defense of Kavanaugh are emerging. Grassley and co. seem far more “disturbed by the timing” of the accusation than the accusation itself. Besides, high school was a long time ago and, you know, young men.
If your daughter had been attacked the way Ford describes, would you tell her: “He was drunk, shake it off”?
Even more pertinent when it comes to Kavanaugh, would you make your daughter prove her claim by asking her prurient questions? Kavanaugh told Ken Starr he must press Monica on whether the president had “inserted a cigar” you know where, and “used his fingers” in various ways, and “masturbated into a sink” just outside the Oval Office. Kavanaugh, now nominated to the nation’s highest court by its grabber-in-chief, told Starr then that the line of questioning was needed to pressure the president into confessing and resigning.
For days, it looked like Republicans’ first instinct to keep ramming the nomination through would succeed. Then, usually spineless GOP Senators began to crack. First it was just the rogue retirees: Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. Then sometimes Trump bro Lindsey Graham suggesting a one-day delay. Collins and Murkowski said no hearing, no confirmation vote. After the White House reportedly brushed Ford off as part of another conspiracy against the president, Kellyanne Conway came out Monday morning to say Ford should be heard.
It’s not that Republicans found their backbones. It’s that they read polls, which show that in addition to probably losing the House, they could also lose the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is in a real pickle. He’d thought he’d laid a trap for incumbent Democratic Senators running in Trump-happy states, particularly Senators Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly. Instead McConnell’s made a tough vote against Kavanaugh much easier for them, and much tougher for Republican incumbents who need at least some women to vote for them.
Previously, McConnell said of Roy Moore’s accusers, “I believe the women.” He may have been sincere, but he also didn’t want Moore in the Senate. He desperately wants to get Kavanaugh confirmed before possibly losing his majority; accepting a hearing only when it became clear that he couldn’t win a floor vote without one.
McConnell’s first instinct may turn out to have been the right one, politically speaking. So was Ford’s. She wanted his conduct to become public, not her name. After she was outed over the weekend, she had to see it through. Now so much is in jeopardy: McConnell’s dream of leaving a solidly conservative Supreme Court behind; Kavanaugh’s hopes of reaching the judicial heights; and Ford’s life in blessed, ordinary anonymity.
Hemingway said bankruptcy happens “two ways. Gradually, and then suddenly.”
All women can say is thank God for #MeToo or Ford, too, would have already have been relegated to the ash heap of history without so much as a hearing. But as she faces the phalanx of 11 Republican men, some like Orrin Hatch and Grassley who were present for Hill’s trials, we also say be careful what you wish for.
It’s going to be ugly.
Margaret Carlson is a columnist for the Daily Beast. She was formerly the first woman columnist at Time magazine, a columnist at Bloomberg View, a weekly panelist on CNN’s “Capital Gang” and managing editor at the New Republic. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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