Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, is the man of the hour.
And just as the US Supreme Court is scheduled to convene Monday morning for the first session of the new term — with just eight justices, and much hanging on the vacant ninth seat — Flake is scheduled to be here in Boston, discussing the future of the GOP at the Forbes Under 30 Summit.
Flake is the man who blew up the seemingly inexorable march to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the court Friday afternoon. The events were dizzying, so a brief recap is in order.
On Friday, Flake, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. But by late afternoon, he had engineered a one-week delay for an FBI investigation into charges of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
So the whole thing is now on “pause” for a week.
Being well over 30, I have limited interest in the event Flake is in town for. (Sorry, Forbes.) But there are so many questions I’d love to ask Flake, especially given that he seemed to be for the nomination before applying the brakes.
I’d love to hear Flake say what he really thought about the committee hearing that transfixed the nation on Thursday, the one in which Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, laid out the details of the attack she says she suffered at Kavanaugh’s hands when they were high school students in Maryland 36 years ago.
I’d like to know how much Flake was swayed by her admittedly nervous but detailed and credible testimony that a nominee had committed a heinous act that affected her life, she told the committee, for many years.
I wonder, too, how much Flake — a President Trump critic, but GOP stalwart — has thought about the potential backlash. You know, the reaction of millions of women who saw their own suffering in Dr. Ford’s story.
Two such women confronted Flake in an elevator at the Capitol Friday morning. They essentially told Flake he was selling out women — and victims — by supporting Kavanaugh. One of them, Ana Maria Archila, later said she wanted to talk to Flake because he sometimes seemed willing to “put conscience over party.”
Did that exchange figure into the call for an investigation later in the day? Will it affect his vote?
Over the past couple of years, Flake, who is leaving the Senate, has sought to build an image as a man of nonpartisan principle. That may or may not have to do with oft-rumored presidential ambitions. Along with his colleagues, Flake is going to find his commitment to principle is put to a test in just a few days.
I mentioned Dr. Ford’s testimony earlier. A few words about Brett Kavanaugh’s, which followed it. He was — in no particular order — whiny, angry, entitled, and belligerent. He was profoundly partisan, blaming his woes on pent-up anger over the 2016 election, and muttering darkly about ”the Clintons,” and how “what goes around comes around.” When Senator Amy Klobuchar asked if he had ever consumed alcohol, he angrily demanded to know if she had. He apologized, but his testimony displayed the polar opposite of judicial temperament.
Obviously, no one knows what the FBI will or will not find. But so much is riding on this deliberation now, more than was apparent even a couple of weeks ago. Abortion, civil rights, and voting rights are all among the issues Kavanaugh’s vote could play a key role in deciding.
But also: who gets heard, who gets believed, whose pain matters.
A pause, and an investigation, was the right course of events. But the real decision — Kavanaugh’s fate — still looms.
So I guess my last question for Senator Flake would be this:
In this historic and highly partisan confirmation fight, will what happened Friday mean anything in the end?