Two separate realities stand out after Thursday’s hearing — and one repeatedly rejected challenge that led to one unmistakable impression.
Two people told two starkly different stories. Christine Blasey Ford says she was sexually assaulted while a high-school student by Brett Kavanaugh, now a Supreme Court nominee.
Kavanaugh denied that, vehemently and emotionally.
Kavanaugh’s approach to her accusation was two-pronged. First, he said he doesn’t doubt something happened to her, but that he absolutely didn’t do it.
Problem: Ford insists she is 100 percent certain Kavanaugh was the one who pinned her down on a bed in a closed room, groped her, and tried to rip her clothes off. Thus there’s an unreconcilable difference there.
And in a harshly partisan twist obviously designed to energize Republicans, Kavanaugh also lashed out at the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee, claiming they were engaged in a broader effort to smear him and thereby derail his candidacy.
Problem: Kavanaugh is essentially saying Ford is either complicit or a cat’s paw in such an effort. To be sure, Kavanaugh and the Republicans don’t quite connect all the dots. But that’s the obvious implication.
The first doesn’t ring true. Ford obviously came forward after considerable agonizing and at no small psychic, personal, and family cost. She doesn’t seem like a partisan schemer. Meanwhile, portraying her as a pawn of such an effort essentially reduces to saying this: Because committee Democrats have highlighted Ford’s accusations, and because in the GOP’s view this was sprung belatedly, her allegations are part of such a derailment effort and therefore suspect.
Senator Durbin gave Kavanaugh an opportunity to get it right. He himself should ask for an FBI investigation, Durbin said. But that Kavanaugh resolutely refused to do. Instead, he took refuge in a standard GOP talking point: The FBI doesn’t reach conclusions.
The most Kavanaugh would say is that he would do whatever the committee wanted. But that’s a dodge, given that Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley has made it clear he is adamantly opposed to such an inquiry.
Senator Amy Klobuchar later offered Kavanaugh a second chance, Chris Coons a third, and Kamala Harris a fourth, to agree to such an investigation. Again, Kavanaugh dodged, saying that the Judiciary Committee was itself doing the investigation. And besides, he added, the last 10 days had been an eternity.
Rejecting that challenge was a mistake. If there were such an investigation and it turned up nothing, Kavanaugh and the Republicans would have called the Democrats’ bluff. By refusing to do so, Kavanaugh made it look as though he had something to fear.
If such an investigation turned up nothing, it would give Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake a path to vote for him. And perhaps help resolve these conflicting claims in the public mind.
Senators face a difficult decision. Outside of the committee staff, these allegations haven’t been investigated. The committee hasn’t called Mark Judge, who really should be a key witness. Further, the committee has heard from only one of the three women who have made allegations of sexual misconduct about him. She turned in an authentic, credible, and sympathetic performance. Kavanaugh defended himself adamantly, but his harshly partisan charges were a tinny political gimmick. And he seemed evasive about the extent of his drinking.
The view here is that Ford was more credible and more forthcoming. And that, absent an FBI investigation that delves into these issues, Kavanaugh shouldn’t be on the court.
Whatever the rationalization, any senator who votes for him is saying he or she believes him, not her. Or that a sexual assault in high school doesn’t matter.
There is just no way around that.