Published 8:07 PM EDT Sep 20, 2018
If it were somehow possible to cut through the blatant politics of the drama over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, what ought to be left is a search for the truth.
The best way to get there at this supercharged moment in history is for Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party, to testify under oath. Most of the questioning should be handled by committee counsel, not grandstanding senators. And that should be the beginning, not the end, of the process.
Once Ford has testified — she has been offered the opportunity to do so in private or in public, before Senate Judiciary Committee members or staff — the FBI or lawyers named by Democrats and Republicans should dig into the details and get other relevant witnesses to answer questions under oath.
This is no longer just about what Kavanaugh did or did not do at a party more than 35 years ago. Ford has told The Washington Post that a “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, groped her, and put his hand over her mouth before she was able to get away. Kavanaugh, now 53, categorically denies it. This suggests that one of them is not telling the truth. If it is Kavanaugh, that affects his fitness to sit on the Supreme Court.
And what's the big rush? A lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court deserves a thorough investigation. Votes could wait another week or so, all to the public's benefit. But serving the public seems to be the last thing on the minds of most senators, as both sides play political hardball.
Republicans — who hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate — want to either get Ford's testimony over with on Monday or point to her refusal to testify as evidence that she isn’t to be believed. On Thursday, Ford's lawyers said that Monday is "not possible," but that she is open to testify later in the week if details can be worked out. If that doesn't happen, Republicans will move at lightning speed to a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination.
President Donald Trump could follow the precedent set by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 when he ordered the FBI to investigate Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations against now-Justice Clarence Thomas. But Trump has failed to do so, and Senate Republicans seem perfectly happy not to dig deeper into Ford's more serious allegation of a “rape attempt.”
For Democrats, delay is the goal, hoping that Republican senators or Trump will lose their cool and attack Ford, giving Democrats more anti-woman ammunition for the midterm elections. Their fondest wish is to delay Kavanaugh’s nomination past Nov. 6 or derail it, hoping for a Democratic takeover of the Senate and a chance to avenge GOP refusal to even consider President Barack Obama's nomination of the highly qualified Merrick Garland.
Amid all this political maneuvering, the next move belongs to Ford. It is understandable if the California college professor is hesitant, having gotten a taste of the character assassination and threats unleashed by her accusation. She and her family have already had to move out of their home for fear of harm, according to her lawyer.
Lost in all the furor are the higher stakes, the future image of the highest court in the land, already viewed as too political. If both parties put partisan considerations over impartial fact-finding, both will risk a Supreme Court that no longer has the confidence of the American people.
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