Ever since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony last Thursday I’ve been thinking about what she said, why she said it, and how she said it.
Ditto Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh. And the President and the Senators.
What she said was clear. She has been sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh when she was 15 and he was 17. She feared testifying, having been chased out of her home by … Who? Good ol’ boys? Evangelicals? Anti-abortionists? Misogynists? All of the above?
But she also feared for the Supreme Court, which is why she testified. She wanted the Senate to know her story before they advised and consented.
How she said it was also clear. She was specific and open, without a hint of deception. She spoke carefully and respectfully. No anger. No self-pity. No entitlement. Even though it required reliving the trauma of the assault, she soldiered through. Her vulnerability was palpable, as was her determination.
If, as some have suggested, she was acting, move over Meryl Streep.
Judge Kavanaugh was also scared: of losing his nomination, his position on the Appeals Court, his teaching job at Harvard, his coaching job in girl’s soccer.
In his case, fear led directly to anger.
He furiously proclaimed his innocence. He blamed a conspiracy of Clinton sympathizers, Democrats, and left-wing opposition groups out to destroy “my family and my good name”. He flip-flopped between self-righteous rage and self-pitying tears, stuffing his tongue into his cheek and gulping water in between.
Instead of calm and candor, he offered belligerence, entitlement, and evasion. Heavy teenage drinking? (“I liked beer. I still like beer“). Drunken spells? (“do you like beer, Senator, or not?”). Blackouts? (“I don’t know, did you have blackouts?”).
He lied about the 80’s slang he used in his 1982 calendar.
“Boof”? (Kavanaugh:“That refers to flatulence”) No, it refers anal sex.
“Devil’s triangle”? (Kavanaugh: “a drinking game”) No, it describes sex between two men and one woman.
“Beach Week Ralph Club — Biggest Contributor,” (Kavanaugh: “That probably refers to throwing up. I’m known to have a weak stomach.” No, “Ralphing” refers to vomiting from too much booze.
The contrast between his and Dr. Ford’s temperament and integrity was stark and disturbing. She was measured and open; he was a teenager caught partying on a school night.
Republican Senators showed their anger, too. Senator Hatch was angry that Democrats would focus on teenage years (“He was an immature high schooler. So were we all.” Senator Cornyn was outraged at the hearing itself: “I can’t think of a more embarrassing scandal for the United States Senate since the McCarthy hearings.” Sen. Graham just raged – the whole thing was “crap!” A “scam!”
He was right. In fact, the hearings last week were just a distraction from the real show: the culmination of a decades long Republican effort to pack the Court with conservative, anti-abortion Justices, an effort they feared this soft-spoken woman might scuttle.
When Justice Scalia died in 2016, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell stalled – for 14 months – and stopped Obama’s replacement choice of moderate Merrick Garland. When Trump won, he was given a list of replacements by one of the most conservative groups in the country, the Federalist Society. And highly conservative Brett Kavanaugh was on a fast train to the Supreme Court.
With Ford’s accusation that train screeched to a halt. Trump, McConnell, and other Republicans accused Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein of pulling a “McConnell”: holding Ford’s accusation until the last-minute in order to stall the confirmation process until after the November elections.
How underhanded! How dishonest! (Sanctimony is often the escort of hypocrisy).
They scheduled just one day of hearings, ostensibly to hear her accusation and his response, but really just to appease the public. The real goal was to make the vote look legitimate.
So, yes, “a scam”, Senator Graham. And “crap”. But your side ran the scam, not the Democrats.
But for one Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake who partnered with Democratic Senator Chris Coons, the scam looked unstoppable. Last Friday, Flake and Coons demanded – and got – an FBI investigation.
The scope of which, from the number of witnesses interviewed to the lack of subpoena power, was immediately curtailed by Trump, McConnell, Graham, Grassley, and the rest of the angry old white men of the Senate. (surprise!).
At this writing, the FBI investigation is reportedly complete – after only 4 days – and the vote is scheduled for the full Senate this week. What’s in the report? Will the Senators vote on character, integrity, and judicial temperament? Or will they kowtow to the angry old white men?
We can only hope.