If supporters of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court hoped that Christine Blasey Ford would falter in her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, they must be bitterly disappointed. In insisting that she was “100%” certain Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, the psychology professor from Palo Alto was a plausible and poignant witness. Direct, straightforward, consistent and sympathetic, Ford easily withstood attempts by a career prosecutor retained by Republicans on the committee to undermine her account.
But then Ford was followed by Kavanaugh, who was just as adamant in denying the allegations against him. In an angry, emotional and at times astonishingly unjudicial opening statement, the appeals court judge lashed out against Democrats on the committee, accused them of unleashing Ford’s accusation when it seemed that their ideological objections to his candidacy wouldn’t succeed in keeping him off the court. Calling his confirmation process a “national disgrace” and a “circus,” he said: “You have replaced ‘advise and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’ ” But if Kavanaugh’s anger and his tears were jarring, they too seemed achingly genuine.
So Thursday’s hearing produced what we expected: irreconcilable first-person accounts from a long-serving, highly regarded federal judge and from an accomplished educator whose story is specific, vivid and credible, and who seems to have no motivation to lie. It was the “he said/she said,” only heightened by the conviction of two self-assured witnesses.
So where do we go from here?
The best and most obvious way forward would have been to conduct the fuller, impartial investigation that Ford had called for and that Republicans, including President Trump, staunchly resisted. Thursday’s hearing was all well and good — riveting drama that offered Americans an opportunity to see the principals for themselves. But other than the passionate presentations of Ford and Kavanaugh, it was in many ways a charade. Democrats went on and on about Ford’s bravery and bashed Republicans at every opportunity; Republicans ceded their morning time to a prosecutor whose clear assignment was to find discrepancies in Ford’s story rather than elucidate the truth. The second part of the hearing involved a lot of political posturing, with a substantial amount of time spent on boofing, ralphing and grandstanding.
An FBI investigation might have provided corroborating evidence or exculpatory evidence that could have shed further light on what happened, if anything, between Kavanaugh and Ford at a party in suburban Maryland in the early 1980s. A reopened FBI background check should obviously have been undertaken before the hearing, but it still could have been initiated afterward. It was especially important that agents interview Mark Judge, who Ford has said was in the room at the time she was allegedly attacked by Kavanaugh.
But instead, Republicans cravenly announced Thursday evening that they intend to move ahead with the Judiciary Committee vote scheduled for Friday morning, which almost certainly means forgoing a more thorough investigation.
Among other things, a reopened FBI investigation would have allowed for examination of the other accusations that have emerged since Ford came forward. Deborah Ramirez has claimed that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were students at Yale University, and Julie Swetnick claims the teenage Kavanaugh was “present” at a party where she was gang-raped. Kavanaugh has strenuously denied all the allegations “categorically and unequivocally.”
Apparently, we won’t learn more about those incidents either.
It’s true that Democrats who were urging further investigation had an ulterior motive: They wanted to delay action on Kavanaugh’s nomination until after the midterm election. But Republicans owed it to the court and the country — and to Kavanaugh — to ensure that the serious allegations against him were credibly investigated.