For those insisting that Republican senators take Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh seriously, one aspect of the conversation is particularly infuriating: the notion that the timeline established by the GOP for completing this process is quasi-sacred.
Virtually everyone commenting on Kavanaugh’s nomination comes to it with a point of view; I should acknowledge I’m no exception. I oppose his confirmation because he would push the Supreme Court far to the right of where it is now. I also worry that his expansive view of presidential prerogatives could undermine a legitimate investigation of President Trump.
Because I feel so strongly, I have tried hard to understand the reaction of Kavanaugh’s supporters to the emergence of Ford’s accusations just days before a planned vote on the Judiciary Committee. Although my reaction was not the same, I could see why they might bridle over the anonymous nature of the accusation and why they might suspect a Democratic effort to throw sand into the gears of the confirmation process.
But everything changed when Ford came forward, publicly and bravely, with her charge that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school — thus opening herself to the inevitable, scurrilous attacks on her truthfulness and character.
She also made it difficult for those trying to undermine her credibility because of the steps she had taken before going public, including her past statements to others about the incident and her willingness to take a lie detector test. Such tests are not dispositive, but her readiness to take one spoke to her confidence in the veracity of her recollections.
And we learned why her information emerged only late in the process: Ford had understandable doubts about whether making her private pain public was worth the distress she would face and the attacks she would endure. She feared she might suffer a great deal without altering the course of events, given how determined most Republicans are to install Kavanaugh on the court. Her worries may yet be justified.
Enough GOP senators sensed their party would pay a high political cost for ignoring her that the majority on the Judiciary Committee scheduled a hearing for next Monday where she and Kavanaugh would offer their versions of events.
This was only a partial victory. In light of the experience of Anita Hill in the 1991 hearings over Justice Clarence Thomas’ nomination, Ford and her lawyers realized that the encounter could become a show trial — of her. They pointed out that some Republican Senators had already written her off as “mistaken” and “mixed up.”
So her lawyers told the committee that she wanted an FBI investigation before she testified, which would allow potential witnesses to be interviewed — including an alleged witness who notified the committee that he does not want to testify.
And it is at this point where the suspicion that Republican senators are acting in bad faith cannot simply be dismissed as partisan bias against Kavanaugh.
They argued that the FBI does not undertake such investigations, which was patently untrue, since the FBI went back and investigated Hill’s allegations. The Trump administration could ask for such an inquiry, just as George H.W. Bush’s administration did in the Thomas case 27 years ago.
They expressed outrage that a vote might be postponed by, say, a week or two. This came with little grace from Republican senators who left Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the court open for one year and 53 days because they would not even hold a hearing on President Obama’s last nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.
Republicans hate it whenever anyone brings up Garland precisely because the episode is such a clear demonstration of their determination to muscle their way to an ideological majority on the Supreme Court. Their effort to rush a vote on Kavanaugh before November’s elections is part of the same effort.
Conservatives who have worked with Kavanaugh have a deep respect for him and cannot believe these charges are true. In light of their confidence, is there any reason they should fear a short delay to allow for a more thorough inquiry?
Yes, many come to this fight with political and ideological agendas. And, yes, revisiting behavior from more than three decades ago creates a lot of discomfort and uncertainty. But a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is at stake, and so is our willingness to respect the courage of a woman who anticipated the price she could pay for coming forward. Whose interests are served by haste?
E.J. Dionne’s email address is email@example.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.