Just after the testimony of Professor Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh was completed before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump flew to Southaven, Mississippi, where he appeared before an immense crowd of MAGA supporters.
It was all too familiar. Democrats were “evil people, the party of crime,” and “too extreme and dangerous to govern.”
His lead-in to discussing the Kavanaugh nominating process was to insist that what was taking place set a dangerous precedent of “guilty until proven innocent.”
It was at this moment, before mentioning Ford by name, that his mask of restraint fell away, exposing a man whose currency is cruelty and retribution. He began what would be a long, mocking rant of Ford’s harrowing account of her sexual assault.
Trump used a familiar shtick, adopting two voices: his as the interrogator, and hers as the respondent. We’ve seen this before and there is a chilling, almost juvenile quality to the performance. His posture changes, he stands straighter, eyes narrowed, his mouth a rictus smirk between his lines, a solid blue tie (not red this time) covering his ample girth. Watching and listening, it is difficult to not wonder if this crude man actually possessed the title of president of our much-cherished democracy. But there he stood.
His opening gambit was to hold up a forefinger, stating that “she” can recall having just one beer. “Not how she got home from the party or how she got there.” Pause. “Where was the house?” he asks. Then answers, “She couldn’t remember.” Pause. “How many years ago was it?” He answers for her: “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
The crowd is now cheering, breaking into applause, urging Trump to continue his stand-up routine.
“What neighborhood was it (the house) in?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where’s the house?”
“I don’t know.”
“Upstairs, downstairs, where was it?”
“I don’t know. But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.”
This two-voiced performance was appalling and revealed more about the man standing on the dais than anything he said before or after. And yet, while Trump performed, I watched the audience behind him — laughing, clapping, energized, young and old, none balking at the soulless subtext of callousness and heartlessness embedded in his words. Who are these people? I wondered and felt an abiding sadness for our nation.
What Trump was saying is that Ford lied. He did not believe her and did not care about looking any further and used mocking laughter to make his reprehensible point.
Regarding the testimony of Ford and Kavanaugh, I judged that it was the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who created by design what they would argue was a “he said/she said” moment. And they then resisted all attempts by the Democrats to “hit pause” and conduct an investigation of the allegations. But then Sen. Jeff Flake bridled and asked for a week’s delay to conduct a “limited in scope” investigation, stopping what had been a rush toward confirmation by the Republicans.
Ford and Kavanaugh were owed a fulsome and thorough FBI investigation, including those who insisted they had relevant information. Since alcohol played a role in Kavanaugh’s behavior and history, according to much ancillary information and Ford’s testimony, it was also of import. Ford called for an unrestricted inquiry. Kavanaugh remained silent.
Nevertheless, a maximum effort was essential to our fundamental belief in due process. To do less would be a dereliction of duty to Ford, Kavanaugh the American people. This was not a case of believing one or the other. It was now a search for truth.
Regrettably, less, not more, prevailed and the FBI was restrained and manipulated by the Trump White House. It was a stunning example of political malfeasance.
Much is owed to Ford, who demonstrated immeasurable courage when she stepped forward, beginning with “We believe you!” followed by the tenet “innocent until proven guilty.” It is who we are.
Chris Honoré is a Daily Tidings columnist.