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'What Rings True? What Rings False?' To Republicans, It Doesn't Matter

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in by chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, focusing on allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh against Christine Blasey Ford in the early 1980s. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)MoreCloseclosemore
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in by chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018, during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, focusing on allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh against Christine Blasey Ford in the early 1980s. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/POOL)

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His drunken laughter and her duplicate front door.

The first is what Christine Blasey Ford remembers most vividly of her alleged sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh when both were in high school. The second is how the California research psychologist has coped as an adult with the resulting panic attacks and claustrophobia.

The particulars of what transpired at a house party one night more than 30 years ago in the Maryland suburbs are no clearer after testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by both Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. She said she was “100 percent” certain he sexually assaulted her. He “categorically” denied the accusation.

Her strongest memory of the night she said Kavanaugh pinned her onto a bed and tried to rape her in front of his friend Mark Judge? “The uproarious laughter between the two and having fun at my expense,” she said.

She said she was “100 percent” certain he sexually assaulted her. He “categorically” denied the accusation.

What the testimony of accused and accuser underscored most dramatically was the outrageously missed opportunity represented by the refusal of the Republicans to reopen the FBI’s background investigation of the embattled nominee. The committee vote on Kavanaugh, prematurely scheduled for Friday by Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, must be postponed until that impartial inquiry by the FBI can be conducted. “You’re interviewing me; you’re doing it,” Kavanaugh shouted at Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California when she pressed him about why he did not call for an FBI probe of Blasey Ford’s claim.

If Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, is falsely accused, as he so insistently claims, he should be clamoring for that investigation now to clear his name. He should want Mark Judge, his high school drinking buddy from Georgetown Prep, to testify under oath about the assault Blasey Ford said that Judge not only witnessed, but also cheered on. He should want Deborah Ramirez, his college classmate at Yale, to testify under oath about the drunken dorm party at which she has said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her, an allegation he denies. He should want the country to hear from Julie Swetnick, who said she attended parties in high school with Kavanaugh at which he and others plied girls with fruit punch laced with grain alcohol with the goal of sexually assaulting them, a charge he also denies.

Kavanaugh has everything to gain by a probe that could exonerate him in his bid for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. And yet it is Blasey Ford who has asked repeatedly for the investigation to be reopened to fill in the gaps in her memory. Kavanaugh has everything to gain by taking a polygraph examination and yet it is Blasey Ford who has submitted to a lie detector test and been found to be telling the truth.

It did not help the nominee that the female prosecutor, hired by the Republicans to shield themselves from the televised spectacle of hostile old white men hounding an alleged victim of sexual assault, seemed less fixated on finding the truth than on implying, erroneously, that the Democrats were paying Blasey Ford’s legal bills.

It did not help that the face of the Republican Party at this hearing was Grassley, an 85-year-old Iowa senator whose idea of a modulated tone of voice is a bellow. “Let’s just be nice to her,” Grassley said, loudly but belatedly, after the questioning ended and he had forgotten to excuse an emotionally-spent Blasey Ford from the witness table.

The proceedings would have been better served without the gratuitous pandering of Democrats who played to the cameras, repeatedly applauding Blasey Ford’s courage for coming forward to testify in public about such a traumatic event. But it was even more illuminating that, when asked to evaluate Blasey Ford’s credibility, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham called her “a nice lady” and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch said she was an “attractive witness,” by which he said he meant “pleasing.”

Seriously?

Kavanaugh has everything to gain by a probe that could exonerate him in his bid for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.

For his part, a tearful and enraged Kavanaugh took a page from Clarence Thomas’s playbook at his own contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991 when he denied Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment. Where Thomas accused the Senate Judiciary Committee of a “high tech lynching,” the purportedly non-partisan Kavanaugh charged the Democratic members of the current panel with a “calculated grotesque and coordinated character assassination.” The “left wing,” he said, was trying to “blow me up and take me down.” This confirmation process, Kavanaugh said, has replaced the Senate’s constitutional role of “advise and consent” with “search and destroy.”

When he was a boy his mother, a trial lawyer, practiced her closing arguments at the dining room table. She would tell her imaginary jurors, “Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?” he recalled. He asked the committee to remember that advice, especially because the three teenagers whom Blasey Ford identified as being at the party at which she said she was assaulted gave sworn statements that they had no memory of that gathering. His accuser’s account, Kavanaugh said, was not only “uncorroborated but refuted” by Mark Judge, Leland Keyser and P.J. Smyth.

Blasey Ford, who added a second front door to her renovated house in California to ensure that she would always have a means of escape, also appealed to the senators’ common sense. Yes, she testified, she was aware that her three acquaintances do not remember that party. It wasn’t surprising that they did not recall the night she will never forget, a traumatized Blasey Ford testified. “Nothing remarkable happened to them that evening,” she said.

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Eileen McNamara Cognoscenti contributor
A Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist for The Boston Globe, Eileen McNamara is the author of "Eunice, The Kennedy Who Changed the World."

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