The Senate Judiciary Committee had an opportunity to get a clearer picture of Judge Brett Kavanaugh at the September 27 hearing. But after a day of testimony, it appears that the Senators each found support for the positions they already held.
The Committee’s female assistant
Fearing that America would perceive their behavior toward Christine Blasey Ford as abusive, the majority hired a Maricopa County prosecutor to question her, thus eliminating the risk. Rachel Mitchell, Chief of the county’s Special Victims Unit, covered everything one could reasonably ask Dr. Ford, gently and respectfully. Ford came across as honest and forthright.
At the close of Ford’s testimony, Mitchell asked several questions about whether Ford was familiar with the accepted methodology for interviewing survivors of sex crimes. She established that nothing about the committee majority’s procedure was consistent with the professional standards of those who actually work with sex sex crime survivors.
After Dr. Ford’s convincing testimony, it looked like Kavanaugh might have a hard row to hoe. But the limits on questions to one round with each senator getting five minutes made it impossible to explore questions of Kavanaugh’s credibility in any depth.
Kavanaugh channels Trump
Kavanaugh borrowed a page from President Trump’s manual. He opened with 45 minutes of bombast. He accused the Democrats of attacking him to get revenge on behalf of the Clintons (!) and, like Trump, he lied and used deflection to avoid answering unwelcome questions.
How did he lie?
- He claimed that Mark Judge had submitted sworn testimony that the incident with Ford never happened. But the statement was signed by his attorney, who certified that it was true. That means only that the attorney transmitted his client’s statements accurately.
- He claimed that all of the other people at the gathering where Ford was attacked said that no such gathering ever happened. But they couldn’t all have said they were never at a gathering where both Ford and Kavanaugh were present. They would have said that no one was attacked. And they wouldn’t have known about what was happening upstairs while they were downstairs.
- He claimed that the words he wrote didn’t mean what they plainly did mean. “Renate alumnus” referred to a friendship, not anything sexual? Then why did Kavanaugh accuse the questioner of dragging Ms. Dolphin’s name through the mud?
Deflection and distraction
Kavanaugh used another of Trump’s techniques in response to uncomfortable questions. Not only did he avoid answering the question, but he shifted responsibility for the action elsewhere. For example, when asked about the freshman roommate who described him as frequently drunk, and belligerent when very drunk, Kavanaugh launched into a story about the hostility between his two roommates. It had nothing to do with the accuracy of the roommate‘s description, but it worked nicely to use up time.
Similarly, when Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) asked Kavanaugh whether he was the Bart Kavanaugh in Mark Judge’s book, Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk, Kavanaugh discussed Judge’s alcoholism, addiction, and leukemia and accused Leahy of making fun of Judge.
Kavanaugh repeatedly interrupted and talked over Democrats who questioned him. His rudeness to Senator Durbin was inappropriate; his behavior toward Senator Klobuchar was inexcusable. When she asked if he had ever blacked out from drinking, he asked “Have you?” Apparently, someone talked to Kavanaugh about it during the break, because he apologized when the hearing resumed.
More evidence needed
Dems seemed to be wedded to the idea of an FBI investigation whether or not it will fly. Unfortunately, they can’t get around the problem of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s failure either to investigate or to turn the information about Dr. Ford’s allegations over to the rest of the Judiciary Committee. Worse, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is determined to have the committee vote without taking any further evidence. Kavanaugh refused several times to agree to a further investigation, even one limited to a week.
Regardless, the Committee should subpoena one more witness: Mark Judge. Ford testified that Judge was present during the assault and that he appeared embarrassed when she saw him working at Safeway six or eight weeks later. Despite Kavanaugh’s claim, Judge has not actually given sworn testimony. He should. If the Committee doesn’t call him, its message will be loud and clear: they don’t care whether Kavanaugh assaulted anyone; they don’t care whether he is a liar. They just want to win.