Last week was a rare week that I actually adhered to my writing schedule which meant I took Thursday and Friday off from writing. That allowed me to watch gavel to gavel coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on both days. Let’s explore.
While Senate committee hearings are often perfunctory, uneventful and boring these were anything but! There were a few things that stuck out and no op-ed would be complete sans a prediction to compliment the observations.
Thursday started off with America’s first glance at Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her when they were both in high school. Dr. Ford turned out to be any attorney’s dream witness! She came across as sincere, brilliant and yet somewhat timid. She answered every question quickly and in most cases succinctly. Where her memory was cloudy or non-existent she quickly said so. She actually went out of her way to be fair to Kavanaugh.
The Republicans all ceded their time to a hired gun, Rachel Mitchell, whose attempt at cross examination yielded some question of Dr. Ford’s fear of flying and who paid for her polygraph. In the interest of maintaining my PG rating for articles I won’t make a detailed comparison; all I will say is that the fear of flying gambit made me think about Erica Jung’s novel of the same name. Since I didn’t hear any zippers it may reveal the Republican Senators figurative intention with Dr. Ford. (You’ll have to read the novel – I did years ago.) As to the payment for the lie detector test I will defer to Ezra Klein’s all caps tweet, “DO THEY THINK SHE DID THIS TO GET A FREE POLYGRAPH TEST?” Thank you Mr. Klein and I rest my case.
In the afternoon Kavanaugh took center stage and it was as if we were transported to another universe. He began by basically screaming his opening statement. His anger was palpable as evidenced by viciousness with which he turned the pages of his long prepared statement.
The Kavanaugh session started out like the morning session with Republicans yielding their time to Mitchell so that she could pursue a line of questioning while handcuffing the Democrats to five minutes per Senator. This was clearly illustrated during Patrick Leahy’s and Dick Durbin’s turns. Each had Kavanaugh clearly on the ropes only for him to be saved by the bell (and in one instance by some Chuck Grassley interference – so much for a fair hearing.)
Evidentially Mitchel didn’t understand her assignment. She was supposed to discredit Dr. Ford while appearing to be on a quest for the truth and then throw a series of softballs at Judge Kavanaugh. In I believe her second or third afternoon round she questioned Kavanaugh about the July 1, 1982 entries in his personal calendar and that was the last we heard from her. After further review it appears she stumbled on to something that actually may have corroborated Dr. Ford’s accusation. When the next Republican “round” came up Lindsey Graham took the microphone and saved Kavanaugh (for that day anyway). The day ended much as the Republicans had planned and I had predicted. It devolved into a he said/she said and Ford got a slam, bam and insincere thank you ma’am from them. The plan was to meet at 9:30 Friday morning to move the nomination to the full Senate floor where Kavanaugh would be confirmed on Tuesday in an expedited process orchestrated by Master of the Senate Mitch McConnell.
Friday started out predictable if not boring. Richard Blumenthal made a motion to subpoena Mark Judge which quickly failed on a party line vote. Both Democrats and Republicans made the predictable statements. Somewhere shortly after 1pm all the speeches were concluded and Chairman Grassley put the meeting “At ease” until the scheduled 1:30pm vote. About 1:34pm I realized something was happening and a predictable, boring meeting suddenly got as exciting as a close ball game in the closing minutes. Hindsight being 20/20 we now know that Jeff Flake summoned Chris Coons to step out with him and with the participation of several other Senators (reportedly including Lisa Murkowski via phone) a deal was struck.
Flake agreed to vote Kavanaugh out of committee with the understanding that the floor vote would be delayed not more than a week in order to allow the FBI to conduct a limited supplemental investigation. The Committee could not guarantee those conditions would be met; that would take actions from President Trump and McConnell. In subsequent meetings Flake’s terms were met.
Before I get to predictions (better known as guesses) I want to go over two lines. They both came during interviews just after Friday’s session. The first is the best summation of where progressives and truth seekers stood at that moment and it came from Amy Klobuchar. Unfortunately I am paraphrasing. When questioned about how good the deal was she replied: We are better off than we were at 8am this morning. Like most political deals this is far from perfect, but I agree it is a step forward. I have a love/hate relationship with Lindsey Graham but he had hands down the funniest line when he said, “Somebody’s got to explain this to Trump and I guess that’s my job.”
A week is a very, very long time in politics. At this point I see four somewhat likely outcomes and they are all over the place. In order of likelihood they are: Kavanaugh gets confirmed, Trump pulls the nomination (this could well take the form of Kavanaugh withdrawing), Kavanaugh withdraws (with the “gentlemen’s agreement” that he keeps his current judgeship) or he is not confirmed and his fate is uncertain.
I Kavanaugh came out swinging Thursday and was adversarial with the Democrats. He claimed conspiracy theories during his opening statement. He repeatedly proclaimed his love of beer. (If all else fails he has a future doing beer commercials aimed at right wing audiences). His statement and performance was very Trumpian. I have to wonder if Stephen Miller was a major contributor to his opening statement and if Kavanaugh was following Trump’s orders. More than ever Kavanaugh illustrated that he is Trump’s puppet and if for no other reason he is a danger to American democracy.
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