The Senate Judiciary Committee Sets a New Low

September 29, 2018 by Mary Sanchez
People protesting Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at a rally in Lower Manhattan.

Hell hath no fury like an entitled man scorned.

America met that man on Thursday, in all his caustic glory. He’s federal Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, now well on his way to becoming the next U.S. Supreme Court justice.

What a performance! The belligerent demeanor and the partisan fireballs that Kavanaugh unleashed on the Senate Judiciary Committee alone should disqualify him for the bench. His temperament does not merit a lifetime appointment to the highest court, even if one believes that the accusations laid against him are false.

Despite Kavanaugh’s insistence that his good name has been ruined by the allegations that he had sexually assaulted a fellow teenager as a youth, it is clear that he knew that real political power was on his side. President Donald Trump and the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had his back.

The committee’s majority members would permit Christine Blasey Ford to tell her story. How could they not? They’d learned the lesson of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991. But then they would get on with an indignant pity party for the real victim of the piece, Kavanaugh.

But then something unexpected happened: Ford knocked them on their heels.

She deftly and convincingly recalled her assault at age 15, which she says took place when a group of teenagers went to drink beer at a suburban home.

She described being shoved into a bedroom, followed by two boys who then locked the door. “I believed he was going to rape me,” she said of the primary attacker, a drunken boy she identifies as Kavanaugh, who was then 17. She described how he grasped at her clothes, trying to pull her swimsuit off. Listeners understood the terror of a young girl who thought she might inadvertently be killed.

It was chilling enough to hear her recall how the young man atop her clamped his hand over her mouth to smother her screams. It was even more remarkable to hear her describe the memory seared in brain of her attacker and his accomplice laughing with each other throughout the attack.

What shocked many who watched her testimony was how believable Ford was. It was no longer he-said-she-said. It was “Oh my God….”

Ford said she was 100 percent certain that Kavanaugh had been her attacker. And it was very difficult to deny the strong possibility that this was the truth.

Then came the peculiar performance of Brett Kavanaugh. He could not complain, as Clarence Thomas had, of a “high tech lynching.” Rather, his response was Trumpian bravado and victim-pleading.

He argued that he couldn’t have had time to participate in the type of drinking and behavior that he is accused of. A disciplined, earnest young man busy with sports, a church-going son — a virgin, even — there is no way he could have been involved in drunken sexual assault.

Drinking, sure, but not the other. Most stunning were Kavanaugh’s childlike answers when questioned about his drinking as a young man. The replies were staccato and simplistic. “I liked beer,” he said. “I still like beer.”

Kavanaugh had been a key player in the Kenneth Starr investigation into President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s. Indeed, in that capacity he had drawn up a list of sexually explicit questions to ask Clinton under oath. While they never were used, they nonetheless reveal Kavanaugh to be a ruthless partisan inquisitor in his own right. So it is interesting that he invoked the Clinton impeachment as the motive for the Democrats’ purported persecution of him with trumped up charges. He played this victim card to the hilt.

Incredibly, it did the trick. Kavanaugh’s pugnacious testimony seemed to rally the Republican committee members in their own waving of the partisan bloody shirt.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina took it to the theatrical limit. That poor woman, he howled. Why, she’s a victim of the Democrats, set up for this public vetting of her trauma, made to endure the threats and assaults of a trolling public, all to strike a blow at President Trump’s pick for the court.

And so the blockade of male Republican senators held fast. And on Friday, the Judicial Committee passed the confirmation question on to the full Senate, albeit with vague assurances that further investigation would be made before the vote.

The Republicans may or may not understand the signals they are giving to every sexual assault victim in America. People listened to Ford’s riveting testimony, and many of them came forward with their own stories of sexual assault. Hotlines for crisis centers were flooded.

But the message of the Senate majority party was this: Yes, you can come tell your teary stories of pain and trauma to a bevy of male senators. They’ll listen, even get a female lawyer to conduct the cross examination in soothing tones. A plethora of verbal condolences will be extended, extolling your bravery and courage for showing up to share your pain.

And then you will be dismissed. And they will bear off their hand-picked hero to his rightful seat of power.

Readers can reach Mary Sanchez at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @msanchezcolumn.

©2018, MARY SANCHEZ DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC

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