September 19, 2018 | Reading Time: 5 minutes
Christine Blasey Ford Sets the Terms
Will Trump and the Republicans move forward without her consent?
An attorney for Professor Christine Blasey Ford went on CNN last night to state that her client’s life has been turned upside down since publicly alleging that Appellate Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when they were teens.
Ford has received death threats, her email account has been hacked, and she has been impersonated on social media. All of this has literally driven her out of her California home. The Times quoted an anonymous source yesterday saying that Ford had arranged for private security and that her family “is effectively in hiding.”
Ford’s attorney, Lisa Banks, then said her client was eager to testify despite the hardships facing her and her family, but she needed time. Plus—and this part is key—Ford demanded an FBI investigation in order to “ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a non-partisan manner, and that the Committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions.”
Why is that part key? The Republicans don’t have time to wait for an investigation (though the FBI can expedite what is called a background investigation, not a criminal investigation). The midterms are coming, but importantly, they are coming when the Republican base rewards or punishes the party for having confirmed or failed to confirm a man most of them believe will be central to overturning Roe v. Wade.
Put another way, the Republicans think they have to go with Kavanaugh, and not with a different conservative jurist who would more or less rule in the same way Kavanaugh would (Jonathan Bernstein says there’s still time). The president could take the gas out of this entire spectacle but the White House fears he cannot. As one senior administration official told the Daily Beast Tuesday, pulling Kavanaugh at this moment would be akin to Team Trump signing its own political “death warrant.”
Is that true? I’m not convinced. I think Trump’s pride has more to do with this than anything else, and his pride is making things more difficult for his party. Right now they are in a pickle. They want Ford to testify, in order to get this whole thing over with, but she has set the terms. No investigation, no testimony. So now the Republicans face a choice. Cave to her demands for move on without her.
They should cave to her demands. The president can order the FBI to reopen posthaste Kavanaugh’s background check. Or they should abandon Kavanaugh. Whatever is less damaging. (Trump signaled this morning that he’d make “a decision,” depending on how “believable” Ford is in testimony, per Roll Call.) But for now, they are appearing to choose the move-on-without-her option. This is bad, very bad.
Why? Imagine a committee of old men in their 80s talking to Kavanaugh about allegations against him by a woman not in the room. This is all televised, mind you, so that everyone can see these old men in their 80s, who have already said she’s “mixed up,” “disgusting” and whatnot, sitting in judgment of a educated professional woman’s sexual history even as she is “effectively in hiding” and facing death threats. Bad.
It would be better if she testified. Now. But again, she set the terms. No investigation, no testimony. So they are doing their best to force her into testifying by lying about her recollection of the night Kavanaugh allegedly forced himself on her, covered her mouth to stifle her screaming, while his friend looked on, laughing. Or by discrediting her. Chuck Grassley, who runs the confirmation process, said yesterday afternoon: “It kind of raises the question do they want to come to the public hearing or not,” he said. “We still haven’t heard from Dr. Ford, so do they want to have the hearing or not?”
Grassley is walking into a trap. He can’t see it. He’s 85 years old! You can’t force a woman to testify about being a victim of sexual assault, because in forcing her, you will have violated the central tenet of all relationships of power: consent.
So: if they move forward without Ford, they will have done so without her consent. If they force her to testify, via subpoena, they will have done so without her consent.
The Republicans are already pretending they care about women’s rights as they install a man who will undermine them. Forcing her to cooperate would mean they can’t pretend anymore. That’s a high price. Are the Republicans willing to pay?
The parties are different, part 251
I read Patricia Murphy’s Roll Call column in the New Haven Register. It’s a well-intentioned piece about a time when the parties worked in harmony after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But like a lot of columns that mean well, it distorts reality.
First, she looks back on the weeks after the attacks with rose-tinted glasses. She talks about when the the House and Senate “moved major pieces of legislation quickly to respond to al-Qaida, to overhaul homeland security, and to revamp intelligence sharing,” but forgets the Bush administration’s position at the time, which was to look on anyone who disagreed with its policy agenda as being this close to being treasonous. She omits that the Republicans succeeded in wedding the interests of party with the interests of the country for the wrong reasons, reasons revealed only after we learned Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.
Her false equivalence is what bothers me, though. In lamenting that we forgot our vow to “never forget” that horrible day 17 years ago, Murphy ends up lumping the Democrats with President Trump and the Republicans, blaming them all for “attacking each other as enemies, instead of being allies in the fight against the enemies we know this country is facing.” Worse, she asks: “How can we believe that [the parties have] done anything but discard the lessons of those terrible days?”
By using your eyes, I’d say.
The Democrats are not eroding the rule of law and undermining the credibility of law enforcement agencies. The president is. The Democrats are not standing idly by while the president threatens to pardon himself, fire the people investigating his campaign (successfully, I might add), and install a justice to the Supreme Court who might protect him from the consequences of his actions. The Republicans are.
Look, I get it.
Politicians are terrible people. I don’t want to spend time with them any more than anyone else. But serious observers should be able to see that some terrible people are less terrible than others, and that even if they are only trying to look less terrible, at least their efforts to look less terrible are in line with the needs of the country.
That could change next week, next month, next year, whenever. But for now, it’s not only unfair to equate Nancy Pelosi with Donald Trump (one’s a powerless minority leader, the other’s the president of the United States), it’s unhelpful to citizens trying to make good choices in the midterms. If, as Murphy said, “they all just seem to hate each other” from a distance, I suggest looking closer. For all of our sakes.
Welp, after saying we should all let the Schadenfreude wash over us like a cool mountain stream, Tuesday’s Quinnipiac Poll went and turned the water to ice.
I wrote last week that Democrat Beto O’Rourke was within the margin of error in a senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. I suggested the main reason for the Texas senator’s trouble is that no one likes the Texas senator.
Maybe they do. The new Q Poll has Cruz ahead by 10 points, pretty much where he was months ago. Broken down by race, the new survey has the race this way:Another way of putting it: As pundit Bill Scher sagely noted Tuesday, “The big nut Democrats need to crack in Texas, aside from registering new Latino voters, is college-educated whites.”
Even so, Cruz is running in ways suggesting his own polling shows a much tighter race. (My friend Marty Longman thinks Cruz is in trouble.) How else can you explain some of the lengths he’s going to, like suggesting that O’Rourke’s victory would mean the end of barbecue in Texas? (Hand on heart, his very own words.)
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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.
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