Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), left, pause as protesters disrupt the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 4. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Opinion writer

The frenzied search for the identity of the author who penned the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, in essence confirming it really is Crazyland over at the White House, consumes Washington. Anyone can play the guessing game, and for now no one can prove a guess is wrong. Hence, the perfect, gossipy discussion for political junkies. However, the more interesting mystery came up in the confirmation hearing for Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.

As the hearing spilled into the evening, former California state attorney general Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) threw Kavanaugh off guard with a line of inquiry regarding conversation(s) about the Russia investigation that he may have had with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded by President Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz. When Kavanaugh meekly asked, “I would like to know the person you’re thinking of,” Harris responded frostily: “I think you’re thinking of someone and you don’t want to tell us.” Kavanaugh looked confused, if not nervous. He hadn’t seen this coming.

The exchange, including Republican Sen. Mike Lee’s clumsy attempt to bail out Kavanaugh, went like this:

Now, if Harris has evidence he had an inappropriate or conflict-creating interchange with the president’s lawyer, it is critical we hear about it. If not, it is unfair to leave the inference hanging out there.  If she is hampered in explaining this because of the cockamamie restrictions on documents that Republicans have erected, it is time for Democrats to cry foul, put whatever they have out there and let Republicans justify their attempts to hide the ball.

This may be a break-out moment for the junior senator from California. Harris on Tuesday showed her flair for the dramatic in raising objections over Republicans’ refusal to make hundreds of thousands of pages of documents available to the public. On Wednesday she followed by showing her prosecutorial skill. Don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to. Don’t bail out a witness who is struggling.

If she doesn’t really have anything of significance, the incident will be forgotten — or cited as evidence that she is all show. However, if she’s dug up a nugget of something that could throw the nomination off track, she’ll be an instant Democratic heroine.

At the very least, she’s got senators and staffers on both sides of the aisle scratching their heads. In green rooms and on social media, staffers and lawmakers are buzzing. “What’s she got?” “I don’t know, but that was a weird exchange.”

Her splash comes at the time that the White House is in utter turmoil. White House paranoia runs rampant (and sometimes paranoids have reason to think someone is out to get them). The president’s mental and emotional state is called into question by his own advisers. Given all this, one wonders if the White House was caught flat-footed on something significant, and if it is now prepared to deal with a bobble in an all-critical nomination.

Given the utter chaos that has enveloped the White House, its effort to rush this nomination through and its effort to keep as much of Kavanaugh’s material as possible out of the public eye, we cannot eliminate the possibility they wound up missing something. It’s for this very reason that it’s so critical to get all his materials out in public view and get definitive questions to senators’ questions.

Read more: 

Jennifer Rubin: Kavanaugh is daring the Senate to gamble with the Constitution

Ann Telnaes: Sketching the Kavanaugh hearings

Dana Milbank: America is still free, and the people will be heard

The Post’s View: Republicans are rushing Kavanaugh’s confirmation. What are they not telling us?

Mark J. Rozell: The Trump administration is exercising executive privilege without saying so