Opinion writer

Senate Republicans first dismissed Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation of attempted rape against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as untimely. That didn’t fly. Then they tried to get by with telephone interviews of Ford and Kavanaugh. That was unsustainable as well. Then they caved and agreed to a live hearing with Ford and Kavanaugh. How long before they cave and make this an effective hearing?

The Post reports:

The No. 2 Republican in the Senate on Tuesday sharply questioned the credibility of the woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, as GOP leaders indicated they will limit witnesses at next week’s hearing to just the Supreme Court nominee and his accuser.

Speaking to reporters, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said he was concerned by “gaps” in the account of Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor in California, who told The Washington Post in an interview published Sunday that Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her to a bed on her back, groped her and put his hand over her mouth at a house party in the early 1980s when the two were in high school.

“The problem is, Dr. Ford can’t remember when it was, where it was, or how it came to be,” Cornyn told reporters at the Capitol late Tuesday morning.

First, let’s address Cornyn’s outrageous, inaccurate and unfair attack on the alleged victim. He has yet to hear her testimony, so how can there be gaps? Moreover, what we have heard from Kavanaugh is one big gap. (Does he know her? Was he at the party? Did he drink to excess?) The burden is on him to respond fully and completely. Apparently, Cornyn still thinks attacking a woman who has a specific recollection, bolstered by her previous statements and a lie detector, is an effective tactic for Republican politicians; it’s not — as those who witnessed Anita Hill’s testimony at Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings should recall.

Moreover, as sex-crimes experts (whom Republicans won’t call) will tell you, victims remember certain parts of their attacks but not others. The Post interviewed several experts, including former prosecutor Linda Fairstein:

“If she testifies, I would expect her to say ‘I don’t remember’ scores of times,” Fairstein said, for two reasons: the passage of time and trauma. “She found this experience so upsetting that she felt her life was in danger. There might be 220 things she doesn’t know and then a very specific sentence about what happened that was so traumatic.” . . .

To me, it’s compelling that [Ford] puts someone else there, and that the person who happens to be in the room has a blackout drinking problem,” said Fairstein. [Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark] Judge, now a filmmaker and author, described himself similarly in his book “Wasted: Tales of a Gen-X Drunk.” “That’s sort of the intoxicated behavior she described that night,” she added.

“Ford mentioned details — like the pool party, the narrow staircase, that the house was in Montgomery County. There are enough facts for someone to remember it was their party and their house,” said Fairstein.

Republicans are still playing hide the ball, treating this allegation, far more serious than the allegations against Thomas, less seriously than they did the Anita Hill episode. They don’t want to get at the truth; they want to wrap this up as soon as humanly possible.

In what may boil down to a credibility contest (or “I don’t remember anything” vs. Ford’s specific memory), how can they avoid calling a third party, a direct witness in the room, Mark Judge? It’s preposterous and should be taken for what it suggests — confirmation that Judge’s testimony would hurt Kavanaugh. (The Post reports, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said it was ‘impossible to take this process seriously,’ noting that 22 witnesses appeared at the hearing in 1991, when law professor Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.”)

Finally, President Trump’s refusal to enlist the FBI to reopen Kavanaugh’s background check is another tell-tale sign the Republicans have little interest in testing Kavanaugh’s denial. Trump’s excuse that the FBI doesn’t do this sort of thing is wrong; they conduct background checks. His allegation that they don’t want to do it is unproven (anyone ask FBI Director Christopher A. Wray) and beside the point. They do their jobs when authorized to do so. Republicans seem oblivious to the fact that Ford knows far more than they do about what she is going to say and what corroborating evidence exists.

Perhaps the Republicans’ gambit will fly. However, when at the hearings Democrats make these very points and demand Judge be called or the FBI investigate further, Republicans are likely to have egg on their faces — just as they will when they plunge into questioning with no preliminary investigation. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) might want to speak up about this rigged (to borrow a word) hearing. He is apparently one of the few Republicans who wants to find out what happened to Ford.