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Opinion In an infuriating rush to seat Kavanaugh, senators say the darnedest things

Sen. Susan Collins. (The Post)
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Senate Republicans, as we’ve seen since a credible allegation of sexual assault was raised against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, insist on demonstrating why they don’t deserve to hold the majority. Christine Blasey Ford’s detailed accusation, backed up by a polygraph test and notes from her therapist years back, have brought out the worst in Republican senators — and not just the male ones.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) declared that the allegations amount to a “hiccup” in a confirmation process that needs to wrap up — and fast. Nevada voters might want to  inform him, through their votes in November, that losing a Senate seat is just a “hiccup” in his career. His attitude exemplifies the don’t-care-about-facts attitude that fuels Republicans’ insistence on meeting an arbitrary deadline for confirmation. (One wonders whether there is a “Best sold by 9/25” label on the nominee, signaling that his nomination will curdle and spoil if allowed to sit on the shelf much longer. )

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Republicans know there is a victim here — and it’s Kavanaugh. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has declared that Democrats “can’t beat him on the law so they are trying to destroy his life.” Ford, of course, is the one who has been forced to move, has received death threats and has been cast as a liar or fabulist.

As Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faces a sexual misconduct allegation, columnist Ruth Marcus asks, who's responsible for the burden of proof? (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Graham then let on that it really doesn’t matter what she says. “I’m going to look at what she said about Brett Kavanaugh in high school and compare that to everything else I know about Brett Kavanaugh, including his denial,” he said. “And I’ll make the decision.” In other words, he has already decided what a great guy Kavanaugh is so — eye-roll, exasperated sigh — he’ll let Ford have her say and then barrel on to the inevitable conclusion. The assumption that she must not be telling the truth because she waited years (as thousands of sex-crime victims do) ignores the very real possibility that Kavanaugh either blotted out the incident or simply cannot admit to an act at odds with his self-image. Each is possible; Republicans seem incapable of seriously considering the latter. (By the way, do Republicans take issue with the victims of clergy sexual abuse who also bottled up their horrid memories until they were well into adulthood?)

Actually, there is another victim — Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), if you believe what she is saying. She has taken to whining about nasty messages she said her office has received concerning Kavanaugh. No one should leave obscene or threatening voicemails, but is there a single member of Congress who hasn’t received some over the years? Apparently, Collins is the sole exception until now. Moreover, while salty, the sort of voicemail she describes is frankly nothing to complain about. (“Have you seen the emails … where [Kavanaugh] talked about Roe v. Wade not being settled law. He [bleeped] lied to you. How [bleeped] naive do you have to be?” I’ve wondered the same thing, I confess.)

Even weirder, she suggests that an FBI investigation might be neededafter Kavanaugh and Ford testify. Huh? And if the FBI investigation finds something, wouldn’t they have to come back to be interrogated? No one seriously thinks Republicans would allow that after Monday’s hearing. Collins might want to consider what would happen if more information comes to light after his confirmation, suggesting that the incident did occur and he lied about it. (We’ve not had an impeachment of a Supreme Court justice since Samuel Chase in 1804, but another is not out of the question.)

In sum, Republicans make the same infuriating, false assumptions over and over:

  • Ford has motives to lie; Kavanaugh’s denial is completely believable.
  • The Senate has no need to seek testimony from the eyewitness in the bedroom where the attack allegedly occurred.
  • A vote must occur next week.
  • No investigation to uncover additional witnesses or evidence can be had until it is too late.
  • The real victims are Kavanaugh or the senators.
  • There is no harm in jamming through the nomination even with the distinct possibility that Ford is telling the truth.

The Senate Republicans did a fine job destroying the Supreme Court confirmation process; now they are doing an equally effective job demonstrating their own cluelessness. Voters have recourse in less than seven weeks.