Appearing on the “Today” show, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) reacted to President Trump’s mocking of Christine Blasey Ford at a political rally Tuesday night. “There’s no time and no place for remarks like that. But to discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right … It’s kind of appalling.” This echoes the reaction of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) when Trump first attacked Ford by tweet, saying if the attack was “that bad,” the teen Ford would have gone to the police. Collins said: “I was appalled by the president’s tweet.”
There is plenty to appall: Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s baseless allegation that he was the victim of a smear stemming from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss; Kavanaugh’s obnoxious retorts to Democratic senators, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.); Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) calling for Klobuchar to apologize; Republicans’ objections to any investigation of Ford’s claims; Republicans’ repeated, false assertion that there is no corroboration for Ford’s accusation (ignoring her polygraph, her prior remarks, Kavanaugh’s calendar entry for July 1); Republicans’ decision to hide behind a female “assistant” (as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell referred to prosecutor Rachel Mitchell) and then discard her in favor of hysterical rants; apparent efforts to curtail the FBI investigation; Ed Whelan’s defamatory accusation aimed at a classmate of Kavanaugh’s; and Kavanaugh’s seeming mischaracterization of his drinking habits and high school references to sex and drinking.
Kavanaugh surely is not blameless for what the president says and what bile spews from Graham’s mouth; he surely is. He joined the angry, fact-free and partisan fight. He could have refrained from adding fuel to the partisan flames. He early on could have asked for an FBI investigation. He could have declined to refer to one of the accuser’s claims as “garbage.” He could have publicly or privately called on the White House and Republicans to cease their sleazy attacks on Ford. It’s impossible now to separate the Republicans’ disgraceful rhetoric and tactics from Kavanaugh himself. He told us whose side he is on. He made clear he was prepared to start a partisan and scorched-earth fight to get to the Supreme Court.
Collins says she doesn’t want to calculate the politics of her vote, apparently meaning that she won’t attempt to figure out what is best politically for her. She and the other Republicans who remain undecided should not, however, ignore the institutional and social ramifications of a vote to confirm Kavanaugh:
- He will be tainted by the partisanship he demonstrated, his willingness to misstate facts and his baseless accusations against Democrats.
- The Supreme Court’s 5-4 votes will lack political legitimacy in the eyes of many, if not most, Americans.
- Democrats will initiate an investigation and possible impeachment proceedings if they win the majority in one or both houses.
- The tactic of gender division will be vindicated. The public smearing of victims will be legitimized. Fewer women will then come forward. Belligerent and abusive men with increasing frequency will tell their victims, “No one is going to believe you.”
So, yes, Kavanaugh should bear the burden of all that follows. If he had maintained his judicial comportment, answered senators respectfully, admonished Republicans for their unhinged, groundless accusations and been entirely candid about his drinking, that would be one thing. Since he instead has chosen to become a partisan combatant, it is not only fair but necessary to hold him accountable — and to protect the Supreme Court and the country from the consequences of his confirmation.
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