“Here’s what I want to tell you,” McConnell said Friday morning at a summit for social conservatives. “In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the U.S. Supreme Court. So, my friends, keep the faith. Don’t get rattled by all this. We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”
There is no other way to read McConnell’s comment other than that the Ford allegation doesn’t matter to him, at least not when he’s so close to fulfilling his goal of firming up the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 conservative majority weeks before an election.
Put another way: A woman accused a Supreme Court nominee of drunkenly pinning her to a bed, groping her and covering her mouth when she screamed when they were in high school decades ago. She provided therapist notes from well before Kavanaugh was such a public figure. She took a polygraph test. She is willing to undergo an FBI investigation and testify under oath before the Senate. These are all moves that outside experts say make her story credible, and yet here is the most powerful politician in the Senate appearing to brush all of that aside because he wants to “do [his] job.”
Not that this is a surprise — we’ve been questioning whether Republicans were taking Ford’s accusations seriously since they came out. It’s just a surprise to hear it put so plainly by the politician with the most control over the process.
McConnell’s comments are unhelpful to another key Republican senator in the process, one whose careful maneuvering of any hearing between Ford and Kavanaugh could make or break this delicate situation for Republicans.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is in charge of setting up such a hearing. It’s politically fraught by its very nature. But Grassley has taken pains to make it appear that he’s putting together a balanced hearing. He has offered to send staffers to California to interview Ford. He seems open to pushing back Monday’s hearing date, as Ford’s lawyers say she’s busy coping with death threats. Republicans on his committee have been considering bringing in some kind of outside counsel, preferably a woman, to question Ford to avoid the optics of 11 men on the Republican side asking her questions.
But Grassley’s Republican colleagues continue to undermine those efforts to appear to take Ford’s allegations seriously. One of Grassley’s lawyers for the committee tweeted that the Republican-controlled Senate will confirm Kavanaugh, then he attacked Ford’s camp for not immediately agreeing that she testify.
That staffer tried to reframe his tweets. Now the Senate Republican leader has backed him up.
This all comes as Republicans are trying to buffer themselves from what President Trump made clear Friday — that he doesn’t believe Ford and doesn’t really think she should be heard.
The president. The Senate majority leader. A top staffer for the chairman of the committee to which she’ll be talking. Before they hear from Ford, all of them have expressed willingness to, as McConnell put it, “plow” ahead with Kavanaugh’s nomination. No wonder Ford seems concerned about fair treatment before the Senate; it doesn’t look as if she’s going to get it.