Senator Lindsey Graham of (R-South Carolina) made the rounds on the Sunday morning news shows defending the Senate Judiciary Committee’s irrational and inexplicable rush to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to a lifelong appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Senator Graham argues that neither he nor any of his all-male, Republican, lawyer, committee colleagues are competent to question Dr. Blasey Ford regarding her claim of alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh. “None of us have practiced law in over twenty years,” he says so they must bring in “someone who knows what they’re doing.” They will engage competent counsel of their own choice, likely “a female attorney,” to question Dr. Ford. They will allow no other testimony. As I recall, this is not a criminal, legal proceeding so this seems an odd approach.
Some say that this is because the optics of having the all white, all male, Republican majority members of the Judiciary Committee questioning a woman alleging sexual assault by another white man might be harmful. Such images could negatively affect the party’s mid-term election prospects, infuriate women voters and remind all of us–especially women voters–that there is a sexual predator in the White House.
The Republican committee leadership is also demonstrating a profound lack of respect for their Democratic colleagues. There are women on the committee. They happen to be Democrats but as members of the Judiciary Committee, they are as entitled to question Dr. Ford as the Republican majority. Again, Senator Graham said that nobody on the committee has practiced law in over twenty years. Wrong. Senator Kamala Harris practiced law as a prosecutor and California Attorney General right up until her election to the Senate in 2016. If this is not a criminal proceeding, then why is it necessary to have recently practicing lawyer to conduct questioning for this one particular part of the Kavanaugh hearings?
So, the ranking Republican majority members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are competent to question Brett Kavanaugh and everyone else except Dr. Ford. They claim that they are not willing to damage Kavanaugh’s reputation. However, they fail to express any similar sentiments or genuine empathy for Dr. Ford and her life-changing decision to come forward. I am not an attorney, but their treatment of her resembles azthe treatment that one might expect toward a “hostile witness” in a trial. This is not that.
Apparently, finding the truth concerning an allegation of serious wrongdoing by a potential Supreme Court justice as is the custom in these matters, is of secondary concern to the committee. Kavanaugh’s appointment is the priority and it is clearly a political one.
If not, then why are Chairman Grassley and the rest of the Republican majority breaking with all regular order and normal protocol in this matter? Are they are acting so bizarrely to protect Trump? Is this why their pursuit of confirmation is so dogged? Is it because Kavanaugh is the only potential nominee whose documentary record questions whether a sitting president may be indicted while in office and also questions the legal soundness of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade?
Trump promised to stack the Supreme Court with anti-Roe, conservative judges and it is the Senate’s job to get it done. Republican Committee members are pulling out all of the stops, casting protocol aside and creating specious arguments in order to get the job done, avoid the wrath of Trump and avert their own potential political jeopardy.
They are also acutely aware that potential jeopardy for Trump may be beyond political and even higher. If ongoing investigations result in criminal and civil charges being brought against Trump, the Supreme Court will surely be involved. It is in Trump’s legal interest to have Kavanaugh on the Court–in his pocket. Perhaps Trump’s legal jeopardy is more serious that he and the White House are letting on.
Meantime, the President tweeted his doubts about Dr. Ford’s claim and her very character. He made no mention of nor did he express any empathy for the deep sacrifice and personal peril she and her family are facing by coming forward. On the other hand, Trump and the Judiciary Committee Republicans have repeatedly expressed their deep sympathy for Kavanaugh and his family.
Back at the White House, the senior staffers are working day and night with Kavanaugh for hours at a time to prepare him for his questioning regarding Dr. Ford’s allegations. That in itself should be disqualifying. A nominee holed up with the President’s closest confidants and staffers to prepare for a Senate hearing is outrageous.
So much for maintaining an independent judiciary and an unassailable U.S. Supreme Court. This unsavory crusade for confirmation may cause irreparable damage to the sanctity of Court and the reputation of the U.S. Senate.
The political stakes for Republicans are high. The stakes for Trump may be even higher. If this is episode is not a serious threat to the republic for which we stand, then what is?