Republicans Are Getting Away With It

The prospect of a hearing without Christine Blasey Ford is a trap, and Democrats are walking into it.

Chuck Grassley.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Listen carefully enough from any point within the Beltway, and you’ll hear a faint smacking sound in the distance as Senate Republican staffers repeatedly exchange leaping high-fives. Their plan to pretend to vet Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is working.

They said they looked forward to hearing her public testimony—they didn’t—and on a partisan basis determined a process: In one week, with prepared testimony due by Friday morning, with only two witnesses called, and without outside investigation of the allegations ahead of time. In other words, giving her a chance “to be heard” while keeping within the schedule and bounds of their political interests.

The rushed timetable and omissions of additional witnesses and outside investigation were features, not bugs, of the GOP’s plan, which was to bait Ford’s lawyer and Democrats into yet another procedural outcry. It is not the first time Republicans have successfully used this tactic since Kavanaugh’s nomination. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley requested just enough of Kavanaugh’s records from his tenure in the Bush administration to argue that he was being “fair” but left out just enough to send Democrats crying foul on a monthslong paper chase that distracted from the main argument that Kavanaugh would be bad for everything that Democrats care about.

Controversies over the scale of reviewable records or the parameters of the hearing are, as the Washington Post’s Paul Kane tweeted Tuesday night, “process traps.” The process complaints are legitimate enough that Democrats can’t not voice them, but they make little progress toward the ultimate goal of making it impossible for Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to support the nominee.

And they do need to make it impossible for Collins, in particular, to support the nominee, because she really wants to. All of the prominent Republicans who objected to advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination without an additional public hearing—Collins, Murkowski, Flake, Corker—really want to support him. And they’ll give themselves the green light if Ford doesn’t appear on Monday.

The thrust of the response I see from the left to these tweets is that these senators are assholes. Fair enough. It takes one letter from Ford’s lawyers asking, Sure, but can we take a little more time and collect more information? for Senate Republicans to drop the façade about how they want to get to the bottom of this and tell her to HURRY IT UP LADY, JESUS CHRIST. They have a SCHEDULE. And yet this is a position that’s unifying Republicans, from moderates to conservatives, Never Trumpers to Trumpers, Susan Collins to Mike Lee.

Christine Blasey Ford can do whatever she wants and not have to feel like she’s “letting down” anyone. She had wanted her allegation kept confidential to avoid this exact spectacle, the one that’s uprooted her from her home due to threats to her life and safety. If she doesn’t want to participate in the incomplete process Republicans have offered to “adjudicate” her accusation, that’s her decision.

But we’ll find out in the next couple of days whether all of these objections from Democrats and Ford’s lawyers have just been negotiating tactics and she will testify on Monday after all. At least from the perspective of blocking Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court, though, Democrats seem to have gotten so lost in the process objections—by design—that they’re missing the point: Republican leaders didn’t want Ford to testify in a public hearing in the first place, and they still don’t. Her credible testimony, with or without additional witnesses or background investigations, is the one and only fatal threat to Kavanaugh’s nomination. As one very prominent Republican said Wednesday morning, “if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we’ll have to make a decision.”

Let them make a decision.