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The logic of a premise will drag you to its conclusion. When Senate Republicans accepted the premise that Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh was a legitimate personal complaint rather than a political maneuver orchestrated by the Democratic Party, they placed themselves in the grips of a logic leading them through bargaining about how to accommodate her as he was dogged by a nationwide campaign of personal and political vilification.
The logic’s next step is likely to come Thursday, when Ford does not show at the Judiciary Committee hearing amidst renewed Democratic and media accusations of a litany of sins by now all too familiar.
Republicans will be left with the same option they had when the Democrats first brought up their last-minute landmine—to press ahead with confirmation. But by accepting a premise they knew was false, they energized the Democrats’ constituencies and dispirited their own.
They embarrassed themselves by volunteering to be played for suckers, as well as looking callous toward victims of sexual assault. Brilliant.
The substance, the manner, and the circumstances of Ford’s accusation shouted that it is a hoax—that the Democrats had conjured a political bludgeon of last resort, and never intended for Ford to testify. But the Republicans, being pusillanimous, refused to acknowledge the reality of what they were getting into.
The accusation’s substance advertised its unseriousness. The total lack of specifics about the time and place of the alleged assault, of anything that might be an investigation’s staring place, was red flag enough. But the contradiction between the original report to a therapist about four men in the room—and nothing about Kavanaugh—and the subsequent account of two, Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, was as obvious to the Democrats making the charge as to the Republicans. When Judge denied any knowledge of the alleged party, followed by all others who Ford named as having knowledge of it, the Republicans had no reason to refrain from labeling the accusations the very definition of slander. No reason except cowardice.
The accusation’s manner was just as telling. Ford and her lawyers have been careful never to make the charge in a way that would subject them to prosecution for perjury. When Ford and lawyers refused to take part in the Judiciary Committee staff’s initial inquiry into the charge, instead making ever-changing demands about an eventual hearing’s procedure while also demanding postponements, Republicans had no reason to shy from demanding a statement under penalty of perjury. None except cowardice.
The circumstances of Ford’s accusation—formulated by a Democratic activist, held in pectore by the chief Democratic strategist on the nomination until all other ploys had failed to yield the desired result, and used to achieve delay along with mobilization of Democratic constituencies were as obvious to Republicans as to Democrats. There was no reason for Republicans to pretend otherwise—except cowardice.
But turning your back to the attack dogs only means you can’t defend yourself, and that they will bite you in the rear. The Republicans’ cowardice led them to this act of stupidity.
Incredibly, the Republicans hoped that Ford would take part in a hearing focused on facts. Fat chance! If Ford testified, even the mildest cross examination would underline not only that there is zero basis for believing the charges, but that the charges themselves are internally inconsistent and self-discrediting. Why would the Democrats allow that, putting her and her lawyers at risk of prosecution for perjury?
For Democrats, the only possible value added from a hearing would be yet another chance to paint the Republicans as vicious to women—which they’ve already done, in spades. The most dramatic way would be for Ford to react to cross examination by bursting into tears. That can be very effective—but only if carried out just right, which is very hard to do. Fake tears are totally discrediting. Why risk that? In front of Republican senators, maybe. But not in front of the country ahead of a midterm election.
By now, the accusations against Kavanaugh have achieved all that can be expected of them. No need for Democrats to risk their gains. They have not delayed the Senate floor vote past the November elections. They may or may not have moved one or two Republican senators, or solidified three Democratic ones. Surely, they have given Republican senators yet another chance to show their contemptible weakness. Certainly, they have further energized their own voters—but at the cost of projecting a scary image of themselves to the rest of the country. How many non-Leftist voters they have energized to do what remains to be seen on election day.
If the voters elect Republicans in November 2018, hoping to protect themselves against the new model Democratic Party, it will represent the triumph of hope over experience.