In 1991, Anita Hill was the star witness in the hearings to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. She delivered cogent, clear testimony, under oath, regarding what she considered sexual harassment. She was largely ignored and ridiculed, and Thomas sped to the bench. Now, today, in the new era of “MeToo,” an anonymous letter, later confirmed, was all it took to at least delay the confirmation of Donald Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
Democrats were looking for any way to derail the process, but with our current one-party control of all three branches of government, it looked like a fool’s errand. Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley was throwing aside every stalling tactic, and as noted above, the GOP controls the committee, and the full Senate, so no one seriously doubted quick confirmation. In addition, Kavanaugh had been vigorously trained to say little to nothing at any of the interviews and hearings.
Now, Politico reports that the nomination is “in limbo.”
The decades-old sexual misconduct charge detonated at the most critical juncture of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle — sending Republicans into damage control mode and leaving Democrats unsure how or whether to capitalize.
With the exception of one Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, lawmakers in both parties claimed to be blindsided by an anonymous allegation that Kavanaugh forced himself on a woman in a locked room at a high school party decades ago. Republicans scrambled to round up character witnesses, while Democrats largely remained mum, waiting to see what would drop next and whether they have an actual shot at derailing the nomination.
Feinstein is in a bit of hot water over the issue. She had “sat on” the letter, instead of bringing it up earlier, with her primary opponent up in arms.
But the senator’s handling of the matter has stoked already-fierce partisan tensions over the confirmation. Her liberal challenger for reelection, state Sen. Kevin de Leon, torched her for holding off on sending the woman’s allegation to authorities for “nearly three months.”
Up to now, it was assumed that even Democrats in Red States would be pressured to vote for Kavanaugh, but that has changed.
Undecided red-state Democrats were similarly tight-lipped following the report on the letter’s content. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Doug Jones of Alabama and Jon Tester of Montana had no immediate comment.
Meanwhile, Fox News notes that Sen. Lindsay Graham wants to hear from the former fellow student.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican on the committee, said late Sunday he’d “gladly listen” to Ford so that he could compare her accusations “against all the other information” the panel has on Kavanaugh. But, he said, if Ford does testify, “it should be done immediately” so as not to delay the confirmation vote.
The White House apparently worried about something in Kavanaugh’s background, and made an effort to portray him as a champion of women’s causes.
In his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Supreme Court nominee praised his mother as a trailblazing prosecutor. He said he’s grateful for Title IX, the law intended to give women and girls equal access to sports programs that receive federal funds. And he drew attention to the fact that a majority of his law clerks have been women.
Meanwhile, a liberal female attorney spoke up for Kavanaugh—before the Christine Ford letter was unveiled. But that “defense” amounted to her being flattered that he had sent her a nice email about an article she had written.
Christine Blasey Ford, a Palo Alto University professor, has alleged that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her down and sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers in the 1980s. . .The full Ford letter is available here, but here are a few highlights.
“Brett Kavanaugh physically and sexually assaulted me during high school in the early 1980’s. He conducted these acts with the assistance of REDACTED. . .
“Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stair well from the living room. They locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help.
“Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with REDACTED, who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh’s hand over my mouth I feared he may inadvertently kill me. . .
“From across the room a very drunken REDACTED said mixed words to Kavanaugh ranging from “go for it” to “stop.” At one point. . .the two scrapped with each other. . .I was able to. . .run across to a hallway bathroom.”
The Weekly Standard reported that the letter named Mark Judge, an author and filmmaker, as Kavanaugh’s classmate in the room. Judge, of course, denies Ford’s account.
The Young Womens’ Christian Association (YWCA) says it “strongly opposes” Kavanaugh’s nomination.
To come to Kavanaugh’s defense, the Administration quickly sought out girls who might have known Kavanaugh—although he had gone to an all-boys’ school. At least one of the former female students objected to the portrayal of the girls, and in the light of abuse at Catholic schools, her comments reverberate.
I Am Horrified That Brett Kavanaugh Used Girls From My School as a Prop. . . Thirty years ago this week I began as a student at Blessed Sacrament.
I played on the same CYO basketball teams that Kavanaugh now coaches. . .“Coach K” may be an effective coach. But to parade these young girls as a signal that he cares about women is not only disingenuous, it’s dangerous.
A fellow Republican Senator, and member of the Judiciary Committee, disagrees with a rush in the matter.
GOP Senate Judiciary Committee member Jeff Flake said he is uncomfortable voting to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination later this week after the nominee’s sexual assault accuser went public. . .
Flake (R-Ariz.) said he needs to hear more about the allegations raised publicly by Christine Blasey Ford on Sunday in a Washington Post article, and said other Republicans share his view. Flake is one of 11 Republicans on the narrowly divided panel and without his support, the committee cannot advance his nomination.
Likewise, Sen. Bob Corker has called for a postponement until Ford can be heard, according to The Hill.
“I think that would be best for all involved, including the nominee,” Corker said of postponing the vote.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has received 3,000 coat hangers in the mail. Women dressed as handmaids in red robes and bonnets have shown up at her home in Maine to protest. Activists have raised over $1 million for her 2020 challenger should she vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.
Meanwhile, Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has also been getting pressure not to vote against Kavanaugh.
Murkowski. . .is now facing additional pressure from Alaska natives. . .Tribal communities were crucial to Murkowski’s re-election as an independent in 2010, after she lost the GOP primary to a tea party challenger.
Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer says that the FBI should be brought in to investigate the matter, and the Senate should drop the nomination until the FBI reports its findings.
New Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who recently defeated Judge Roy Moore (Moore, like Kavanaugh, had been accused of less egregious sexual harassment from decades ago) in a special election, has been under pressure to vote for Kavanaugh, but now says the Senate should “hit the pause button.”
Rollcall says there are three possible outcomes.
• Kavanaugh drops out/White House pulls nomination. . .A father of two young girls, Kavanaugh might decide to spare his family what inevitably will be a few weeks of scrutiny and discussion about Ford’s charges.
• Grassley slows process. . .The accuser coming forward publicly could put new pressure on Senate Republicans to at least review the accusations
• GOP sticks to plan. . . there are ample reasons to think they will carry on with their plans.
Of course, Republicans may be wary of rushing the judgment, considering the hard feelings that still remain about the shabby treatment (by modern standards) of Anita Hill in 1991. They may want to at least appear to be respectful of the witness.
Anita Hill, herself, according to The Hill says Ford should be heard, since it is so very difficult to come forward with a personal account.
Anita Hill on Friday spoke out about allegations against nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, saying that decades after she first accused a Supreme Court justice nominee of sexual harassment, it is still “incredibly difficult” for accusers to come forward.
The liberal Vox says there are parallels between the Anita Hill situation and the current case. For instance, Diane Feinstein “sat on” the Ford letter, and it didn’t come to light until a publication called The Intercept uncovered it. That was compared to former Senator Joe Biden’s actions.
Biden had heard about the allegations but did not delay the Judiciary Committee’s vote on Thomas. It was only after the vote, Terkel writes, that Hill was identified in the press, and, under pressure from women in Congress, Biden reopened hearings to allow Hill to testify. . .
Last year, former Rep. Pat Schroeder (D-CO) recalled . . .“He literally kind of pointed his finger and said, you don’t understand how important one’s word was in the Senate, that he had given his word to [Sen. John Danforth (R-MO), Thomas’s chief sponsor] in the men’s gym that this would be a very quick hearing.”
As Roll Call notes above, there are three possible paths from here: Kavanaugh withdraws, the GOP railroads the nomination, or there is some kind of delay to review the allegations.
So far, Feinstein has been “bloodied” in her primary battle (and maybe Joe Biden, too, if he runs for president in 2020), Red State Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief, and Toss-Up Republican Senators are on the hot seat. The next step will be to hear from Christine Blasey Ford — a professor of clinical psychology — and see if she will be taken more seriously than Hill, who was then just a bureaucrat and Clarence Thomas’ assistant. It should also be noted that Ford first made the allegations in 2012, and has recently taken a polygraph test to verify her story. There’s never a dull moment in Trumpworld.