There was one question that wasn’t asked by the professional prosecutor hired to give voice to Republican senators’ questions, but that kept quietly surfacing as Prof. Christine Blasey Ford, with composure and clarity and courage and precision, described what happened to her some 36 years ago:
Why in the world would anyone subject themselves to such a political inquisition unless they are absolutely certain of the veracity of their claim? Put another way, why would they risk their safety, damage their family, upend their life, unless they are, as Ford says she is, genuinely scarred by a past trauma and determined to tell the truth?
There’s no good answer to that question, not even after Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s angry, fiercely partisan, impassioned and believable-in-isolation denials.
The mere fact that Ford says she was assaulted does not itself settle the matter. Women’s allegations are never to be dismissed, but neither are they to be reflexively believed if and when they ring untrue or are strongly at odds with evidence. That the other young woman and men she says were present at that gathering in or around the summer of 1982 don’t recall it matters, though it should be noted it was an unremarkable night for most of them.
But a presentation as credible as Ford’s, with bursts of detail so real, paired with the plain fact that Kavanaugh often drank heavily in high school, greatly raises the likelihood that he did in fact do what Ford vividly recalls. Which greatly raises the likelihood that he has been lying, or repressing memories, in order to blow through the confirmation process.
Which is, no question, directly relevant not only to his character as a man but to his fitness as a judge.
Meantime, the Republicans who control the Senate Judiciary Committee shamed themselves by outsourcing the questioning to professional prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, the better to try to impeach Ford’s credibility without, you know, looking like mean old men.
The voice was hers, but the questions — including dozens designed not to get at the substance of Ford’s central claim, but the complex narrative of how and why she went public, imputing bad motives when there are none — were theirs, as was responsibility for a clunky, chopped-up process that barely allowed anyone to finish their train of thought.
Irony of ironies, if Republicans had yielded to Democratic demands to subpoena Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge, who was allegedly in the room at the time, and the others Ford says were present at the gathering, and if they’d sought an FBI inquiry to dig deeper into the background check that the bureau had already conducted, they would have had real facts to work with.
Democrats erred hugely by failing to bring Ford’s allegations to the FBI’s attention as soon as they heard them. But we are where we are. Kavanaugh and Ford each presented compelling, parallel narratives. It is impossible to get at the truth without questioning other witnesses under oath. Why on Earth won’t Republicans do that?