John Zaring | The Rational Center: Subpoenas on the Horizon for the GOPJohn Zaring September 24, 2018 2 Comments
For decades polls have demonstrated a consistent, overwhelming plurality of Americans favor a woman’s right to choose and access to safe, legal abortion. This is a major reason why Democratic senators have lined up against President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, federal district judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Elections have consequences. One of them is that presidents get to make lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court.
Judge Kavanaugh’s history as a partisan Republican operative is well documented. He served as staff secretary to President George W. Bush, penning that administration’s controversial policy on enhanced interrogation. Before that, he played an integral role in special prosecutor Ken Starr’s impeachment proceedings against then-President Bill Clinton.
Since joining the D.C. Circuit twelve years ago, Kavanaugh has forged a reliably conservative record. While his view on abortion places him well outside of the mainstream, it did catch the attention of the Heritage Foundation and President Trump.
Elections matter indeed, and so with Republicans holding a slim majority in the Senate, it appeared Democrats were powerless to stop Kavanaugh’s inevitable confirmation.
It appeared so until ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–California) revealed an accusation of attempted rape against Judge Kavanaugh by a Palo Alto University research scientist named Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. As details of the allegation unfurled, we learned that a drunken Kavanaugh attempted to rape Ford at a party while they were both in high school – she was 15 and he was 17 – and there was a witness in the room.
Trump managed to defend his nominee for several days without impugning the professor’s character. That changed at a campaign rally in Las Vegas on Thursday when, in a FOX News interview with Sean Hannity, Trump began to cast doubt on Ford’s credibility. The next morning, Trump directly attacked the professor on Twitter.
Trump’s ill-timed tweet storm led Sen. Collins of Maine to call his comments “appalling.” Whether she or her fellow Republicans will actually buck Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Kentucky) and vote against confirmation is unlikely. So far, McConnell appears un-phased. On Friday afternoon, he assured a gathering of evangelicals that the Senate will confirm Kavanaugh to this nation’s highest and final court.
Not so fast, Mitch.
Dr. Ford surprised many pundits on Saturday by accepting Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s invitation to appear before the Judiciary Committee. The optics of Grassley’s all-male panel of Republicans questioning Dr. Ford this coming Thursday is likely to be as uncomfortable now as it was back in 1991, when many of these same out-of-touch men grilled Anita Hill at the confirmation hearing of Justice Clarence Thomas.
Remember, this isn’t a criminal proceeding. This is about Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. It should not look like a trial, and neither Judge Kavanaugh nor Dr. Ford should be put on trial. Instead, the committee should focus on Kavanaugh’s credibility, his fitness to serve on the court.
All of us need to believe women when they step forward with credible claims, and I hope after the fall of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and many others, the committee will be more careful and understanding when dealing with a survivor of sexual assault. However, I am very concerned that these Republicans have not gotten the memo.
So far, they’ve bullied and intimidated Dr. Ford with an obvious design to silence her. That’s directly in conflict with the entire #MeToo movement, and I suspect many millions of American women are not only watching, but also taking notes.
If Grassley was truly serious about getting to the bottom of this, he’d subpoena Mark Judge, the witness, and question him under the penalty of perjury. If not, then they’re not interested in getting to the truth.
As I write this column on Sunday evening, a second claim of sexually inappropriate behavior has emerged in The New Yorker magazine. This accusation – broken by journalist Ronan Farrow, who earned a Pulitzer for exposing Harvey Weinstein’s disgusting behavior – alleges Kavanaugh whipped out his penis before a female student at Yale during their freshman year.
There was a time when a nominee facing such withering scrutiny would put the country before their own ambition and withdraw. For now, it appears that the White House intends to push forward as it released a statement backing Trump’s nominee.
Any way you slice it, the FBI should reopen its background check because Kavanaugh has some serious explaining to do. Given the stunningly tone-deaf behavior of some Republican senators and President Trump, the judge will have some company. These men are unlikely to emerge unscathed from this mess. With the midterm just weeks away and Republicans already in trouble, the timing couldn’t be worse for the GOP.
Unfortunately, none of this is shocking anymore.
However, more women than ever are expected to vote this November. Among them are expected to be a fair percentage of outraged college-educated Republican and Independent white women, many of whom, polling shows, will be voting for Democrats for the first time in their lives.
While Trump might win the Kavanaugh battle, the yin to this yang could come just a few weeks later, with Democrats winning control of not only the House but now quite possibly the Senate. If Democrats take control of the various committees charged with oversight of the executive branch, President Trump and his allies should expect constant subpoenas if not impeachment.
Buckle up, cupcake. Elections absolutely have consequences.
John Zaring has lived with his family in the Santa Clarita Valley since 2000. He describes his politics as center-left, as in “the rational center,” and while initially a college Republican, has been a Democrat since 1992. The LA County Democratic Party named him the 37th Assembly District Democrat of the Year in 2010.