It was a sure-fire, rip-roaring, Washington, D.C. spectacle, complete with high-pitched emotion and deep-throated drama that spectators witnessed in the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) hearing today. Had the government been able to sell tickets to the performance, they would have made a killing. It was a spell-binder, alright, a double-feature with East Coast educated District Court Judge and Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh (the accused) and West Coast educator and psychologist Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (the accuser). At stake was the next checkerboard move to a SJC vote tomorrow for Kavanaugh.
The Republicans on the SJC were worried that the optics of 11 OWGs (Old White Guys) questioning Dr. Ford wouldn't play well...and they may have been right, but we will never know for sure. I suspect, however, that had Dr. Ford been interrogated by Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham and broken down in tears, it would have been game over for Kavanaugh. So, instead, they opted for a pinch-hitter prosecutor, Ms. Rachel Mitchell of Arizona, who has a track record of prosecuting sex crimes. SHE would stand in for the Republican Senators and ask her own questions.
Ms. Mitchell is also Deputy County Attorney in Maricopa County, and by all accounts an experienced, amiable and compassionate woman. She proved that today by lobbing slow pitch questions to Dr. Ford. It was almost like a rerun of 'Mister Rogers' with nothing to engender even the slightest frown or elicit the smallest tear from Ford. Ms. Mitchell's questioning was efficient and non-confrontational and very respectful. She made it clear by her words and body language that she had empathy with Dr. Ford. In other words, she felt her pain and her fear at sitting before 21 Senators and network TV cameras. That's the good news.
The bad news was that Dr. Ford didn't give up much new information. She did, however, prove to the rest of us that something bad did indeed happen to her 36 years ago. What she didn't prove was that the man that was supposed to have jumped on her on a bed in a suburban Maryland house, was Judge Kavanaugh. A few enlightening pieces of information did emerge, however. For example, we found out that she really wasn't told of the offer to hold the hearing in a private setting in California by her attorneys AND that Debra Katz (her lead attorney) was recommended by the Ranking Member's staff. Ford's short-term memory was tested and came up wanting, and her 'fear of flying' was debunked by reports of several trips to the East Coast and Hawaii by Ms. Mitchell who managed to throw a few strikes here and there.
Dr. Ford's account of 'that event' was riveting. Her little girl voice quavered and her eyes filled with tears as she recounted being accosted on that fateful day (When? Don't recall.) at the suburban Maryland house (Where? Don't know.) and then went home (How? Don't know.). The three friends Dr. Ford mentioned that could corroborate her story, didn't, leaving a gaping hole in her testimony. All the Democrat Senators on the SJC commended her for her bravery in coming forward to tell her story and treated her like a celestial being, throughout. Her testimony over, the proceedings were adjourned for lunch and the table was reset for the Honorable Judge K. to appear. After being sworn in, Judge K. sat down and promptly started swigging water and nursing a sniffle. Immediately behind him was his wife and two rows behind her were Dr. Ford's attorneys.
He started reading his prepared remarks. This was a different Judge K. than we have seen in previous hearings. It soon became clear that he was channeling the energy of Clarence Thomas, and his tone started out tough, recalling the pain his family had been put through by a Democrat-inspired strategy to delay his confirmation process these last ten days. The tone later turned to tender as he recounted his youngest daughter suggesting that evening prayers should include one for Dr. Ford. It was compelling and emotionally-charged and equaled his accuser's. Then Ms. Mitchell began to question him, taking turns with the Democrat Senators who had the long knives drawn and ready. This went on for hours, interrupted by frequent breaks. The tension was building, steadily, as Democrat after Democrat repeated their mantra of "bring in the FBI." Questions about his drinking dominated as if they wanted to paint him as a closet alcoholic.
Then, Senator Whitehouse began picking apart his high school yearbook asking about everything except questions that related to Dr. Ford's accusations. This was too much. The Chairman suspended questioning by Ms. Mitchell and the Republican 'dogs of war' were released. Their muzzles were removed and Senator Lindsey Graham asked for the floor. He got it and used it to berate and lambast the Democrats for concocting a plan that effectively destroyed the family of the accuser and the accused. Pure politics. Graham's impassioned harangue was the equivalent of the 'shot heard round the world' and served to put the Democrats on notice that what goes around comes around and that they have forever demeaned the process by which we confirm nominees.
Senators then took their respective turns, alternating between Republicans and Democrats until all but the last Senator, Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana, had had their turns at the microphone. Kennedy asked if Judge K. believed in God to which he responded, "yes." A few more pointed questions about his character and the hearing was history.
Imagine the most gut-wrenching film you've ever seen. That's what it was like today - as if all of mankind was walking the wrong way down a one-way street and we were all waiting for the inevitable to happen.
Stephan Helgesen is a retired career U.S. diplomat and now political analyst and author. He has written nine books and over 900 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org