While millions of TV viewers were doubtless moved by Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate testimony on Thursday, it was Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s angry, loud, aggressive defense of himself that will probably prove more effective in this Supreme Court he said-she said. All the broadcast networks and the cable news networks televised the hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the judge’s nomination. Professor Ford went first and impressed anyone watching with the precision and vulnerability of her testimony. Under questioning by lawyer Rachel Mitchell, Ford said, “I believed he was going to rape me,” in reference to Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
Kavanaugh got to say his piece second, and boy, did he seize the opportunity to defend himself. Alternately yelling in rage and sobbing in barely-held-back tears, Kavanaugh launched a 45 minutes-plus opening statement that seemed to be a direct response to all the rumors that President Trump didn’t like Kavanaugh’s nice-guy interview with Martha MacCallum on Fox News earlier in the week.
Kavanaugh went full-Trump, stonewalling, denying, appealing for pity, implicitly asserting that he was the victim here, not Ford. On Fox News, the analysis of who was winning this bout went from Chris Wallace saying “This is a disaster for the Republicans” (after Ford’s testimony) to Brit Hume saying “The scales have been rebalanced” (after Kavanaugh’s opening statement).
Add Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham’s spittle-inflected meltdown over the injustices he said were inflicted upon Kavanaugh by Ford’s and the Democrats’ accusations, and you could see what’s probably going to happen here. On Thursday, Kavanaugh entered the right-wing pantheon of a rootin’-tootin’, straight-shootin’ fighter/martyr/hero. He will be lauded day after day, night after night, by Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and all the rest on Fox News, and that coverage will have its usual effect on the president and Senate Republicans, who’ll be emboldened to dismiss Ford’s testimony and install Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court.
As I watched one meek Democrat after another mewl out questions to Kavanaugh and whine about the lack of an FBI investigation into the allegations made against the judge, I was reminded how valuable Al Franken had been in hearings like these. Franken, who left politics due to admissions of sexual impropriety, was excellent at the sort of plainspoken combativeness that Kavanaugh displayed on this day. In this atmosphere, aggressiveness needed to be met with aggressiveness, but instead, the Democrats more or less folded. All that’s left is a vote to be taken and Kavanaugh to be sworn in.
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