As Republican senators began to reaffirm late Thursday their support for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, they took great pains not to smear Christine Blasey Ford, as they had for more than a week. Earlier Thursday, Ford had appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and recounted how she had been sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in the 1980s. She was credible. She was powerful. Republicans knew it.
So this time, they didn’t call her a liar. Instead they did something that might be worse. They patted her on the head and said they liked her. They called her genuine, but called her traumatized and mixed up. They said she was being manipulated by Democrats.
It was a rationalization straight out of the 1960s — a window into how at least some Republicans still see women.
“I found no reason to find her not credible.” Sen. John Cornyn said, before quickly adding: “There are obviously gaps in her story. Obviously, people who are traumatized have those sort of gaps.”
“I don’t doubt that something happened to her,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters, before suggesting that Ford go “talk to someone” about her issues.
“I have no reason to think that Dr. Blasey Ford offered the committee anything less than her sincere best recollections,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But, he said: “No evidence corroborates Dr. Ford’s allegation.”
But there were and remain opportunities for the Senate to corroborate Ford’s testimony — and Kavanaugh’s, for that matter. Republicans could have called Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, the only other person in the room during the incident Ford describes, to see if his initial denials held up under questioning and under oath. They could have called other witnesses to paint a more complete picture of Kavanaugh and the time in question.
On Friday, they finally took one step at the insistence of Republican swing vote Jeff Flake and delayed a full Senate vote on the nomination until the FBI pursues a more thorough review of Ford’s allegation and others regarding Kavanaugh.
Still, when faced with conflicting stories between a woman they called “genuine” and a man who had been less than truthful with them, they’ve shrugged and gone with the man. Ford’s credibility, her words, were irrelevant.
The reason, of course, is that the truth — or something closer to it — has never been the goal of Republicans with this nomination. They want Kavanaugh on the court now, because if he doesn’t get confirmed, the next nominee could face a Senate that no longer has a Republican majority. Their decision to close their eyes and ears to troubling allegations is a political one, and it had to be explained Thursday in the most politically palatable way possible.
That this is where they landed — calling Ford credible but confused — is both nonsensical and patronizing. We’re taking you women seriously, they said, except that we don’t believe you’re capable of knowing what happened to you. How insulting.