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Republicans self-inflicted wound from painful Kavanaugh hearing

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Brett Kavanaugh
Judge
Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee
during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Dirksen
Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in
Washington, DC.

Win McNamee/Getty
Images


  • President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett
    Kavanaugh’s Senate grilling and the
    emotional testimony
    of his sexual assault accuser, Palo
    Alto University Professor Christine Blasey Ford, created a
    firestorm of bad optics for the entire Republican party.
  • But despite hours emotionally jarring testimony on both
    sides and no conclusions reached, the Senate is set to vote on
    Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Friday morning.
  • By refusing to explore every avenue of investigation into
    the sexual assault claims against Kavanaugh, Republicans look
    as though they’re trying to push through a nominee credibly
    accused of sex crimes. 
  • If the Senate confirms Kavanaugh and a later investigation
    finds credible evidence of wrongdoing, it will create a second
    disaster MIDTERMS? for the Supreme court and the entire
    Republican party. 

President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett
Kavanaugh’s Senate grilling and the emotional
testimony
of his sexual assault accuser, Palo Alto University
Professor Christine Blasey Ford, created a firestorm of bad
optics for the entire Republican party.

After hours emotionally jarring testimony on both sides and
no conclusions reached, the Senate is set to vote on Kavanaugh’s
confirmation on Friday morning.

Ford’s testimony, widely received on both sides of the
aisle as credible and moving, put Republicans in every branch of
government in the difficult position of appearing to side with
the accused over a credible accuser.

In back-to-back testimonies, Ford and Kavanaugh couldn’t
have appeared any more different. Ford gave slow, steady,
consistent and at times scientific answers portraying a past
trauma she had lived with for decades. Kavanaugh’s voice boomed
through an angry opening statement where he mourned the near
overnight loss of his and his family’s social standing.

Both Kavanaugh and Ford had clearly both been wrenched by
pain in a hearing that reached no conclusions and only muddied
the waters.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham erupted at the
Judiciary Committee
, accusing the Democrats of carrying out
an “unethical scam” to spring allegations on Kavanaugh at the
last minute. Graham’s speech, while it may have rallied
conservatives, appeared to completely dismiss the serious nature
of Ford’s allegations and her unambiguously credible and
sympathetic testimony. 

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch agreed that Ford’s testimony
was credible, but drew flak for commenting that she was an
“attractive, good witness.”

Republicans avoided the compromising situation of directly
questioning Ford by hiring Rachel
Mitchell
, an experienced sex crimes prosecutor to
question both professor Christine Blasey Ford and Judge
Brett Kavanaugh, but even that may have backfired.

A Republican strategist close to the White House told Business Insider’s Allan
Smith
Mitchell’s questioning was an “unmitigated
disaster,” as “she didn’t even attempt to poke holes in the
many inconsistencies in Ford’s story.”

Even on Fox News, normally a friendly space for
Republicans, host Chris Wallace concurred that
Ford’s “extremely emotional, extremely raw, and extremely
credible” testimony had created a “disaster” for the GOP.

The Republican members of the Committee hired Mitchell to
improve the optics of the all-male majority panel questioning a
woman who testified to surviving a sexual assault from a man they
sought to place on the country’s highest court. 

Ford’s credible testimony, combine with Kavanaugh’s angry
rebuttals and sometimes flighty answers to
straightforward questions about the one pivotal witness to the
alleged crime, Mark Judge
, and on details of his drinking,
also looked bad for the conservative judge.

Kavanaugh swore up and down to have never lost memory while
drinking, but tacitly admitted throwing up due to alcohol on
several occasions with friends. Bafflingly, Kavanaugh made the
words “I like beer” a common refrain of his
testimony.

But Kavanaugh’s trial in the court of public opinion has
recalled Anita Hill’s testimony against Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas, bringing further scrutiny to Republicans in the
court.

Kavanaugh’s steadfast denials and spirited defense earned
the praise of President Donald Trump, who praised his

powerful, honest, and
riveting” testimony
just seconds after the hearing
adjourned. 

Trump had spent around half an hour at an 80-minute press
conference on Wednesday defending Kavanaugh and dredging up his
own history of sexual assault accusations in the process.

In the end, Trump joined Senate Republicans in urging a
vote on Friday, against a growing chorus of dissent that’s
expanded beyond the Democratic party and to the American Bar
Association
, which called for the Senate to suspend the
Kavanaugh vote while the FBI investigates the
allegations. 

For Republicans trying to confirm Kavanaugh before
exploring every possible investigative avenue, they risk
confirming a justice that may later be rocked by further evidence
of misconduct. 

Republicans could have withdrawn Kavanaugh’s nomination
after such a wealth of adamant accusers stepped forward. They
could have completed the FBI investigation before the hearing.
They could have elevated women in the party onto the Judiciary
Committee to avoid the bad optics of an all male
panel. 

Going into the 2018 midterm elections in November, that
look increasingly make-or-break for the party, Kavanaugh and
Trump have been plummeting in the polls, even
among the GOP
. Kavanaugh, now accused by four women, likely
won’t stop providing bad headlines for the party for weeks to
come. 

But whether or not Kavanaugh gets confirmed on Friday, the
Republicans have suffered a self-inflicted wound by their public
alignment with a powerful man accused of sexual misconduct and
their attempts to minimize the suffering of a woman who credibly
alleges traumatic abuse at Kavanaugh’s hands. 

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