So I got up on Thursday morning to watch the much anticipated Kavanaugh hearings. And as the morning moved past noon, I began to think I was crazy. As we moved through lunch and into the afternoon, it began to feel like I was glutton for punishment. And by the time Karl called at 5:45 to say he was on his way home from the office and I was still watching, I realized I was on a mission from God.
I suppose if I had watched the thing straight through, it might have been easier. At least it would have been over quicker. But since this is the 21st Century, I took full advantage of the pause feature to take a break when one was needed. And I needed a lot of them.
In case you missed it, the morning session started with Senator Grassley proving, much to my surprise, that he is worse than Donald Trump at reading a prepared statement. On the other hand, Dr. Ford read hers, including her account of the alleged sexual assault, with such conviction that she herself almost disappeared in the telling of her story. In my mind’s eye, I could see the house she described, the narrow staircase leading to an upstairs bathroom, the bedroom into which she was pushed, and the bed on which the incident took place. It was a compelling recitation. If it was, in fact, a performance, Meryl Streep should be required to send Dr. Ford one of her three Oscars.
I was struck by how accommodating she was. And there were moments when she would turn to her lawyers, seemingly confused by how she should respond to a particular question. She came across more like a woman brought up in an earlier time—soft, unassuming, almost delicate. In reality, it surprised me that she actually is younger than the quietly assertive Amy Klobucher and the more frankly aggressive Kamala Harris, two of the senators who questioned her.
But in her answer to a question about her memory from Senator Feinstein, Dr. Ford referenced norepinephrine and epinephrine–don’t ask, I can’t tell—and then something about a neurotransmitter and the hippocampus—which I’m pretty sure has nothing to with hippos or campuses. What I am pretty sure of is Dr. Ford was probably the smartest person in the room, particularly as the hearing wore on.
In complete contrast to her opening statement, Judge Kavanaugh seemed to have decided a “shock and awe” campaign was his best strategy. His statement opened with what amounted to a shocking declaration of war against the Democratic senators on the committee, which segued into the “awe pitiful me” portion of the program, complete with tears and long intervals of regaining composure. While it was compelling in its way, the performance aspect left Daniel Day-Lewis safe in keep his three Oscars.
And when it came to taking questions from the Democratic senators, Judge Kavanaugh opted for the confrontational or the evasive. When Senator Durbin (who acquitted himself best of all the Democrats) pushed him hard on the question of reopening the FBI background investigation, Kavanaugh even settled down into what might best described as a pout. It was at this point that Senator Graham got the floor.
Oh, Lindsey. I see you, sweetie. Some say you acted like a total drama queen. Maybe. Or that you were auditioning to replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Could be. But I think you knew just how bad this thing was going for your side, and you asked yourself, “What would Scarlett do?”
And you did it. You threw a hissy fit—a borderline conniption—and changed the subject, accusing the Democrats of making the whole thing political when, in point of fact, it was you who made sure that the hearing left any trace of fact-finding behind. You know the only way this Kavanaugh nomination is going to make it through is a successful strategy on the one partisan battlefield. You know that a drift of just two Republican votes could blow this nomination up, so you attacked the Democrats while calling out any Republican who might be wavering. It wasn’t pretty, and it might prove to be effective, even if it means Omarosa may have started writing Unhinged 2 about you.
The whole thing left me just a little sick to my stomach. I spent much of the day thinking how those who have been sexually assaulted might be affected, particularly since we may never have facts that conclusively prove what happened. Is it even possible to get back to a place where acting on the truth And doing the right thing is more important than partisanship, politics, or power? Did we ever have that place to being with? Maybe winning is, and always has been, the goal. Maybe stirring up painful memories and feelings for the countless women and men traumatized by sexual assault in all its ugly forms is just collateral damage associated with this particular kind of domestic war. I hope not, but who can say for sure?
The obvious comparisons to Anita Hill and the Clarence Thomas hearings have been made. And just as it was in 1991, Murphy Brown is there to watch at the end of the day. Maybe everything old is new again.
God, what a depressing thought.