Alan Zendell, September 27, 2018
I really don’t want to but I feel compelled. I watched every minute of the Anita Hill hearing twenty-seven years ago. For most of it, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing, and although I was forty-eight years old and a veteran of government politics at the time, I must have been hopelessly naïve back then. When the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to ignore Ms Hill and vote to send Clarence Thomas’ nomination on to the full Senate I was stunned.
It was 1991, Anita Hill was a black woman, and the committee was entirely populated by white men. Arlen Specter (R, Pennsylvania) grilled Ms Hill as though she were on trial for treason. It was painful to watch, and no one, not even committee chairman Joe Biden (D, Delaware) stood up for her. The current members of the committee all remember that shameful performance and the way Senator Specter came away from it figuratively tarred and feathered by most of the people who watched it. That’s why the Republican majority hired a female prosecutor to handle the questioning during tomorrow’s hearing in which Brett Kavanaugh will be confronted by the first of his accusers, Professor Christine Ford.
I have no doubt that Thursday’s hearing will be excruciating to watch, but I will force myself to stay the course. In fact it may not be so bad – at least I won’t have listen to the smug, self-righteous Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) and the equally smug but impeccably polite Chuck Grassley’s (R, Iowa) air time will be minimal.
The hearing will not be a court proceeding, and there won’t be a presiding judge. In a court trial, the prosecution and/or the judge can limit what is placed in evidence. I wonder what they’ll do when Professor Ford refers to people who witnessed the events she has described, especially Judge Kavanaugh’s best bud Mark Judge, whose ex-girlfriend has said she’s willing to talk to the FBI. Will they let Ford name him as a witness? And if they do, how will they justify not inviting him to testify under oath as to what he saw?
They’ll fight like Hell to keep anyone else from speaking because that might break the inevitable he-said she-said deadlock. No matter how fiercely Mr. Judge denies Ford’s allegations through his attorney when addressing the media, the Senators know what would likely happen if he were asked the same questions on live television. With the entire world watching it’s a rare individual indeed who can look into the cameras and not be truthful, not to mention that lying would leave him vulnerable to perjury charges. Even the insufferably arrogant Michael Cohen couldn’t stand that kind of heat. Remember when he said he’d take a bullet for the president?
I won’t attempt to predict the outcome – we all know what the possibilities are. But one thing I will predict is that if Ford is as credible a witness as Hill was in 1991, and the Committee brushes her aside as it did Hill, there will be severe consequences this time. You know what they say about the wrath of a woman scorned; this time it will be millions of women who feel abused.
They might or might not wind up confirming Kavanaugh, but either way, they’ll pay in November. I have no doubt that treating Professor Ford the way their predecessors treated Ms Hill would be the final straw for women voters. There’s no Hillary Clinton to smear this year, no one to balance against a hateful, immoral president who needs to be neutralized by a Congress willing to meet its constitutional responsibility to keep him in check.
The saddest aspect of all this is that what we saw at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday when the world laughed in the face of our president will turn out to have been only the beginning of our national shame. Remember when most of our allies seemed to buy into the perception that we were the good guys? Trump has made short shrift of whatever remained of that myth.
I hope the Judiciary Committee remembers that it won’t only be American voters who are watching on Thursday. The whole world will bear witness. Vladimir Putin will be watching. So will Kim Jung Un. The possibilities are literally mind-blowing. I’d better get some sleep.