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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

If roles were reversed, Kavanaugh issue would be just as partisan

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 6. Photo Credit: Getty Images / The Washington Post / Melina Mara

One way to keep a balanced view of Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination is by imagining the partisan roles reversed.

Suppose a Democratic president's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court faced the same accusations from the same source with the same timing that Republican Kavanaugh now confronts.

Democrats in Congress undoubtedly would express suspicion about a sex-abuse claim surfacing 36 years after the fact after judiciary committee confirmation hearings had already wrapped up.

For their part, Republicans would be shouting for a Senate-wide confirmation vote to be delayed indefinitely until after the deepest vetting of what they'd consider, at the outset, to be serious and credible allegations.

Given the fierce polarization of Washington, D.C., there would be extra pressure on the Democrats to push their nominee through before the midterm elections — while the GOP tried its best to resist an appointment that further tilts the court the other guys' way.

Of course, it would make a difference to the fate of the nomination if the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford echoed other people, that is, if her charges resonated with anything else we've heard about Kavanaugh.

With roles reversed, you can be sure the volume of sanctimonious crossfire would be set just as high. 

This is a different moment in history from 1991 when Clarence Thomas was confirmed for the high court despite testimony about sexual harassment by antagonist Anita Hill. It is also a different moment from when the behavior of President Bill Clinton was exposed and sworn public recollections of it failed to derail his incumbency.

The #MeToo movement and the presence of women on the committee sets a tone with the potential to affect how both political parties tread on this.

Within that frame the Christian Science Monitor quotes Cleta Mitchell, a Washington-based GOP election attorney and Kavanaugh supporter saying: “There’s a difference between making a mistake and having it be your character.”

Even if Ford's claims are true, Mitchell told the newspaper she does not believe this disqualifies him "because I don't think that's the kind of life he's led."

Democrats, of course, stake out a different stance.

“A lot more people believe the right thing is to believe a woman’s charges, especially when a woman is willing to go public,” Jim Manley, former spokesman for retired Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada), told the CSM.

Of course, if accusations begin to go beyond a single high-school incident long ago, Kavanaugh's chances could collapse. And the bias of the partisan rhetoric would intensify.

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