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Drama paves a deeply polarized yes-or-no on Trump SCOTUS pick

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh speaks during emotional

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh speaks during emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Photo Credit: AP / Win McNamee

She swore, he swore

It was the most dramatic of all Capitol theater, polarizing in its content. Judge Brett Kavanaugh became tearful, voluble and indignant as he denied every point in accuser Christine Blasey Ford's own emotional, hourslong testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he tried to assault her sexually in 1982 when they were in high school.

They were both under oath — the clinical psychologist followed by President Donald Trump's latest U.S. Supreme Court nominee. 

Newsday's David M. Schwartz reported that Kavanaugh choked up and halted repeatedly during his opening statement — first as he recounted his 10-year-old daughter suggesting the family should pray for Ford; later in recalling how he kept a calendar, just as his father did; still later when he hailed the support of old friends, male and especially female, and colleagues vouching for his character.

When the nine-hour marathon had ended, the committee's confirmation vote was still slated for the fast track on Friday. Trump urged approval of his Supreme Court nominee after his son Donald Trump Jr. mocked part of Ford's testimony. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), who'd been undecided, is ready to vote "yes."

Who's a victim?

Kavanaugh also tore into Democrats, news media, the people who said he was involved in seriously predatory behavior in his youth, and others whom he repeatedly accused of blithely trying to "destroy" his family and life. "You have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy," he said, calling the result a "circus."

And he thanked Trump, whose camp advised Kavanaugh, according to The Wall Street Journal, to show more emotion than he did during his recent Fox News interview. The judge assailed  a "political hit" from the left, cited the aftereffects of the 2016 election and said due to the character assassination he allegedly endured he may never be able to teach or coach again.

'Absolutely not' a mistake 

As reported by Newsday's Tom Brune, the main take-away from Ford was that despite expected memory lapses surrounding a few details before and after the alleged 1982 incident, she was sure Kavanaugh was her assailant.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said: "You are very clear about the attack, being pushed into the room. You say you don’t know quite by whom, but that it was Brett Kavanaugh that covered your mouth to prevent you from screaming. And then you escaped. How are you so sure that it was he?”

“The same way I’m sure I’m talking to you right now. Basic memory functions,” Ford said.

So it was not a case of mistaken identity, she was asked.

"Absolutely not," she replied.

Loyal opposition

To a person, committee Democrats, including Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, used their turns to vouch as they could for Ford's credibility during her testimony, commending her courage and dismissing small contradictions. They openly sympathized with her having endured trauma in finally coming forward.

At the hearing, as they had previously, they blasted the administration's refusal to bring in the FBI to perform fact-finding as well as the GOP majority's refusal to also get public testimony from Kavanaugh's friend Mark Judge, whom Ford, in her account, placed right at the scene. 

Ford said a further probe, which she supports, could help her recall exactly when she saw Judge after the alleged assault working at a Safeway in the region. But as noted here, Judge wrote a book in 1997 called "Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk" that seems to give a hint of when he was working there.

One Judge went missing

Mark Judge's name also came up when Leahy cited the book in reference to "Bart O'Kavanaugh," a pseudonym for a friend who threw up and passed out in a car, asking if this was intended to be the Kavanaugh himself.

Kavanaugh declined to give a "yes" or "no" answer and said that would be for Judge to answer. Leahy said he agreed with that much. 

Judge was located Wednesday at a beach house in Delaware.

The chip-away operation 

The Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who was brought in to ask all questions of Ford on behalf of the committee's GOP majority, quizzed Ford on her assertions in a bland, alert and professional way.

Mitchell focused on details of the get-together, where it occurred, what Ford heard when, how she got there and how she left (not remembered), who attended, how she got a lawyer and polygrapher, what her therapy notes said, what was later provided to reporters and how. 

Mitchell noted Ford expressed reluctance to fly to Washington when she'd done so for vacations. The matter of who and how many attended the 1982 event in question is crucial to the Kavanaugh camp's denial.  Mitchell suggested a proper forensic exam would have been a better way to get at the truth.

Without attacking Ford, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck  Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced statements from what he deemed to be three witnesses submitted to the committee, while Democrats complained they wouldn't be called to the panel and questioned.

Intermission and after

Between Ford's testimony and Kavanaugh's response, senators charged with the decision spoke of whether they were swayed by what they'd just seen.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): "It’s too early to make those kinds of determinations, but she’s a good witness. Articulate. She’s an attractive person. But I think it’s a little early to make those kinds of determinations.”

“What happened to her I don’t know. Why don’t you believe him?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) scolded reporters. He followed up before the committee and called the delayed release of information about Kavanaugh "despicable," passionately defending the nominee's character.

 "If you really wanted the truth, you sure as hell wouldn't have done what you did to this man," the genteel Graham, playing the firebrand, chided the Democrats.

What else is happening: 

  • Trump postponed his meeting with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who denies ever invoking the 25th amendment against him.
  • Canada continues to press ahead looking for a NAFTA agreement despite Trump's hostile words against it.
  • Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who headed Trump's aborted voter-fraud panel, will host the president as part of his campaign for governor.

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