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Senate should slow down and get facts on Kavanaugh

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee for

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, appears at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 5. Credit: The Washington Post / Melina Mara

The refusal to listen to women exploded into America’s consciousness a year ago with revelations about the predatory behavior of movie producer Harvey Weinstein. The #MeToo movement has grown in strength since, culminating in the sentencing Tuesday of comedian Bill Cosby to 3 to 10 years in prison on charges he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman he was mentoring.

Those women got a chance to tell their stories, and the country was better for it. Now the United States Senate must make the same choice.

Republicans have been rushing headlong to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court. The process, unseemly and increasingly untenable as accusations of sexual misconduct mount against Kavanaugh, has been governed by artificial deadlines keyed to the electoral calendar.

What’s the rush? Allow investigations. Collect facts. Talk to relevant witnesses.

GOP leaders wanted Kavanaugh confirmed by the time the court’s term begins Oct. 1. They have scheduled a Judiciary Committee vote for Friday, but that should not take place. They are afraid of losing their base in the unpredictable midterm elections in November. But Republicans know the court can function with eight justices; they kept a seat vacant for nearly 13 months after President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland.

The need to proceed more slowly was clear from the moment word emerged that Kavanaugh had been accused of sexual misconduct by college professor Christine Blasey Ford in an incident when both were teens. Now a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when both were students at Yale University. Attorney Michael Avenatti says he has a client who will come forward soon with more accusations of high school sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh denies everything, but with Ford slated to testify Thursday, key GOP swing vote Sen. Lisa Murkowski nailed the issue, saying his confirmation is no longer about his qualifications but whether “a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.” She also said an FBI check would clear up all questions.

But some Republican senators, like Orrin Hatch and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, already have decided that the women are not believable and should not sidetrack Kavanaugh’s confirmation and that the FBI should not investigate. You can’t pretend to have an open mind when in the next breath, you call the allegations “a smear campaign.” President Donald Trump’s comments that Ramirez was “drunk” and “messed up” and that Democrats are running a “con game” also were not helpful to either the women or Kavanaugh.

The whole thing looks sadly familiar. In 1991, senators dismissed Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas and refused to call three women witnesses prepared to back her up. His tenure on the high court has been diminished ever since.

The women of America want to be heard, and they want to know their claims of sexual misconduct will be taken seriously. The Senate can reassure them by listening to the women who dare to cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s pristine image.