It’s becoming harder to view the hurry as anything other than an attempt to move the process along without hearing the allegations—especially since, the New Yorker story says, Senate Republicans were aware of Ramirez’s allegations before it reported on them.
Many Republicans believe the allegations against Kavanaugh are purely political and without merit. “For people to come out of the woodwork from 36 years ago and 30 years ago and never mentioned it, all of a sudden it happens—in my opinion, it’s totally political. It’s totally political,” Trump said. “There’s a chance that this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything.” (As I wrote Friday, Trump has used the same defense to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct against himself.)
Even so, the political risks of haste are becoming great. As my colleague Dick Polman and Jonathan Martin of the Times have both reported, Kavanaugh no longer seems like a political winner for Republicans. His support among voters has collapsed, and if the GOP appears to be dealing with Kavanaugh’s accusers peremptorily, it risks further undermining the party’s standing among white female voters, who have emerged as a crucial swing vote in the midterms. That’s not helped by comments from senators such as Lindsey Graham, who said Sunday that regardless of what Ford testifies, he has already made up his mind to support Kavanaugh’s nomination.
As the new allegations roll in, the Kavanaugh confirmation comes to eerily resemble Clarence Thomas’s nomination to the Court in 1991. In that case, there was one central accuser: Anita Hill. But once Hill had come forward, others did, too. The Senate Judiciary Committee, then as now, appeared reluctant to dig deeply into the allegations. Chairman Joe Biden decided that instead of allowing one woman to testify publicly, the committee would release a transcript of a phone interview with her. Mayer—the same reporter who broke the Ramirez story—and Jill Abramson wrote in a 1994 book that the committee pursued only a cursory investigation and declined to follow other leads.
The Kavanaugh confirmation process is getting even uglier.
There are other signs of haste causing problems for Republicans, too. Although Kavanaugh’s defenders have complained that these allegations are unfair because they emerged at the last minute, that’s in part because the process has been so fast. The White House has consistently failed to find weaknesses in candidates’ resumes, and a more deliberate vetting process might have allowed them to be prepared for allegations against Kavanaugh. (For example, a book by Kavanaugh’s high-school friend Mark Judge chronicles drunken exploits by “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” not the cleverest pseudonym.) The Judiciary Committee was also relying on press help from an aide named Garrett Ventry. But Ventry was a temporary employee, detailed from a conservative public-relations firm that helped push a bogus debunking of the Kavanaugh allegations. Moreover, he was made to resign after NBC News revealed that he had been forced out of an earlier job after a sexual-harassment allegation.
The hurry nearly worked, at least in part. The New Yorker reported that Ramirez was frightened by watching the pushback against Ford, but she decided to speak, because she hoped her story would buttress Ford’s.
Kavanaugh may still be confirmed, but the rush has created conditions that both endanger his nomination and undermine any political gain Republicans sought to make. The destruction left behind is a reminder that haste lays waste.