Editorial: High Court, High Drama



Not even the combined writing skills of Allen Drury and Tom Clancy could have come up with a more dramatic political scenario than last week’s hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The testimony first by professor Christine Blasey Ford and then by Judge Brett Kavanaugh riveted the nation. With clinical coolness, she accused him of an alleged sexual assault at a house party during the summer of 1982.With heated rancor, he vehemently denied everything she said.

Ford’s lengthy testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was credible and disturbing, apparently even to Kavanaugh’s defenders. Indeed, Kavanaugh himself said in his rebuttal that he believed that Ford may have experienced a sexual assault at some point but that he was not the perpetrator.

While Ford’s account was emotionally moving, all of the people she identified as having been at the party have said they do not recall the gathering, and without further investigation, her very serious allegations remain uncorroborated. 

Complaints from two other women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct were not considered by the Judiciary Committee.

Anger by some senators became increasingly intense despite efforts by committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an  Iowa Republican, to maintain order. Finally, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, also a member of the Republican majority, offered a last-minute way out of the impasse. He had earlier announced that he would send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate, but he added the condition that the FBI be given a week to investigate the Ford accusation plus other allegations.

If the Kavanaugh nomination had been rammed through  without the new probe, a cloud would have hung over him throughout his tenure on the high court. Now, the senators and the nation wait to find out what the FBI uncovers. A thorough, credible investigation will help restore trust in a process and an institution that have suffered serious damage.

Kavanaugh has already been through six previous FBI investigations, which found no disqualifying actions on his part. He serves on the D.C. federal appeals court, considered the second-highest court in the nation.

If Kavanaugh is cleared again, Flake and other undecided lawmakers from both parties might then join in the confirmation vote. If, on the other hand, any of the serious allegations can be corroborated, they could thwart the effort by President Donald Trump to name his second justice to the Supreme Court.

Ford’s testimony was both believable and poignant. She was emotional but remained calm. 

Kavanaugh’s blistering, partisan rant against the process, which he claimed destroyed his career and smeared his family, crossed the line into insults and disrespect that would be unbecoming if he took a seat on the nation’s highest court. 

Kavanaugh’s anger may be understandable in the aftermath of his exhausting confirmation process and in light of his exemplary record as an attorney and as a judge. But he hardly showed a judicious temperament last Thursday.

Whatever the final outcome, we hope the dramatic episode imparts some constructive lessons, especially the importance of a genuine search for truth as opposed to the zero-sum political warfare that stained this process. The reputations of the court, the Senate and Kavanaugh himself need to recover.