The Senate Should Take Its Time on Kavanaugh

(The Bloomberg View) -- Brett Kavanaugh’s prompt appointment to the Supreme Court is no longer the formality it seemed just days ago. Christine Blasey Ford, a research psychologist in California, has said she’s willing to testify in public that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers in the early 1980s.

Kavanaugh flatly denies the allegation. But now that the accusation is neither anonymous nor unsupported by documentary evidence (therapy notes from 2012 and 2013 reportedly show that Ford’s claim of assault isn’t new), it must not be dismissed.

According to a senior Republican senator, the Senate Judiciary Committee will call Kavanaugh and his accuser to testify next Monday. Good. The vote on the nomination, originally scheduled for later this week, should be delayed as long as necessary for the full Senate and the public at large to judge where the truth resides.

If, at the end of a fair and open process, the allegation appears credible, the nomination should be withdrawn.

Given that the alleged assault happened so long ago, some will say that this is unfair to Kavanaugh. The crime, if it happened, could not be prosecuted today; he was a minor at the time; and it’s unlikely that the criminal test of “beyond a reasonable doubt” could be met. But all this misses the point. There’s no shortage of excellent candidates for seats on the nation’s highest court. If, after a fair hearing, Kavanaugh’s fitness looks questionable, it would be better to appoint somebody else.

Most Republicans would wish to speed the process along — partly because, after November, their Senate majority isn’t guaranteed. They may rightfully complain that the accusation should have been made and examined earlier. Nonetheless, it’s in their interests now to pause. Rushing Kavanaugh on to the court under these circumstances would unleash a righteous fury that would likely hurt Republicans most. Far more important, it might gravely damage the court, the Senate, the White House and the nation — by telling women, not for the first time, that they are second-class citizens.  

The Senate should take as long as necessary to get this appointment right.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg View editorial board.

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