Kavanaugh Hearing Calls for One Thing: An Investigation

(The Bloomberg View) -- She said. He said.

This is the frame in which political partisans of Judge Brett Kavanaugh would like to contain, minimize and then dismiss allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct as a teenager. Today’s carefully circumscribed Senate Judiciary Committee hearing — no witnesses were allowed to testify, though the circumstances demanded it — was designed by Republican leaders to present two sides of a conflict while evading responsibility for discerning which side contains more truth.

It backfired.

The committee’s deliberate failure to provide additional context to the statements and responses of Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh leaves the allegations hanging, unresolved. She has provided credible testimony, and he has issued a forceful denial. Given the circumstances, a deeper investigation must be conducted. Without one, the only responsible way for senators to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination is “no.”

The nomination was problematic even before Ford’s allegations and others came to light. Thousands of pages of relevant records from Kavanaugh’s White House tenure under President George W. Bush were withheld from the public. He claimed, under oath, that as a White House aide he didn’t know that sensitive information provided to him by a Republican Senate aide had been stolen from Democratic senators — a claim that suggests he was either far too credulous in the past or is insufficiently credible under oath now. In addition, Kavanaugh is a likely threat to Roe v. Wade, and holds extreme views on gun rights.

By itself, the hearing with Ford and Kavanaugh raised questions sufficient to slow the process. The California psychology professor has not lived a life of attention-seeking. She was reluctant to come forward at all. She had nothing to gain by appearing before, let alone misleading, the Senate.

Her testimony today, under oath, was consistently credible. Asked how certain she was of the identity of her alleged attacker, she said “100 percent.” She also added new information, pointing out that she saw Kavanaugh friend Mark Judge, whom she had previously identified as in the room at the time of the attack, working at a job weeks after the attack. Were the majority interested in fact-finding they already would have issued a subpoena to Judge. Senators can’t possibly justify not hearing from him, under oath, after today. 

Kavanaugh has trimmed his answers to the occasion, presenting a portrait of youthful responsibility in an interview with Fox News this week only to acknowledge today before the committee, in the wake of additional allegations of sexual misconduct and accounts of a heavy-drinking youth, that “sometimes I had too many.”

He insists that he is innocent of the charges made by Ford and others. Perhaps he is. But it is Ford who has called for a thorough investigation of the charges, and Kavanaugh who has resisted it. Kavanaugh today accused Democrats of a “calculated and orchestrated political hit.” But he repeatedly evaded invitations to call for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to reopen its background check.

We don’t know the full truth of the accusations. They derive from hazy evenings decades in the past. But we know how Kavanaugh has conducted himself in the present.

Kavanaugh appears in a hurry to get to the Supreme Court, even if that requires leaving a trail of unresolved allegations behind him. Valuing speed over justice is bad enough in politicians. It’s inexcusable in a judge.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg View editorial board.

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