Is Christine Blasey Ford stealing a page from Trump? She’s just pulled the kind of power move that Trump himself likes to make in dealing with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Told that she must respond by 10 a.m. Friday about whether or not she will show up, Blasey has now declared that she can’t appear to testify on Monday but would like to later in the week. A letter from her attorney to the committee states, ‘As you are aware, she’s been receiving death threats which have been reported to the FBI and she and her family have been forced out of their home. She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.’
It’s going to be difficult for Republicans to simply bat this away. Ford looks reasonable. It appears that she’s only asking for a few more days to prepare. But the last thing that Republicans want is for Ford actually to appear before the committee. Every statement they’ve issued these past days indicates that they want to put this ‘hiccup,’ as Nevada Sen. Dean Heller put it, behind them and install Brett Kavanaugh, who stands accused of attempted rape, on the Supreme Court, where he can be the fifth and deciding vote. Mike Davis, the Republican chief counsel for nominations, imprudently tweeted on Wednesday, ‘We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh.’ He has now deleted it.
All along some hairline cracks have been appearing in the Republican strategy to cement a conservative majority. If Ford proves to be a careful and cogent witness, she could end up fracturing it. Both Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski could abandon Kavanaugh. And even if the GOP does win, in the form of installing Kavanaugh, it could lose badly at the ballot box in November. The Washington Post indicates that leading Republicans are getting rather queasy about the nomination: ‘Already burdened by an unpopular president and an energised Democratic electorate, the male-dominated GOP is now facing a torrent of scrutiny about how it is handling Kavanaugh’s accuser and whether the party’s push to install him on the high court by next week could come at a steep political cost with women and the independent voters who are the keystone for congressional majorities.’ Republicans such as Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent thorn in Trump’s side, has decried a tweet that Donald Trump Jr. sent out mocking Ford — a piece of paper that contained a childish scrawl asking if ‘she would be my girlfriend, Love Bret.’ Former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is presumably not the kind of character witness the GOP needs at this moment, has also injected himself into the mix, exhorting the GOP ‘to take a stand’ and support Kavanaugh.
For the moment, the odds are stacked in favour of Ford. Kavanaugh has already passed his sell-by date. He’s a known quantity. By waiting, Ford has increased the suspense around her appearance. Trump may not like Ford’s accusation, but he surely admires her tactical skill. In negotiating with the Senate, Ford appears to understand the art of the deal.