One of the most notable aspects of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Thursday was the fact that no Republican members directly attacked or criticized Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. In fact, Republicans hired a female sex crimes prosecutor to question her so they could avoid confronting her at all.
And on Friday, when asked about her testimony, President Donald Trump said Ford was "very compelling" and "very credible" — echoing what other Republicans have said about her.
But there's a reason they talk this way — and it's not because they respect Ford and find her trustworthy.
In fact, when they expound upon what they actually think, most Republicans on the Senate and in the White House make it clear that they don't believe Ford at all. On the other hand, they clearly do believe Kavanaugh when he says he didn't assault her or do anything else that he has been accused of doing.
At best, Republicans say that they believe Ford's account is true, though she is mistaken about who attacked her — even though she is 100 percent sure about her assailant's identity and has vivid memories of the experience. At the same time, Republicans criticize her for not having precise memories about the number of people at the party or how she got home that night.
And conversely, the GOP doesn't seem to think that Kavanaugh could have forgotten the incident. Of course, he could have blacked out completely during the attack, since Ford says she was excessively drunk. Or he could have blocked it out, or otherwise twisted it in his memory, out of shame or another coping mechanism. Or — most plausibly — he simply is lying when he says it never occurred because he has immense power and his reputation to protect. The likelihood that this is the case is higher than it would otherwise be because Kavanaugh was obviously lying in other parts of his testimony.
But Republicans have learned that the world has changed since 1991 when Anita Hill was viciously attacked for testifying that now-Justice Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. In many ways, we live in the very same world, but they fear they can't get away with actually attacking a woman who is, by any objective standards, a believable and persuasive witness.
So they say Ford is "credible" and they say she's "compelling."
But then they cast their vote, they act in a way that shows they don't believe her — or they don't care about what she actually said. Trump says she "looks like a very fine woman," but he refuses to withdraw Kavanaugh's nomination, which is the only reasonable reaction to taking her seriously.
Saying Ford is credible is easy — but acting like you believe she's the reliable and persuasive witness that she is would take courage. Republicans call her credible only to get away with acting like she's not. And it looks like they may, indeed, get away with it.
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