Kirsten Gillibrand, 2020 Democrats latch onto Christine Blasey Ford’s political coattails
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand claimed a prominent seat in the audience during Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and rushed to the cameras afterward to proclaim her support for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school.
As one of the Democrats eyeing a 2020 presidential bid, Ms. Gillibrand has gone all-in behind Ms. Blasey Ford, declaring her a hero to the country and brooking no resistance from those who question her uncorroborated account.
“I don’t know how they could hear her testimony and watch her testify so authentically, so honestly from the heart and not believe her and still vote for Brett Kavanaugh. I just don’t understand how they could do it,” Ms. Gillibrand said during a break from the hearing, where she sat between actress Alyssa Milano and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a fellow New York Democrat.
Ms. Gillibrand didn’t stick around for Mr. Kavanaugh’s testimony.
Other 2020 Democrats also rushed to grab the political coattails of Ms. Blasey Ford, whose powerful testimony threatened to upend Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon crowed to activists at the Capitol about the lawsuit he filed this week accusing the White House of withholding Kavanaugh-related documents. His lawsuit asks a judge to ban the Senate from voting until millions more pages are revealed.
“Really what is going on here is a battle between government by and for the powerful, the 1 percent, which is everything Kavanaugh represents, and government by and for the people for the consumers, for the workers and for the women of America,” Mr. Merkley said.
Inside the hearing room, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, yet another 2020 Democratic hopeful, played the role of barista, racing in with a cup of coffee for Ms. Blasey Ford after she said she could use some caffeine at the beginning of the affair. Later during his questioning, he thanked her for her “courage and bravery in coming forward.”
Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for another Kavanaugh accuser, cheered on Ms. Blasey Ford from the Twittersphere.
“I have witnessed well over 500 witnesses testify in court and in deposition over the course of my career. There is no question that Dr. Ford is credible,” Mr. Avenatti said, before turning his fire on Judge Kavanaugh.
“This nomination must be withdrawn immediately and an honest, moral individual should be nominated. America deserves better,” he tweeted.
The Kavanaugh saga has become a marquee moment in the MeToo anti-sexual misconduct movement that has swallowed up powerful figures in Hollywood, the press and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
For liberal activists, it has taken reflexive hate for President Trump to a new level, angering Republicans who say things have gone off the rails.
“What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said, slamming his Democratic colleagues on the panel. “This is the most unethical sham since I have been in politics.”
Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist, said the reward of fully embracing Ms. Blasey Ford outweighs the risk for Democrats with presidential aspirations, noting the surge of women becoming engaged in politics
“This really may represent the end of white male dominance in politics,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “So they are in the right moment, in the right time, with the right message.”
Jeanne Zaino, political science professor at Iona College, said the Democrats have made a calculation that the political energy of the party is on the left and they are trying to get a jump on it.
“But they have to be very careful that they don’t alienate the more moderate members of the party who have a very different view of what is going on,” Ms. Zaino said. “I think what we are seeing here is they are putting their short-term electoral gains ahead of what may potentially be in the best interest of the country and of the party down the road.”
Ms. Zaino pointed out that the 2013 decision by Democrats to resort to the “nuclear option,” which eliminated the 60-vote rule on most presidential nominations, has come back to haunt them as they try to block Mr. Trump’s nominees.
Those kinds of concerns have fallen by wayside during the Kavanaugh hearings, with Democrats announcing well before they heard from either principal that they believed Ms. Blasey Ford and thought Judge Kavanaugh a criminal.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another 2020 hopeful, blasted out a petition prior to Thursday’s hearing, calling the confirmation process a “charade” and saying it is “revolting” that the GOP is trying to ram through his nomination without a deeper dive into his record and the allegations against him.
“Today Dr. Ford will make her voice heard, but everyone must speak out: Demand Brett Kavanaugh withdraw his nomination,” Mrs. Warren said, reinforcing the message later in the day.
“She has certainly made clear that what she is saying is truthful and from the heart,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.