Hearings vital for Senate and nation

September 27, 2018

Today’s hearing of the Judiciary Committee is shaping up to be one of the most important ones in years for the Senate — and the entire nation. The fate of a potential Supreme Court justice hangs in the balance as we collectively grapple with the ongoing impact of the #MeToo movement. The committee and ultimately the Senate will decide this nomination. But senators must not ignore the national mood, the sense that the court seat must be filled by someone who truly deserves to be there.

Both Texas senators are on the committee, and Sen. John Cornyn has made an important point about the hearing: “As the father of two adult daughters, as I’m approaching this hearing, I’m thinking, ‘I want to make sure I treat Dr. (Christine Blasey) Ford the same way my daughters would be treated in the event they were making an accusation, or my mother, or my wife.’ ”

Cornyn is right; the hearings must not be a repeat of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas showdown in 1991, when the accuser was often shamed or the pain of sexual harassment was minimized. Dr. Ford, or any woman in this position, must be treated with respect as the charges are discussed and deliberated upon.

Yet she must be prepared for fair but firm questions from the committee, especially because the events in question happened 35 years ago. Dr. Ford must provide as much information as possible to help the committee — and again, the nation — decide if she is believable or not.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh also deserves a fair chance to rebut any accusations. He has had a sterling legal career, but these charges strike at the heart of his character — even if he was a teenager or young adult when they happened.

Only Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh were scheduled for today’s hearings, but the committee should have considered other accusers that have come forward and invited them if their accusations seemed credible. Not necessarily true, just worthy of an open hearing. Even though these witnesses should have spoken up sooner, there is no need to hurry this week. A seat on the Supreme Court has no expiration date. Yet the Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Friday and then send it to the full Senate.

These hearings are likely to be galvanizing. The testimony of Dr. Ford could be powerful and memorable. The presumed rebuttal by Kavanaugh could be equally strong and convincing.

As the senators are watching, so too will be millions of Americans. They want to decide for themselves if an abuser is being outed, or an innocent man is being railroaded. Let us all approach these hearings with open minds, and open hearts. Rape and sexual assault are very real crimes. Too many girls and women have suffered for too long. The #MeToo movement has finally brought new attention to this age-old horror. That focus must not diminish regardless of what happens today.

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