Editor’s Note: Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN and The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author; view more opinion articles on CNN.
If you watched Thursday’s riveting testimony given by professor Christine Blasey Ford, you not only saw an extraordinarily courageous woman push through her fear to tell a committee comprised mostly of men the harrowing story of being sexually assaulted when she was a 15-year-old girl. You also saw the mask ripped off the Republican Party – now turned into Trump’s party – and exposed as an accomplice in efforts to preserve some of the most pernicious forms of sexism.
Republicans, who once proclaimed themselves the champions of family values, have a morality problem. When Ford – and then others – came forward to share their stories of being attacked by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Republicans knew they had an issue. How would they protect Kavanaugh without seeming disrespectful to women?
“Seeming” is the operative word. It is obvious that finding the truth was never their goal. The goal was always to put Kavanaugh on the court. (Kavanaugh, thus far, has denied all allegations against him, and we have yet to hear him testify.)
Republicans have absorbed Trump’s most toxic traits, and their leaders are now infused with them. They equivocate, lie and accidentally let out the truth.
When Ford, looking terrified but determined, faced the Judiciary Committee, Republicans couldn’t even muster the courage to ask the questions themselves. They had to hire a female prosecutor (a “female assistant” is how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell describer her, another inadvertent flash from the 1950s.)
Every one of the 11 Republican senators on the committee is a white man. They didn’t trust themselves not to appear hostile to Ford. They were right to worry. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley barely spoke to Ford. He opened the hearing with a brief attempt to seem fair, followed by a partisan screed that confirmed he had no intention of getting at the truth.
Their hired hand, Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor, was dismally ineffective. But then, she had the impossible task of undercutting Ford’s credibility. And few, if any, who saw her tell her story doubted for a second that she was telling the truth.
Ford had to choke back tears describing Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge trapping her in a room, Kavanaugh pinning her to the bed, grinding on top of her and putting his hand over her mouth when she tried to cry for help, leaving her with lifelong claustrophobia, anxiety and other symptoms.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a former prosecutor, declared “I believe you,” noting how, in what is characteristic of truthful witnesses, she acknowledged not remembering some of the details. When asked what she remembers most, she winced, “The uproarious laughter.” Kavanaugh and Judge “were having fun at my expense.”
When Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked how Ford is sure it was Kavanaugh, Ford replied, “The same way I know I’m talking to you.”
Grassley became defensive, irritable, knowing the hearing was a disaster. It will energize women like nothing since Trump’s “grab them by the p—y” and his subsequent election. The hearing didn’t just hurt Kavanaugh – it inflicted and immediately infected a wound in what was once an honorable party.
The clearest proof that the party’s old claim to morality has been flushed out with the Trump revolution is a new NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll with a mind-boggling result: A majority of Republicans – 54% – say that if Ford is telling the truth, Kavanaugh should still be confirmed.
In the midst of the #MeToo movement, Republicans have shown the country they are actively standing against efforts to repair one of the longstanding injustices in society: the attitude that allows men to exploit and abuse women. The party has adopted Trump’s transactional approach to every issue, regardless of its moral and ethical content.
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It’s all about cost-benefit. They want Kavanaugh on the court, and if that means rejecting pleas for a fair investigation, then reject they will.
But Ford was truthful, credible, and what’s worse for Republicans, inspiring.
Republicans tried to put Ford on trial, but they ended up indicting themselves.