In fairness, Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, deserves applause. She’s got the guts to push, despite her only leverage being the thin thread of empty rhetoric about bullying a “sexual assault survivor” by giving her client, a grossly belated witness, the opportunity to testify she requested. Impressive.
Iowa senator and chair of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, however, made himself into the butt of an old joke by extending, for the fifth time, the deadline for Ford to make her call.
Churchill: “Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”
Socialite: “My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course… ”
Churchill: “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”
Socialite: “Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!”
Churchill: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”
–Winston S. Churchill (or not)
The problem with fixing a deadline is that it’s a deadline. Dead. Line. And as soon as it’s no longer a deadline, and the line keeps moving, and moving, and moving, it’s just meaningless noise, a negotiating position wrapped in deadline clothing. And if your deadline is just a term of negotiation, so too is everything else you’ve said. Nothing is firm. Nothing is real. And your word means nothing because you failed to keep it.
The chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, made his announcement on Twitter shortly before midnight, after lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford sent an angry email accusing his staff of bullying their client. He directed his tweet to Judge Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, who has flatly denied the assault and has said he is eager to testify to clear his name.
“Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate,” Mr. Grassley wrote, using Twitter shorthand. “She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive.”
It was less than a week ago that Katz said Ford would do “whatever is necessary” and testify, yet here we are still haggling about the price. The deadline was 10:00 p.m last night. This morning, it’s 2:30 p.m., as Katz argued that she needs 24 hours to make a decision that had already been made. Quite remarkably, Katz managed to pull this off, but she couldn’t have done it without Chuck Grassley’s willingness to play the role of quivering bowl of jello.
There are minor accommodations sought, such as how many photographers and television cameras would be in the hearing room, because Ford wishes not to be “mobbed.” It’s a small detail either way, since there really needs to be only one camera to air the hearing, even if more would do better. Minor details like this could easily be accommodated by a gracious Grassley in the usual course, and don’t serve as a deal breaker.
But as to the demands of investigation, sequence of witnesses, who gets to be there, who does the questioning, witnesses don’t get to dictate the shots, and if Grassley had his pants on, he would have told Katz that until she commits to testify on the date proffered (absent a serious reason why it wasn’t possible), there’s no point in working out the minor details.
Grassley didn’t. Grassley wavered. He wiped away the line in the sand and drew a new line. Once that happens, he’s “established” what kind of guy he is and everything else is just haggling over the price. And Senator Dianne Feinstein is making the most of Chuck’s squishiness.
It’s clear that Republicans have learned nothing over the last 27 years. Bullying a survivor of attempted rape in order to confirm a nominee—particularly at a time when she’s receiving death threats—is an extreme abuse of power.
Feinstein has nothing but ridiculous rhetoric, and yet Grassley handed her the ability to beat him to a pulp. No matter what Grassley did, he would be castigated for something by those antagonistic to Kavanaugh, and happy to use Ford for their own purposes, so his wavering stood no chance of somehow pacifying his opposition. They were not to be pacified short of withdrawing Kavanaugh and confirming Merrick Garland, while impeaching Trump and delaring open borders. No matter what accommodations Grassley made, they wouldn’t be enough to satisfy Ford or Feinstein, as their purpose isn’t to be satisfied.
Presumably, a time will come, perhaps today, that Chuck Grassley finally pulls the plug and we either have a hearing or a vote. Both sides had been absolute in their positions on Kavanaugh before the first witness was called, so the cries have all been for show, as will be a hearing should it ever happen unless Kavanaugh performs so badly that not even Ed Whelan can show his face.
If nothing else comes of this hearing, which is a possibility, at least we now know what Chuck Grassley is. And “indecisive” isn’t the word I would use.