Editorial: Kavanaugh delay is right

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona restored sensibility Friday to the bitterly partisan debate over the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Flake’s call for a limited, one-week FBI investigation into an allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted acquaintance Christine Blasey Ford when both were teenagers some 36 years ago is reasonable, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was right to grant the request.

“We ought to do what we can to make sure that we do all due diligence with a nomination this important,” Flake said in voting to advance Kavanaugh out of the Senate Judiciary Committee while also making clear that his vote on the Senate floor could hinge on such an investigation.

Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate. Republicans Flake, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia are swing votes on the Kavanaugh confirmation. Kansas senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts have said they will vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

After Thursday’s emotionally charged testimony before the Judiciary Committee, first by Blasey Ford, followed by Kavanaugh, it is unclear how any senator could make an informed decision absent more information. Indeed, Flake said he left the testimony Thursday with “as much doubt as certainty” about what happened in 1982.

Blasey Ford was enormously credible in her testimony. She tried to get her story to her Democratic congresswoman and senator while Kavanaugh was still on the short list of candidates for the court but before he was the nominee. Nothing in her testimony hinted at a political motive. Rather, Ford came across as honest and compelling, both in what she remembers about a traumatic incident more than three decades old and what she doesn’t. Asked how certain she was that Kavanaugh was her attacker, Ford replied, “100 percent.” It is noteworthy that she took a lie detector test that found her responses truthful.

Kavanaugh responded with the emotion and anger that might be expected from someone wrongly accused. He has been — and was again on Thursday — unequivocal and forthright in his denials. And there is no corroborating evidence so far to support Ford’s allegations. If this were a criminal case, there wouldn’t be enough evidence to bring it to trial, much less win a conviction.

Yet, there were cracks in Kavanaugh’s testimony. He went to great lengths to paint himself as a choirboy in high school, noting that going to church was as routine as brushing his teeth, and minimizing his use of alcohol in a way that doesn’t square with what others, including Kavanaugh himself, have described in articles, other writings and speeches. And his explanations for crass and juvenile notations next to his high school yearbook photo don’t ring true.

It makes sense then to ask the FBI to look deeper into the allegations. In particular, an interview with Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh’s who Ford says was in the room when she was assaulted, is warranted.

This is an intensely political decision. After all, nothing less than control of the U.S. Supreme Court is at stake. With so much on the line, senators are wise to follow Flake’s lead and make sure Kavanagh is the right person for this lifetime appointment.


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