Well played, Chairman Grassley

I confess that, in real time, I was unhappy with Sen. Charles Grassley’s handling of the first hour of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing. My live-blogging of the hearing made clear my view that Chairman Grassley should have been much more firm with the Democratic committee members who were trying to throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings.

I was wrong. Grassley played it almost perfectly. He let the Democrats rant until they ran out of steam, and then moved forward. The Democrats looked ridiculous, Grassley looked like a gentleman-statesman, and, when his turn finally came, Judge Kavanaugh looked like a fine future Supreme Court Justice.

So far, Grassley has been equally masterful in handling the spit ball Sen. Dianne Feinstein threw at Kavanaugh — the last minute claim of sexual assault 36 years ago. Before that pitch was hurled, the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote today on Kavanaugh’s nomination. By just about now, Kavanaugh would have cleared the committee. His nomination would be on the way to the Senate floor.

But the hearing couldn’t be held today, not if the Committee was going to vote favorably on the nomination. Grassley had to offer the accuser, Dr. Ford, a chance to tell her story. Otherwise, Sen. Jeff Flake would have defected and, if the nomination nonetheless made it to the Senate floor, other GOP Senators almost surely would have defected, as well.

That’s not all. The Republican Party would have taken a significant hit less than two months before the mid-terms. The GOP would stand accused, not without reason, of refusing to give an alleged victim of sexual misconduct, albeit ancient alleged conduct, a chance to speak publicly. That won’t play with the electorate, and certainly not with the female portion thereof.

At the same time, Grassley couldn’t allow Ford to dictate the timing of her appearance. Her behavior suggests that she’s fully on board with the Democrats’ strategy of delaying the confirmation proceeding to the max. But Kavanaugh deserves a quick resolution of this “he-says-she-says” dispute and a prompt vote. And Republicans need a quick resolution so they will have enough time to confirm a different nominee this year, if necessary.

Grassley resolved these competing concerns by scheduling the hearing for Monday, bending over backwards to accommodate Ford on the manner in which she can present her evidence, and giving her a Friday deadline for making her decision. With the help of Majority Leader McConnell, Grassley was able to obtain the full support of the GOP caucus for this approach.

Thus, Ford has her chance to speak publicly, the confirmation process isn’t delayed significantly, the GOP caucus is on board, and the party doesn’t look as if it is blowing off a sexual harassment claim. In addition, as the saying goes, Ford must sh*t or get off the pot.

Well played, indeed, Chairman Grassley.

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