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In the Brett Kavanagh confirmation, there are no winners.

Emails & Opinions

Joe Henderson: Who ‘won’ the SCOTUS hearing? Nobody

Politics is all about winning, and nowhere is that truer than the all-out war to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. That is why I am trying to find a winner after one of the most exhausting and extraordinary days anyone has experienced.

I. Just. Can’t.

Christine Blasey Ford was brave, believable, sympathetic, and forceful when she was asked how certain she was that Kavanaugh sexually attacked her more than 30 years ago when both were high school students.

Her answer, without hesitation: “100 percent.”

I believe her — and not because she came forward even after acknowledging in her opening statement that she was “terrified” to testify to the U.S. Senate committee that will recommend whether Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court should go forward.

There is no doubt she will look back on this experience as one of the worst periods of her life, and that pain showed throughout her testimony. She said she is haunted by Kavanaugh’s laughter after the encounter.

I think we all know how she would respond if someone suggested she “won” the day.

I admire the stand she took and the way she handled herself, but only she can say if it was worth the cost. Her life has been a living hell since she came forward — and will continue to be. That’s what this process does to people, and it’s disgusting.

What about the man she says committed that vile deed as a boy?

Kavanaugh’s anguish was clear during his combative and emotional opening statement. You would have to be a hell of an actor to fake that kind of pain. It was hard not to feel sympathy for him when he said he and his family have been “totally and permanently destroyed” by the resulting furor after Ford came forward. I have no doubt that it’s true.

A reputation, once lost, is hard to recover.

He thundered his innocence. He cried frequently. He choked up, knowing his carefully crafted reputation was unraveling before the entire nation. He was alternately combative and defiant, maybe figuring he had nothing to lose at this point.

No doubt many saw that as a man fighting an injustice being inflicted on him and his family.

But I’m also wondering what the reaction would have been if Ford had screamed at Senators and sobbed during her appearance, the way Kavanaugh did. Would she have been dismissed as too emotional and unhinged? Would that have cast doubt on the truthfulness of her testimony?

Even if Brett Kavanaugh ultimately is confirmed to SCOTUS — which I wouldn’t bet on and I doubt he truly believes will happen either — it won’t be a win. He’ll carry these scars for the rest of his life. What happened during testimony Thursday will be in the first sentence of his obituary.

And as far as the Senate?

Big losers.

Democrats embarrassed themselves while grilling Kavanaugh about stuff in his high school yearbook that appeared to be about barfing and flatulence. I would say it’s beneath the dignity of the Senate, except I don’t think there is any depth to which these politicians won’t sink.

I thought Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina might have tilted the scale a little bit in Kavanaugh’s favor with his blustering outburst defending the nominee from what he called a “sham” process.

“You’re looking for a fair process? You came to the wrong town at the wrong time, my friend,” Graham thundered, his face turning red, blood vessels bulging.

I might have been inclined to give Graham’s words more heed if minutes later he hadn’t brushed off a woman in the lobby who told him she had been raped. He told her to go to the cops, then got into an elevator. 

That is really what it comes down to – the attitude that many in the Party of Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh, seem to have toward women and what they endure. They attack the victim. They dismiss. They smear.

Republican Senators, one by one, told Kavanaugh how much sympathy they felt for what he has endured.

What about Ford, and what she has endured?

What about what the nation has endured, and how divided it will be after this?


Find one. I sure can’t.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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