On Sunday, the letter that Christine Blasey Ford sent to Dianne Feinstein was published after days of speculation regarding its contents. As many outlets had hinted, it detailed allegations of sexual assault committed by Brett Kavanaugh against Ford in high school. Kavanaugh is currently up for a seat on the Supreme Court, and clearly this development could (let us editorialize: absolutely should) derail his chances. The judiciary committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination this coming Thursday, but what looked like an ironclad certainty this time last week now looks to be in serious jeopardy. Here’s a snippet of Ford’s letter:
Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stair well from the living room. They locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help.
Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with REDACTED, who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh’s hand over my mouth I feared he may inadvertently kill me.
Of course, Kavanaugh can still reach the Supreme Court. To block his nomination, a Senate Republican or two will need to step up and hold him accountable (they hold a 51-49 majority). The cynical view, backed by experience, would indicate that your face will turn blue from holding your breath before this actually happens. However—at the risk of making ourselves vulnerable to cruel, cruel hope—the are signs that the GOP wall protecting Kavanaugh may be starting to crumble. Very, very slowly.
Let’s take a very short tour of potential defectors, starting with…
Jeff Flake, Arizona
Flake has actually become the most likely detractor—information you should take with a giant grain of salt, since Flake is fighting with Rand Paul to take McCain’s place as “senator most likely to make a lot of noise but ultimately do nothing.” Still, this is not nothing:
“I’ve made it clear that I’m not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further. We need to hear from her. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.”
The fact that Flake sits on the judiciary committee makes this kind of a big deal. As does the fact that Ford has expressed her willingness to testify in public.
Bob Corker, Tennessee
Corker, like Flake, is retiring at the end of this term, which is not insignificant—it frees him up to speak his mind more than his fellow senators who are, of course, terrified of Trump, And per Politico, he agrees with Flake:
Asked if the committee vote should be delayed to hear out Ford, Corker replied: “I think that would be best for all involved, including the nominee. If she does want to be heard, she should do so promptly.
Unlike Flake, Corker is not on the judiciary committee.
Susan Collins, Maine
As one of just six women among 51 Republican senators, and as an alleged “moderate” (evidence: none), Susan Collins has been thrust into the spotlight. Speaking with the New York Times Sunday night, she agreed that the allegations were “serious” and that Ford needed to be interviewed before she could reach a solid decision. She then went on to attack Democrats:
“What is puzzling to me is the Democrats, by not bringing this out earlier, after having had this information for more than six weeks, have managed to cast a cloud of doubt on both the professor and the judge,” she said. “If they believed Professor Ford, why didn’t they surface this information earlier so that he could be questioned about it? And if they didn’t believe her and chose to withhold the information, why did they decide at the 11th hour to release it? It is really not fair to either of them the way it is was handled.”
Lisa Murkowski, Alasaka
Same deal as Collins: Woman, Republican, supposedly moderate. She seems to be in favor of delaying the vote:
“Well, I think that might be something they might have to consider, at least having that discussion. This is not something that came up during the hearings. The hearings are now over, and if there is real substance to this, it demands a response. That may be something the committee needs to look into.”
So there you have it: These four Senators have shown the faintest hints of something that may eventually, under the right conditions, amount to a facsimile of a representation of the kind of thing that might, conceivably, resemble a backbone. Huge if true.