At her September 27 appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford was asked what she remembered most about her alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge in 1982. It was the laughter, she said, “indelible in the hippocampus...the uproarious laughter of the two, and their having fun at my expense.” This was one of many heartbreaking details in a morning’s worth of forthright testimony, whose tone and substance led a number of observers to call Ford, who is a professor and research psychologist, “incredibly credible.” She was nervous but cooperative, explaining that she was there to do her civic duty. She was also courageous: she had little to gain by speaking publicly about the attack and its traumatic effects. In so doing, she also inspired other survivors to come forward on social media and the airwaves to share similar experiences, many breaking years or decades of silence.
Kavanaugh displayed no such poise or sense of the world beyond himself. His opening remarks, all partisan fury, sniveling self-pity, and distortion of the truth, set the tone for the afternoon. Exhibiting petulant disdain for Democratic members of the committee, he came off as nothing so much as the entitled adolescent he memorialized in a summerful of calendar entries, unable to believe his parents are about to ground him for the weekend. He raged at the prospect of being deprived of a job he apparently assumed was his by dint of mere pedigree. At times he seemed barely in control of his anger; perhaps he truly cannot remember doing what he has been accused of. Nevertheless, his reaction to questions about his drinking habits from Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar—“What about you, Senator? Do you ever black out?”—was not just disrespectful but disturbing, and his apology for it devoid of real contrition. Though he loudly proclaimed his innocence, he repeatedly declined to say whether he would support additional investigation by the FBI into the allegations against him. Kavanaugh’s belligerence had a contagious effect on Republican members, stirring Lindsey Graham to preposterous expressions of indignation on the nominee’s behalf. Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona sex-crimes prosecutor Republican senators chose to question Ford in their place, was sidelined soon after Kavanaugh was sworn in; to him, they preferred to speak man to man, fanning his anger with their own.