Republicans just made a giant gamble on Brett Kavanaugh

It all happened very quickly.After waiting days to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman allegin...

Posted: Sep 20, 2018 11:44 AM
Updated: Sep 20, 2018 11:44 AM

It all happened very quickly.

After waiting days to hear from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers, Ford's lawyers sent Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) a letter Tuesday night making clear that she wouldn't appear at Monday's hearing unless and until the FBI investigated her claim first. "She will talk with the committee," Ford's lawyer Lisa Banks told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "She is not prepared to talk in public on Monday."

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Within an hour, Grassley had responded -- making very clear that it was Monday or never for Ford. "Dr. Ford's testimony would reflect her personal knowledge and memory of events," said Grassley in a statement. "Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay."

Grassley's gambit was quickly backed by several senators who had been the most uneasy about the prospect of moving forward with a vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation without hearing from Ford first. "After learning of the allegation, Chairman @ChuckGrassley took immediate action to ensure both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh have the opportunity to be heard, in public or private," tweeted Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R). "Republicans extended a hand in good faith. If we don't hear from both sides on Monday, let's vote." Added Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake: "I implore Dr. Ford to accept the invitation for Monday, in a public or private setting."

And with that, the game of chicken was formally joined: On one side, Ford insisting that without an investigation, there can be no full hearing on the accusations. On the other, Senate Republicans and the White House, arguing that they are offering Ford a platform to tell her story but noting that the opportunity has an expiration date.

Lost amid the "will she or won't she" questions is the fact that what Grassley -- almost certainly in coordination with the White House -- is doing represents an absolutely massive political gamble: Amid the cultural upheaval of the #MeToo moment and with an election looming in less than seven weeks' time, Republicans are daring a woman alleging sexual assault against a nominee for the country's highest court to either put up or shut up.

The belief among Republicans is that if Ford won't come forward after they accommodated her desire to speak about her story (and gave her the opportunity to do so in a public or a private setting) then she will be judged to be a less-than-credible source -- allowing them to proceed with confirming Kavanaugh to the court with little negative political fallout.

Motivating all of this, of course, is the coming court term -- it begins October 4 -- and the midterm elections on November 6. Conservatives want Kavanuagh on the court for the new session because if he doesn't participate in the arguments, he can't vote -- meaning that the possibility of 4-4 ties, which means the lower court's decision holds, goes way up. Politically speaking, a chance exists that Republicans lose control of the Senate in the 2018 election. (It's not likely, but it is a possibility.) If that happened, Republicans would have to try to force Kavanaugh's confirmation through in a lame-duck session held between the election and the swearing in of the new Congress. A Democratic-controlled Senate would almost certainly refuse to vote Kavanuagh through -- particularly after the stalling tactics Republicans put in place when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the court in 2016.

Those twin legal and political necessities are driving Republicans to what, from the outside, looks like a considerable political gamble. Here's why it's risky:

1) The leader of the Republican Party has major polling problems among women. President Donald Trump, who was elected in 2016 despite allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior from more than a dozen women surfaced during the campaign, has absolutely dismal numbers among female voters. In a new CNN-SSRS poll, just 29% of women approved of the job Trump was doing in office while 65% disapproved. More tellingly, 57% strongly disapproved of how Trump was doing the job. That speaks to a level of vitriol (and passion) that, traditionally, translates into major turnout in the coming election.

2) Democrats have nominated a record number of women in 2018 primaries, setting up a massive contrast, potentially, with a Republican Party that set a hard and fast deadline for a woman alleging sexual assault and then moved on when she failed to meet it. (Check out this graphic that shows just how many Democratic women have run -- and won -- this year.)

3) Anita Hill. The specter of the shabby treatment of Hill, a former colleague of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, during his 1991 confirmation hearings looms over all of this back-and-forth between Senate Republicans and Ford. Hill, who alleged that Thomas behaved inappropriately to her in the workplace, was put to harsh questioning by the male members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The chairman of the committee at the time -- Joe Biden -- has since said he owes Hill an apology for allowing her to be so personally and viciously attacked during the hearing.

Make no mistake: Grassley's statement on Tuesday night -- and the subsequent back-up it got from the likes of Flake and Corker -- amount to a massive risk for Republicans. They are calling Ford's bluff -- just days after she called their bluff by insisting, through an attorney, that she was willing to testify publicly about her allegations against Kavanaugh.

Now, we wait. To see whether Ford reverses herself on the necessity of a FBI investigation before she will testify. Whether Republicans can hold this risky line they have staked out. And, if Ford doesn't appear and Kavanaugh is confirmed, whether they will pay a price for that gambit at the ballot box.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17010171
Hinds16091318
Harrison13250193
Rankin10629208
Jackson10216182
Lee8759141
Madison8186161
Jones6222109
Forrest5917118
Lauderdale5808180
Lowndes5309111
Lafayette491192
Lamar480465
Washington4770123
Bolivar3955106
Oktibbeha390380
Panola365076
Pontotoc361152
Monroe3521104
Warren344597
Union341458
Marshall339165
Neshoba3357152
Pearl River323295
Leflore2992105
Lincoln295685
Sunflower280469
Tate269560
Alcorn262653
Itawamba261159
Hancock260458
Pike259977
Scott244745
Prentiss244052
Yazoo242654
Tippah239749
Copiah239149
Simpson233967
Leake229564
Coahoma228554
Grenada217070
Covington210471
Marion208371
Adams203270
Winston199464
Wayne198730
George197938
Attala193158
Newton189142
Chickasaw182944
Tishomingo182159
Holmes168167
Jasper167735
Clay158233
Stone141520
Tallahatchie139234
Clarke137460
Calhoun135121
Smith119423
Yalobusha116134
Walthall111736
Noxubee110222
Greene109129
Montgomery109134
Carroll104121
Lawrence102117
Perry100531
Amite96825
Webster91924
Tunica86021
Claiborne85525
Jefferson Davis84025
Humphreys82624
Benton81023
Kemper76620
Quitman6838
Franklin65815
Choctaw60013
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53419
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
Etowah11687168
Calhoun11078200
Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
Cullman7999105
Limestone796274
Elmore7783101
DeKalb767197
Lauderdale752883
St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
Conecuh94220
Sumter88826
Greene75723
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
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