What the Republicans Missed in the Recent Hearing

Leonard A. Zwelling, MD, MBA, Partner of the Center

Much has been made of the similarities and differences between the hearings that involved Anita Hill when Clarence Thomas was being considered for a place on the Supreme Court and those involving Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when Brett Kavanaugh was being vetted for a place on the same court. There is one glaring similarity that cannot be denied. Neither man was the best person for the job.

It is not uncommon in life that the best man doesn’t win. It is even more common in life that the best woman doesn’t. The obvious solution to both the dilemma of Thomas vs. Hill or Kavanaugh vs. Ford is to believe everyone and admit the candidate for the job is flawed. If the same scenario arose for a position on a corporate board, a chief executive office, or even the school board, a candidate as flawed as Thomas or Kavanaugh would be passed over and other, more appropriate nominees would have their credentials considered. Why not just tell the White House, try again? Why have a knock down, drag out fight that splits the country when it is obvious that the truth of the testimony cannot be found by any number of well-meaning Senators?

Some say that anyone could accuse anyone of anything and that could disqualify the accused for a job. That’s true and it happens all the time. The choosing of people for jobs and honors is subjective. When that job comes with a lifetime of employment and a very limited ability to recall the decision, cognitive dissonance is not an option. When it comes to the swing vote on the Supreme Court, the Senate vote should be 100 to 0, or at least a lot less close than 50 to 48 and the two-vote margin was only guaranteed because Senator Lisa Murkowski voted present.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, listens as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination (Photo By Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

I have my beliefs about who was telling the truth at both the 1991 hearing and the one this past October. That’s not what matters. What matters is when a position of such importance is being filled and the nominee is so clearly flawed, if not in his past deeds, then in his current temperament. The logical decision is one of caution and to rethink the nominee. Why settle?

Clarence Thomas was confirmed by a very slim majority. Kavanaugh’s was even slimmer. It was #MeToo all over again for the male judges. What I fear most is that the press will continue to investigate Judge Kavanaugh. The press may well discover that he is guilty of excess alcohol consumption, sexual assault, or lying to Congress. If the press does this, what then? Will he have to be impeached simply because the vetting process was so perfunctory? Wouldn’t the best alternative have been to be sure by having a nominee who was beyond reproach. Is that so hard? Is that so hard?

Apparently so.

If the Kavanaugh hearing was really a hearing, someone would have been listening to both Dr. Ford and to Judge Kavanaugh. Any logical person would know immediately that she was credible and so was he. Since their truths could not both be correct, there is doubt. If there is doubt, try again.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion about who to believe in this case. Only the opinions of 100 people really mattered. Surely forcing the president to find a more appropriate candidate couldn’t have been that hard, but I guess it was. The Senate may have listened to Dr. Ford, but at least 50 members didn’t hear her.