The day before Thursday’s endless, grueling, moving, infuriating hearings, which mostly provided an exhibit in the case for the dissolution of our Senate, I argued that we would all probably have to learn to live with uncertainty about the truth of this nightmarish affair.
Nothing about the appearances of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh changed that basic reality – not the undeniable power of her account, not the sob-swallowing anguish of his attempt at self-exculpation, and certainly not the relics and opportunists croaking and preening and shouting from a decaying institution’s bench.
But even more than before the hearings, my feeling after over eight hours in purgatory is that I still really want to know the truth. And surprisingly, I left the long day of testimony convinced that for all the years that have passed since the summer of 1982, the truth might actually be accessible.
Start with the issues with Blasey’s account. She gave us a story of a teenage house party in which she remembered five of at least six attendees, in which she left in a stumbling terrified hurry, in which she, then 15, didn’t drive herself there or back but isn’t sure who did.
It is the chief weakness in the entire story that the close friend who supposedly attended with her, Leland Keyser, not only doesn’t remember the party but says she doesn’t remember Kavanaugh. But even if we stipulate that this friend has nothing more to offer, then what about the members of Blasey’s family, the parents and siblings with whom she was living at the time? Shouldn’t they have some memories of parties their 15-year-old attended, some memory of when they drove her places and when other people brought her home?
It would also be interesting to pursue the likelihood that this small party, which took place somewhere within a relatively limited geographic area, was probably held at the house of one of the small group of people whom Blasey remembers attending.
There was a wave of liberal mockery, linked to Ed Whelan’s Zillow-enabled attempt to float a Kavanaugh doppelgänger last week, when the cross-examiner the Republicans had deputized – my heroine for the day, the only person in the room who seemed interested in investigating – hauled out a map showing different houses of the alleged partygoers. I wish she had pushed further with the map, since if you could come up with a list of plausible houses for the party, presumably you could come up with images of their exteriors and interiors … and then presumably those could be shown to Blasey, whose memory of the night includes details of the rooms she moved through and the stairs she fled down … and might extend to a shock of recognition if she could be shown the actual house again.
Then there is the other Georgetown Prep boy who supposedly introduced Kavanaugh to Blasey – a boy she dated and, she reluctantly revealed, also the boy recklessly named by Whelan. Isn’t it possible, since she remembers him connecting them, that the party could have been at his house – that he could be the extra person at the party whose identity she can’t remember? Isn’t it at the very least possible that he could confirm or deny some useful detail about her link or lack thereof to Kavanaugh?
All of these possible areas of inquiry were unmentioned by Senate Democrats as they went about praising Blasey and cross-examining Kavanaugh, and their possible relevance is mostly being dismissed by the liberal side as of a piece with Whelan’s reckless public speculations. Instead, the only person that liberals insist absolutely needs to be questioned more rigorously is Mark Judge, the alleged other participant in the assault.
But if the liberal interest in Judge is too partial, it’s still entirely reasonable. The sworn statements from him and from the other boy named, P.J. Smyth, are obviously insufficient given the stakes here. They should be asked under oath if they knew Blasey, if they ever attended parties with her. And the fact that both of their names appeared on the calendar that Kavanaugh offered up in his defense, listed as attendees at precisely the kind of weeknight drinking party that he suggested was vanishingly rare, seems like another useful area of inquiry – one that the cross-examiner pursued a little before Senate Republicans decided that the time for grandstanding had arrived.
Oh, and another name on the list of that weeknight party’s attendees was “Squi,” which was apparently the nickname of the boy that Blasey was dating and who introduced her to Kavanaugh … thus linking the different areas of inquiry together, and giving another reason it would be extremely interesting to hear from him, the whole story’s missing link.
There are many ways these strands might be gathered in. But the easiest would have been for the on-the-fence Republicans and red-state Democrats who hold the balance of power to simply have made Kavanaugh’s confirmation conditional on the Senate Judiciary Committee interviewing Keyser, Blasey’s parents and siblings, Judge and Smyth and definitely “Squi.”
Speaking as the last person in the American political-journalistic apparatus who’s still agnostic about Kavanaugh’s guilt, I am more convinced than ever that somebody knows something that could have prevented this from metastasizing into our era’s Dreyfus Affair, a source of unresolved hatreds for years and decades yet to come.
Ross Douthat is a columnist for The New York Times.