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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Up First: Christine Blasey Ford
      •  Up Second: Brett Kavanaugh
      •  So, What Does It All Mean?
      •  Takeaways from Thursday's Hearings
      •  Rosenstein Meeting Rescheduled
      •  Today's Senate Polls

PW logo How Flake Delayed the Kavanaugh Vote
GOP Super PAC Pulls Plug on Two Incumbents
Gillum Leads for Florida Governor
Judge Says Emoluments Lawsuit May Proceed
Mark Judge Meets with His Lawyer
Trump Backs McCarthy as Next Speaker

Up First: Christine Blasey Ford

Yesterday was not exactly a day that will live in infamy, like Dec. 7, 1941, but probably more falsehoods were told to a Senate committee than any day before. We don't know whether Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh was telling them, but since their testimonies were diametrically opposed, one of them was definitely not telling the truth. So somebody basically lied to a Senate committee for 3 hours straight, under oath, and we may never know for sure who it was.

Ford took her turn first. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) opened the hearing by lambasting Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) for sitting on Ford's letter for weeks (as she promised Ford she would do) and for asking that two other credible accusers be called to testify, something Grassley ruled out. Grassley had a huge amount of trouble reading his own prepared statement from a piece of paper in front of him. A sixth grader with a "B" average in English could have done it better. Grassley is way beyond his "use by" date, and often looked like a doddering old man during Thursday's hearings. He also noted that the Democrats had complained about the Republicans ceding all their time to a professional prosecutor, which is unprecedented, especially since this is not a trial, but he just brushed it off as whining.

When Feinstein made her opening statement, she fired back at Grassley. She condemned Donald Trump for not ordering the FBI to conduct an investigation, especially when new allegations came up in the past week from Debbie Ramirez and Julie Swetnick. She was especially unhappy with Grassley's refusal to call more witnesses, noting that in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing, there were 22 witnesses. These opening statements signaled and guaranteed that the entire exercise would be extremely partisan, which it was.

The Republican strategy was to put Ford on trial (albeit in a subtle fashion). They hired an experienced prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, to interrogate Ford because the Republican senators were afraid to do it themselves. Mitchell carried on exactly as a prosecutor would in a criminal trial. She led Ford through a series of questions, trying to get her to contradict herself or say something clearly not true, but it wasn't successful. Mitchell clearly wanted to make it look like Ford came forward as a partisan act to help the Democrats, but she didn't get what she wanted. Ford never gave the impression that she had any game plan at all. An important point in Ford's favor is that when she saw in the media that Donald Trump had a list of potential Supreme Court candidates including Brett Kavanaugh, she contacted her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), with a warning that of the many fine candidates on the list, Trump would be better off not picking Kavanaugh due to his attempt to rape her. She never said anything about "he is too conservative" or anything like that. She would have been perfectly happy with a different conservative, just not Kavanaugh.

A lot of Mitchell's questions were about small details that could have trapped Ford, but the answers didn't achieve the prosecutor's goals. For example, Mitchell kept asking Ford who is paying for her lawyers, clearly hoping the answer would be George Soros or Tom Steyer. Ford didn't seem to understand why she was being asked and mentioned a account friends had set up to pay for her security guards until one of her lawyers grabbed the mic and said: "We are both working pro bono and do not expect to be paid." Mitchell immediately gave up on this line of inquiry.

That did not mean the prosecutor was done, though. She also asked Ford who paid for the polygraph test she took. Ford didn't actually know and stumbled on that as well. It is not clear why that matters, but Mitchell kept at it until one of the lawyers blurted out that the lawyers paid for it. A carefully trained liar would probably have given a clear (if false) answer. Her stumbles on simple questions whose purpose she clearly didn't understand add to her credibility rather than detracting from it.

All the Democratic senators praised Ford for her courage in coming forward. They said she knew her life would be upended and thanked her for having the courage to testify. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) called her a "profile in courage." Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) called her "heroic." Many of them wanted hundreds or even thousands of letters from friends and colleagues, physicians, and many others inserted into the record, which Grassley immediately agreed to. The Democratic senators also hammered on the point of: Why the rush to judgment? Why can't the FBI investigate, as it did with Anita Hill's testimony in 1991 during Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings? So it might take an extra week. What's the problem? The Democrats also constantly said that it is unheard of not to call an eyewitness to the alleged attempted rape (Mark Judge) and have him be cross examined by the committee, many of whose members are former prosecutors. Grassley just shrugged that off by saying there was no time left, even though there is no deadline other than the one Grassley himself arbitrarily set. The real reason, of course, is the more witnesses that are grilled, the more likely multiple people will support Ford or perjure themselves trying to defend Kavanaugh.

Ford has clearly been terrified from the day she had to decide whether to come forward or not and that was on display yesterday. She was very emotional. A number of times when Democratic senators said she was brave, courageous, or heroic, her reaction was to choke up and stifle tears. A scheming liar wouldn't have done that. She would have politely said: "Thank you so much, senator." A trained actress might have been able to pull of such an appearance, but it is monumentally unlikely that a research psychologist who has never been in the public eye could do so, or that she would risk so much for no obvious gain to herself.

One thing that Ford said that no one rebutted is that she was so traumatized by the alleged rape attempt that 20 years later, when she and her husband remodeled their house, she insisted (and got) two front doors, something that her husband, the contractor, and others thought was nutty beyond belief. Her fear was being trapped again, as she had been in the bedroom where the alleged attempted rape occurred. One has to ask if someone who the Democrats had set up to lie in order to shoot down the nomination would have thought to make an apparently absurd architectural decision 20 years ago in order to appear more credible now. If so, that person had the same foresight as the alleged individual who thought to put birth announcements in Honolulu newspapers when Barack Obama was born in 1961, knowing that he would need cover when running for president 47 years later.

In the end, Mitchell asked a lot of detailed questions, but didn't reach any conclusion except that the format Grassley chose, with alternating between Democratic and Republican Senators, with each getting 5 minutes for questions, is a horrible way to get at the truth. At the very end, Grassley congratulated Ford for her bravery in testifying voluntarily. If he thought she was a (paid) liar, would he have congratulated her for her bravery? More likely he would have just said: "Thank you for your testimony" and left it at that. (V)

Up Second: Brett Kavanaugh

Christine Blasey Ford's testimony was devastating for supporters of Brett Kavanaugh. She clearly believed that what she was saying is the truth, and she was clearly traumatized by the events she described. The two things she said that particularly resonated: That her strongest memory of the night in question was the laughter from Kavanaugh and Mark Judge that rang in her ears, and that she was "100% certain" that Kavanaugh was her attacker. A survey of the various television news outlets (CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, etc.), whose talking heads were all in phone/text/e-mail contact with GOP operatives on the Hill, made clear that the red team was scared witless, and felt the nomination was slipping away.

When Kavanaugh took his seat, then, he had a pretty tall hill to climb. Ostensibly, the Judge's opening statement, and the Q&A that followed, were supposed to form one cohesive package. There may never have been a hearing, however, where the two phases were so different in tone and character, and so they have to be assessed as such. Perhaps the best available analogy is a film and sequel done by different directors (like, say, the second and third Harry Potter films): same dramatis personae, same basic plotline, but entirely different pacing and feel.

Kavanaugh's opening statement was, of course, pre-scripted (as was Ford's). The variable was the tone he would strike in delivering it. Sometimes, he was defiant, and delivered his remarks with a thundering voice. Other times, he was conspiratorial, as when he essentially blamed the whole thing on the Clintons:

This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.

Sometimes, as when talking about the impact of this situation on himself and his family, he was reduced to tears.

Assessing the Judge's performance in this phase of the proceedings is a tricky thing, indeed. In his favor, there is no doubt that he very badly wants this job, and that he also cares deeply about his family. And so, the emotion he showed (well, some of it, at least) was real. It is also very much within the realm of possibility that he thinks he is telling the truth about Christine Blasey Ford. That doesn't mean it actually is the truth, but it does mean that calling him a liar may not entirely capture all the nuances of the situation. Given his history of very heavy drinking (and possibly of treating women as objects), he may well have not registered the events of that evening, and so may really and truly believe he is completely innocent.

With all of this said, Kavanaugh also had much more of an agenda than Ford did, which meant he had to work harder to craft his performance. If Ford's lawyers gave her advice before her appearance (which they surely did), it probably went something like this: "Just tell the truth and be yourself." If Kavanaugh's lawyers (or his handlers) gave him advice (which they surely did), it probably went something like this: "Be assertive, but not too assertive. Make sure to show your human side, but don't appear uncertain. Poke subtle holes in Ford's narrative, but don't attack her too directly, because that could play badly. Make sure to play to the base; this is a political process, and you have to keep their support. Stay on script, and don't improvise." The point here is that the Judge had much more need to play a role, and he had far more marks to hit. And, frankly, it showed. He's not an actor, nor is he a professional politician, and some of the notes he struck during his statement rang false. The tears sometimes seemed like crocodile tears, and often when he emphasized something, it looked like the thought in his head was not "I feel this deeply" but instead "I need to make a really big point here." His righteous indignation, when he displayed it, often came off as contrived.

In short, the Brett Kavanaugh of Act I was pretty good, but he wasn't great, and he certainly wasn't as compelling as Ford. If 100 people who have no dog in this fight were to watch both individuals' testimony, 95 of them would find Ford to be the more credible. That said, everyone who was watching on Thursday does have a dog in this fight. That includes the audience of one for whom the opening statement was primarily meant: Donald Trump. And if he's the target demo, Kavanaugh's performance was a home run: bluster, bravado, dramatics, pushback against these persnickety women and their harassment complaints, and a shot at the Clintons as the whipped cream on top. Of course the President loved it.

It was in Act II that things got...interesting. We may never know what the GOP's exact plan was heading into the day, but given how gripping Ford's testimony was, and how ineffective Rachel Mitchell was, they had to spend the break between Ford and Kavanaugh (which was around an hour) improvising. The easy decision was to bench Mitchell. For whatever reason that gambit didn't work at all, and so while she was present for Kavanaugh's testimony, she barely spoke. The much more difficult problem was exactly what to do in response to Ford. Maybe they had an inkling of how compelling she would be, and maybe they didn't, but any plan that involved ripping her to pieces was going to be a loser. So, they went in a different direction.

To explain the strategy the GOP adopted, it is now necessary to note a couple of things about the proceedings and how they were conceptualized by the Republicans on the Committee. First of all, during their 5 minutes with the Judge, several of them asked him a question along the lines of, "Is this a job interview?" It is clear this was not pre-arranged, because Kavanaugh didn't quite know what they were going for, and fumbled for an answer each time it came up. The answer they wanted was,"No, it's not a job interview, it's a trial." On top of that, nearly all of the men on the Committee are lawyers (hence their service on this particular committee), and many of them were once prosecutors. That means that they are undoubtedly aware of a bit of wisdom that was presented particularly succinctly in the courtroom drama "A Few Good Men": "My father always said a jury trial is not just about the law. It's about assigning blame." There was no jury on Thursday, of course, but the basic problem was the same. Christine Blasey Ford is clearly a victim, and someone needs to take the blame for that. It can't be Kavanaugh, however, or his nomination is kaput. And so, the villain could only be...the Democrats. There were two prongs to this: (1) It was the Democrats' fault that Ford's letter leaked, and caused her to be subject to public scrutiny (2) It was the Democrats' fault that they did not reveal Ford's existence until it was "too late" in the process for the FBI to investigate.

Before we continue, we should explore the problematic logic on display here. In no particular order:

  • The careful reader may immediately take note that the two arguments the GOP was making are mutually contradictory. They were, with a straight face, criticizing the Democrats for revealing Ford's name at all, and at the same time criticizing them for not revealing her name quickly enough.

  • As to the leaking of Ford's name, it is not at all clear that the Democrats were even responsible. The matter actually came up for discussion on Thursday, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that it was not her staff who leaked it. Ford, for her part, was not clear on how the story got out, either. Nor did she seem to be particularly bothered that it had; her general notion seemed to be that she would have eventually spoken out publicly regardless of what happened. It's worth noting that the leak happened shortly after the letter ended up in the FBI's hands, so if we want to identify a culprit, that is probably the place to start looking.

  • As to the delay in releasing the letter, that is not at the hands of "the Democrats," it is the responsibility of one Democrat, namely Feinstein. The Senator's explanation is that she was asked to keep the story under her hat, and she did so until she had permission to go to the FBI. That is certainly plausible; while there are many things that even Feinstein's constituents might dislike about her, she's never been known as a liar. Beyond that, the deeds of one member of the party do not attach to the entire caucus.

  • The notion that it is "too late" to investigate is, as noted above, an invention, a sophistry crafted by one Chuck Grassley. There was a particularly remarkable point during the proceedings when the Senator climbed on his high horse and railed against the Democrats for completely abrogating the "advise and consent" process by dragging it out. He said that a nominee is usually vetted in 65-70 days, and that it was outrageous that Kavanaugh was at 85 days and counting. That speech requires either serious chutzpah or serious cognitive decline when it's coming from the man who sat on Merrick Garland's nomination for 400 days.

  • Finally, let us imagine that the Democrats did indeed leak the letter, so as to force Ford to go public. And let us further imagine that they timed it in order to happen as late in the process as is possible. The evidence does not appear to support either of these suppositions, but let's go with them nonetheless. Even if the Democrats are guilty of all manner of dastardly deeds, it has no relevance to Kavanaugh's guilt. That might have been the single most amazing thing about the Kavanaugh portion of Thursday's hearings. The 11 Republicans on the committee constantly pointed fingers at the Democrats. Most of them identified both Ford and Kavanaugh as "victims" of this whole process. But never did they advance, in any way, a theory that challenged Ford's "100% certain" declaration. One possibility would have been to try to impugn her, which is what would generally happen in a real criminal trial. But subtle attempts to do so in the morning did not work, and anything beyond that would have been very bad optics, so the GOP senators dropped it. Another alternative is a "mistaken identity" argument, but that wasn't likely to work too well, so they didn't pursue that, either. Consequently, Ford's declaration effectively stands uncontroverted, beyond Kavanaugh's opening remarks in which he said it wasn't him, and that he's a nice guy.

Full of weaknesses or not, the GOP had its strategy, and from that point forward, each of the factions in this little drama played pretty clearly delineated roles:

  • The Republican Senators: Their role, primarily, was to give speeches lambasting the Democrats and their chicanery, and noting that both Ford and Kavanaugh have been treated very unfairly. The harangue by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the one getting most of the attention, since he was on the verge of screaming, and seemed very much like he was going to burst into tears and storm out of the room. Here's the video for those who are interested:

    In the end, Graham is an even worse actor than Kavanaugh, which is saying something. And like Kavanaugh, he was also performing for an audience of one, with the message: "Mr. President, I would make a great AG if you need one anytime soon." The other Republicans were a little more restrained, but most of them pretty much gave the same basic speech. They asked very few questions, beyond a few softballs.

  • The Democratic Senators: Like the Republicans, there was definitely some coordination going on, as they also had a few themes they wanted to reiterate, which they did, over and over. Unlike the Republicans, they asked quite a few questions. The main themes: (1) Trying to get Kavanaugh to agree that an FBI investigation is warranted, (2) Exploring his alcohol consumption, and (3) Figuring out what all the entries in his senior yearbook mean (many are generally understood to reference exploits involving sex or liquor). In the end, the blue team got very few actual answers, and overall did a worse job of advancing their themes than the Republicans did of advancing theirs.

  • Kavanaugh: His performance during the opening statement was good, as noted. His performance in Act II, by contrast, was not so good. He had clearly been coached, and it showed constantly. The recurring motifs:

    • Delay, Delay, Delay: Kavanaugh knew that, thanks to the rules Chuck Grassley invented, each of his Democratic questioners was limited to five minutes. So, the more time spent on any one answer, the fewer questions overall. He hemmed and hawed as much as he could, and during each Democrat's questioning, he developed a case of verbal diarrhea worthy of a bad Victorian novelist. One expected him to break out with, "It was a dark and stormy night..." at any moment.

    • Evade, Evade, Evade: Whoever prepped Kavanaugh (Don McGahn, presumably) foresaw the Democrats' main lines of questioning, and coached the Judge on how to answer. At least half a dozen Democrats asked him, in various ways, if he favored reopening the FBI investigation into his background. After all, they reasoned (with logic that is pretty sound), if he is innocent, he should want his name to be fully cleared. In response, Kavanaugh said the same two things, over and over: (1) I'm willing to do whatever the committee wants to do, and (2) The FBI collects information, it does not reach conclusions. Neither of those things is an actual answer, as several Democratic senators pointed out. Similarly, the Judge clearly knew that his yearbook was going to come up a lot. His pat answer there was to roll his eyes at the ridiculousness of discussing something so "trivial" (his word), and to say, "Have at it, if you want to go through my yearbook." Perhaps in his 12 years as a federal judge, he never presided over a hearing where a careful reading of available evidence was necessary.

    • Repeat the Talking Points: As noted, calling Ford a liar was not likely to work out well. But Kavanaugh did make frequent reference (at least a dozen times each), to the two best pieces of exculpatory evidence on his behalf: The letter signed by 65 female classmates that says he is a good guy, and the fact that the other people who have been identified as attending the party where the alleged attempted rape occurred have no memory of anything.

    • Dishonesty: As already noted, there was a fair bit of dishonesty on display on Thursday. And even if Kavanaugh is telling the truth about the assault on Ford (or he thinks he's telling the truth), there were other places where he was being willfully dishonest. We've already noted, for example, that the letter from 65 female classmates has largely been disavowed by the signatories, who signed on before they knew about Ford. The Judge is certainly aware of this, and so to keep wielding that letter is shady, at best. To take another example, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked about a line in Kavanaugh's yearbook that reads, "Beach Week Ralph Club—Biggest Contributor." Ralph being slang for 'vomit,' and vomiting being a byproduct of excessive alcohol consumption, that line pretty obviously translates into "Person who most often drank to excess." The Judge said the line referred to his notoriously weak stomach, and implied that the reference was to spicy foods and not alcohol. Uh, huh. To take a third example, Kavanaugh said that he did not watch Ford's testimony, because he was preparing for his own. In fact, according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal, he did watch it on a monitor in the Dirksen Senate Building while he was waiting. Already, one of Kavanaugh's Yale classmates has given an interview in which she decried his "blatant lying."

    • Temperament: Undoubtedly, it is not easy to be under a microscope like this. On the other hand, Kavanaugh has presented himself as a man of unusually even temperament, which means he's not only ideal for the Supreme Court, but also that he is not capable of the violent acts of which he is accused. That being the case, it is interesting that he came very close to losing his cool several times during the hearing. In particular, he developed a habit of responding to Democratic senators' questions with pointed questions of his own, which is not apropos for this kind of proceeding. The incident that will get the most play is an exchange with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), in which she was asking him about excessive alcohol consumption, and he fired back with questions about her own drinking. The optics of that bit were so bad that, after a break, the Judge apologized to the Senator for his behavior. Maybe he reached his own conclusion on that, but more likely someone told him how it came off on TV.

    The next time a SCOTUS nominee goes through this process, they will watch recordings of Thursday's proceedings for ideas about what not to do.

The hearings came to a fairly quick end at 6:45 EDT. The second-to-last senator to go was Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who in characteristic fashion made a grandiose speech about how "we are 21 very imperfect senators trying to do our best to provide advice and consent," but added little to the proceedings. Then, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked Kavanaugh to make a promise before God that he was telling the truth, and Kavanaugh did, and that was pretty much it. The Judge appeared to be as surprised as anyone when Grassley gaveled the proceedings to a close and hustled out of the room, but with that it was all over.

Well, maybe not. The American Bar Association made an unusual last-minute call yesterday evening for the Judiciary Committee to delay the vote and have the FBI do a new investigation, including the most recent allegations. In a strongly worded letter, the ABA said that the principle of the rule of law requires that when there are serious allegations, they must be thoroughly investigated. ABA letter or no ABA letter, don't bet on it. Unless Collins and Murkowski come out in public saying they are definite "no" votes, McConnell is going to hold a vote next week. And even if they do, he might hold a vote just to cause trouble for three Democratic senators: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Claire McCaskill (MO). If they vote "no" along with the rest of the Democrats, the rest of their campaigns will be exclusively about their vote. That might work in North Dakota, which is pretty much entirely a rural state, but Indiana and Missouri also have big cities and suburbs with college-educated women who may be fuming about how the Republicans have treated all the allegations about Kavanaugh and might just show it on Nov. 6. (Z)

So, What Does It All Mean?

Once the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings were over, it took less than one minute for the spin to begin, courtesy of one Donald J. Trump:

As noted, he was the most important audience member of them all. Well, the most important male audience member. In reality, the most important audience members were Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who have a tough decision to make when the confirmation comes to the Senate floor for a vote. And while it is possible he would have sent that tweet regardless of what happened, it nonetheless captured an important truth: As good as Ford was, Kavanaugh (with an assist from his GOP friends on the Judiciary Committee), likely saved himself. He should get down on his knees and thank God (or Chuck) that he was allowed to go second. If the final image of the day had been Christine Blasey Ford in tears, that would have been very bad for him.

After the hearings, the Senate's GOP caucus held an all hands on deck meeting, and the decision was made to move forward with a Judiciary Committee vote on Friday morning. Publicly, Chuck Grassley says he is not sure he's got the votes to approve the nomination, identifying Jeff Flake in particular as someone who is uncertain. It is very hard to believe, however, that the Chairman would have moved forward if he did not know the outcome. Which, of course, is going to be an 11-10 vote in favor of Kavanaugh.

What is more believable is that nobody—not Grassley, nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—knows what is going to happen next. Certainly, some votes are still in doubt, and Ford's testimony was such that a senator could sleep on it for a night and wake up with a newfound opposition to Kavanaugh. Thus far, the rounds of voting needed to actually confirm the Judge have not been formally scheduled, which is certainly evidence of the uncertainty within the GOP caucus. It's also worth noting that actually scheduling a full Senate vote is not necessarily an indication of a preordained outcome. When McConnell schedules the vote, probably sometime next week, it could just mean he thinks he's close enough. Recall, for example, what happened with the vote to overturn Obamacare.

Assuming that the GOP does keep its wagon hitched to Kavanaugh, even with Ford's testimony, they are taking a huge risk, particularly with suburban women voters (who, polls suggest, are rapidly moving away from the Party). Only the leadership knows exactly what its thought process is. One possibility is that a SCOTUS seat is so precious, they are willing to take whatever bitter medicine they have to take (including possibly losing control of one or both chambers of Congress). It's also possible they think (or, at least, hope) the voters will forget, and will not actually hold them to account in the midterms. A third possibility, one that has not been much discussed, is that this is another Party of Trump thing. The President has been unusually passive throughout this whole process, at least by his standards, but it is possible that McConnell & Co. have knowledge that he will go scorched earth if Kavanaugh is rejected, and that they are even more terrified of what he might do than what voters might do. Whatever the case may be, it's not an easy time to be among the Republican leadership. (Z)

Takeaways from Thursday's Hearings

Normally, it takes a day for the takeaways to be done. But Thursday's hearings were very big news, and were done reasonably early in the day, so the takeaways are already ready:

Washington Post:

  • This didn't start off well for Republicans
  • Meanwhile, Ford came across as credible and sympathetic
  • Republicans' decision to hand their questions over to a female prosecutor seemed questionable
  • Kavanaugh was angry. But did his defiance backfire?
  • Kavanaugh may have done what he needed to do for the most important people in the room

ABC News:

  • Christine Blasey Ford's credibility
  • Brett Kavanaugh's defiance
  • The political animus alleged by Republicans
  • What's next? Likely not an FBI investigation
  • Two individuals whose lives are changed forever, and little resolved

CBS News:

  • Senators believe Ford is credible, and she is "100 percent" sure Kavanaugh assaulted her
  • Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell had a muted presence in hearings
  • Republicans see Kavanaugh testimony as a win
  • Lindsey Graham delivered fiery rebuke of the confirmation process
  • Democrats unsuccessfully pushed for an FBI investigation
  • Vote delay seems unlikely

The New York Times:

  • Dr. Blasey delivered raw, gripping testimony to the committee
  • Judge Kavanaugh was aggressive, tearful and partisan in his own defense
  • The committee avoided an Anita Hill moment, but Republicans made their fury known
  • All eyes will stay on the undecided senators

The Weekly Standard:

  • The Democrats screwed America
  • Senators are the worst
  • No matter what happens going forward, everyone has already lost
  • There is reason to believe either Ford or Kavanaugh; but you should not trust people who believe either of them with total certainty
  • We are where we are
  • This is Anthony Kennedy's final kiss-off to the country


  • Ford is credible
  • The manner of questioning is, um, not great
  • Grassley's tin ear
  • Hatch's 'attractive' gaffe
  • Mitchell's swings and misses
  • The silence of Senate Republicans
  • Kavanaugh's angry and emotional opening statement
  • No one is more outraged than Lindsey Graham
  • Republicans called an audible on Mitchell
  • This was an utterly wrenching day

The overarching themes: Ford was very believable, Kavanaugh was on the offensive, and the whole dog and pony show was great at generating outrage and a lot of posturing from the senators but was not so useful for reaching any sort of meaningful resolution. (Z)

Rosenstein Meeting Rescheduled

In theory, the enormous amount of attention that the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings will get today made yesterday the ideal day to fire Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. The story would have gotten drowned out, as much as is possible. And, as we've already noted, the allegation that Rosenstein considered taping the President so that the 25th Amendment might be invoked gives Donald Trump plausible cover to wield the axe.

Nonetheless, as many predicted, the meeting between the President and his (for now) Deputy AG was pushed back to next week. Exactly what this means, nobody but Trump knows. Maybe he can deal with only one thing at a time, and Brett Kavanaugh is that thing right now. Or he might enjoy making Rosenstein twist in the wind, kind of like a cat playing with a half-dead mouse. Possibly, the President just can't decide exactly what he wants to so. Or maybe he has decided, and his decision is that the blowback will best be put off until after the election. Any of these things could be answer. The one answer that is not likely is the one Trump has offered publicly, namely that he would prefer to keep Rosenstein around. It's hard to say exactly whom Trump hates the most in the hated Justice Dept., but Rosenstein is definitely in the top three. And whatever happens, by January 1, 2019, the U.S. is more likely to have a shiny new wall along the Mexican border than it is to have a Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

Two new polls today maintain yesterday's status quo and could be indicative of the final results, with the Democrats picking up Arizona and the Republicans picking up North Dakota, with the balance of power remaining the same. That said, polls or no polls, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, and Florida are too close to call and may go back and forth until Nov. 6. Absent some major development, the final score in the Senate could be anything from D+3 to R+3. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Michigan Debbie Stabenow* 56% John James 33% Sep 21 Sep 25 EPIC MRA
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* 50% Lou Barletta 33% Sep 17 Sep 23 Franklin+Marshall Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep27 And Then There Were Three...or Four...or Five
Sep27 Hearings Will Move Forward as Scheduled
Sep27 Democrats Prepare Hail Mary Passes
Sep27 Trump Gone Wild
Sep27 Rosenstein's Fate to Be Determined Today...Unless It's Not
Sep27 House Passes Spending Bill
Sep27 Democrats' Lead in Generic Ballot Is Growing
Sep27 Today's Senate Polls
Sep26 The World Laughs at Trump
Sep26 Kavanaugh's College Roommate Supports Ramirez
Sep26 Murkowski Warns Senate to Listen Carefully to Ford
Sep26 Mystery Questioner's Identity Quickly Leaks
Sep26 Trump Slams Ramirez
Sep26 Nelson Trails Scott Badly among Older Latinos in Florida
Sep26 Candidates Are Ignoring Cyber Security
Sep26 Today's Senate Polls
Sep25 Rosenstein Might Quit
Sep25 Kavanaugh Will Not Withdraw
Sep25 More Kavanaugh Accusations Coming Soon
Sep25 Trump Goes to the U.N.
Sep25 China Goes to Iowa
Sep25 GOP Favorability Reaches Seven-Year High
Sep25 Florida Congressional Candidate Passes Away
Sep25 Today's Senate Polls
Sep24 And Then There Were Two
Sep24 Ford Will Testify Thursday
Sep24 Trumpworld Split on When to Fire Rosenstein
Sep24 New Tariffs Take Effect
Sep24 House Republicans Desperately Want to Adjourn This Week
Sep24 Democrats Hold Double-Digit Lead in Generic House Poll
Sep24 Democratic Primary Turnout Shot Up More than Republican Turnout
Sep23 Kavanaugh Accuser Will Testify...Probably
Sep23 Trump Changes Course on Classified Document Dump
Sep23 This Week in Commercials
Sep23 Professor Who Unmasked Anonymous: It Was Mattis
Sep23 This Week's Senate News
Sep23 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Michael Bloomberg
Sep22 NYT: Rosenstein Wanted to Wear A Wire to Record Trump
Sep22 We Should Know Sometime Today if Ford Will Testify...Maybe
Sep22 With Tax Cuts Fizzling, Republicans Return to Culture-War Ads
Sep22 Moore Film Opens
Sep22 Ratings Changes from Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball
Sep22 Ratings Changes from Politico
Sep22 Ratings Changes from the Cook Political Report
Sep22 Cruz and O'Rourke Debate
Sep22 Today's Senate Polls
Sep21 Cohen Has Been Talking to Mueller for Weeks
Sep21 Christine Blasey Ford Wants to Testify, but Not on Monday
Sep21 Kavanaugh Preferred Clerks That "Looked Like Models"
Sep21 Kavanaugh Battle Could Affect the Supreme Court Itself