Echoes of Thomas-Hill as Senate sets hearing with Kavanaugh, accuser

Nearly 27 years after the nation watched Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas testify in a special hearing about sexual misconduct allegations which endangered a U.S. Supreme Court nomination, the U.S. Senate will hold another politically explosive showdown, as Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, will testify next Monday in public before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"As I said earlier, anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has done deserves to be heard," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), as Ford stepped forward over the weekend to accuse Kavanaugh of a drunken sexual assault during a party, when they were teenagers in the early 1980's.

"This is the best route forward," said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who had said he would not proceed with a vote this Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee without hearing from Kavanaugh's accuser.

"Obviously, these are serious charges, and if they are true, I think they are disqualifying," Flake told a gaggle of reporters just off the Senate floor.

Senators fully acknowledged that the outcome of the hearing might be basically what happened in October of 1991, a 'he-said/she-said' public deadlock between Justice Thomas and Anita Hill - which temporarily sidetracked the Thomas nomination, but generated huge interest in the Senate proceedings, and galvanized a number of women to run for Congress in 1992.

"We saw the way Senators completely mishandled the questioning of Anita Hill," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who was elected in 1992, which some dubbed, "The Year of the Woman" in Congress.

"First of all, I would like the FBI to conduct a proper vetting," said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), as Hirono and other Democrats said a week wasn't long enough to investigate the allegations made by Ford against Kavanaugh.

"We're talking about an arbitrary and irrational deadline," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Even before the hearing was set for next week, President Trump publicly expressed his strong support for Kavanaugh, while not directly going after Ford.

"Judge Kavanaugh is one of the finest people I have ever known," the President said of his Supreme Court pick, as he chided Democrats for pushing ahead with the allegations just days before the Senate Judiciary Committee was to have voted on his nomination.

When one reporter asked the President if Judge Kavanaugh was going to withdraw, Mr. Trump gave it the back of his hand, saying Kavanaugh is still 'on track' to be on the Supreme Court.

"Next question. What a ridiculous question," the President said dismissively.

In a statement issued Monday by the White House, the Judge continued to dispute Ford's charges, as he labeled it a 'completely false allegation.'

"I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone," Kavanaugh said.

"The one thing I won't do is boil his life down to a high school event," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who told reporters he would listen to both Ford and Kavanaugh next Monday.

"If it happened, it's a terrible thing," Graham said of the charge against Kavanaugh.

"But there's a process here that's a bit suspicious."

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