EDITORIAL: Just a start to probe

York Dispatch Editorial Board

Congressional Republicans have done little to cover themselves with glory since a California doctor went public with allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her some 35 years ago when the two were high school students.

Senate Judiciary Committee Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley’s take-it-or-leave-it demand that the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, appear at a hastily arranged hearing at which she and Kavanaugh could swap stories was, literally, the least he could do.

Other prominent Republicans did their best to downplay or belittle the accusations.

GOP North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, a Senate candidate, called the allegations “absurd.” He offered his thinking — if that’s the word for it — in a radio interview: “These are teenagers who evidently were drunk, according to her own statement. They were drunk. Nothing evidently happened in it all, even by her own accusation. Again, it was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere.”

Donald Trump Jr. turned to the social media platform Instagram to distribute an infantile graphic mocking the accusations. Republican Rep. Billy Long of Missouri did likewise on Twitter.

And President Donald Trump himself was characteristically unhelpful, first sympathizing with Kavanaugh, then raising questions about Blasey Ford’s accusations on Twitter. If Kavanaugh’s actions were “as bad as she says,” he tweeted, “charges would have been immediately filed.”

These asinine statements resulted in not only a tsunami of Twitter outrage from women detailing the many personal, emotional and societal reasons they do not immediately report assaults (hashtag: #WhyIDidntReport) but a rare rebuke from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who warned the president about gumming up the skids to the high court he has so carefully greased.

After much back and forth, Blasey Ford has tentatively agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Kavanaugh, presumably, will do likewise.

And there the matter may well end. The committee’s GOP majority has done little to erase the perception that they simply wanted to hurriedly hear out Blasey Ford so they can get on with their predetermined confirmation of Kavanaugh.

McConnell does not serve on the committee but sounded anything but open-minded about the hearings when he told a conservative group in his home state of Kentucky on Friday: “In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.”

That’s unfortunate: For Blasey Ford, who has endured everything up to and including death threats; for the untold tens of thousands of women like her who will be further dissuaded from unburdening themselves of their own stories of abuse; for the court itself, which will issue rulings from under a cloud for the generation or so Kavanaugh is among its members; and for the nation, which will see reaffirmed the lessons of Donald Trump’s election that privileged white males can ascend to the highest reaches of power despite credible accusations of moral and legal impropriety.

By all rights, Thursday’s hearings, if they come to pass, should be the first step in the Senate’s efforts to ascertain the truth behind the accusations. Kavanaugh’s actions then, as well as his honesty about them today, are defining characteristics of is fitness for the court.

The FBI could, within several weeks’ time, interview others known to have been at the party — not the least of which a Kavanaugh chum who is said to have witnessed the assault.

Senators of both parties should demand this information before deciding on a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court.

But senators of the majority Republican party, with one eye on a conservative Supreme Court majority and the other on an election calendar that could reverse their grip on senatorial power, very likely will not.

They will almost assuredly check the “we heard her testimony” box and rush to confirm Kavanaugh.

Christine Blasey Ford deserves more than that. So do the American people.