Staff Editorial

Kavanaugh allegations deserve examination

U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives with Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for the second day of his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Sept. 5, 2018. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)
U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Brett Kavanaugh arrives with Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for the second day of his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Sept. 5, 2018. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

U.S. Supreme Court justices serve in perhaps the most important position in our government. Their vetting must never be rushed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation today, but that vote was delayed as Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley called for additional proceedings next week — another hearing for Kavanaugh, as well as a testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school.

The veracity of claims about misconduct from more than three decades ago are necessarily difficult to determine and, if they’re false, Kavanaugh deserves an opportunity to clear his name. However, a lifetime appointment to our highest court deserves due diligence.

Delaying the vote was the right move, but federal leaders now face more difficult choices about how to proceed, with Ford asking for an FBI inquiry before she will appear before the Judiciary Committee. Grassley has said FBI will not investigate, and instead offered Ford a closed session meeting or private staff interviews in place of an open testimony.

Grassley wrote in a letter to Ford’s lawyer, “By hearing out both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, the Committee will endeavor to discover the truth of the matter.” However, any examination led by a partisan Senate committee is unlikely to yield “the truth of the matter.” The Senate, especially in our current political climate, is not suited to do that sort of work. Some person or entity besides a group of politicians must take the lead.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins wrote a letter this week to Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, acknowledging the allegations against Kavanaugh are “serious” and proposing Kavanaugh’s lawyer be given time to question Ford, and Ford’s lawyer be given time to question Kavanaugh, before committee members ask their questions.

Anita Hill — who accused Justice Clarence Thomas of harassment during his 1991 confirmation hearings, spurring a lengthy series of testimonies — published a New York Times Op-Ed this week calling for the Senate to rely on “a neutral investigative body with experience in sexual misconduct cases.

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Those proposals seem like reasonable steps if Republicans hope to proceed with Kavanaugh’s nomination.

If Grassley and Republicans conclude a thorough inquiry is not worth the time and trouble, they have a simple alternative — let Kavanaugh’s nomination fail and allow President Donald Trump to nominate someone else. There are qualified judges without such baggage, and several women on Trump’s list of prospective nominees. A Supreme Court appointment demands no less.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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