The accusation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape a 15-year-old girl as a drunken high school student has captured the beltway’s and the nation’s attention. Here in Rhode Island, it’s also shed some light on the campaign between Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the incumbent Democrat, and Bob Flanders, a Republican and himself a retired state Supreme Court justice.
Whitehouse, the Democratic incumbent who gets to question Kavanaugh and his accuser on Monday as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was among the first members of Congress to ask for a delay – which the GOP agreed to on Monday.
“This requires a pause, at a minimum, in the unseemly, special-interest-funded rush to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Court,” he said in a statement released on Sunday. “Kavanaugh’s blanket denial cannot be reconciled with her specific recollections, and the FBI needs time to take proper witness statements. Lying to an FBI agent in a formal interview is a crime, and an impeachable offense.”
Flanders initially thought the accusation was “not a sufficient basis to delay, much less derail his confirmation to the Supreme Court,” according to the Providence Journal.
Then, as the story developed, and the political winds of the #MeToo movement proved too powerful for the Republican majority, who narrowly control the Senate and thus the Kavanaugh nomination process, Flanders flip-flopped. As had congressional Republicans, he now supported hearing from the accuser. Though he devoted a majority of his words on the matter (91 of 113, or 4 of 5 sentences) to making the case that opponent was politicizing the accusation. Here’s his entire statement:
“The Deputy Chair of the DNC, Rep. Keith Ellison, has two documented claims of physical abuse of women against him, and yet Sen. Whitehouse remains silent. When allegations of sexual abuse were levied against Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Whitehouse ducked for cover. But on this, two months before he is up for re-election, Senator Whitehouse is surprisingly vocal.The last minute nature of these decade-old allegations raise real questions about what Sheldon Whitehouse knew and when he knew it, now that we know Democrats have had this information for some time. I agree with Senator Graham that the committee should hear directly from the accuser so the public can know all the facts.”
Flanders may be loathe to put it this way, and it may well be poor politics to do so, but he had come to agree with Whitehouse, as well.