Donald Trump has struggled at times to know exactly what he wants to say about Christine Blasey Ford. The president originally tried to show restraint, which seemed politically wise, though at times, he’s blurted out criticisms of Brett Kavanaugh’s first accuser, calling the professor’s sexual-assault allegation “made up.”
Last Friday, the day after the dramatic testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump conceded, “I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me. A very fine woman…. Certainly she was a very credible witness. She was very good in many respects.”
Last night in Mississippi, however, the president abandoned the pretense that there’s value in treating her with respect.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday repeatedly mocked Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, despite having said just days ago that he found her Senate testimony last week “very credible.”
In a one-man reenactment of Ford’s appearance before the Judiciary Committee, with his voice alternating between an impression of her and of her inquisitor, Trump challenged the veracity of the testimony that paused his nominee’s confirmation.
The president went on to describe Kavanaugh’s critics as “evil people.” (The Supreme Court nominee last week testified, “A democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as evil. ‘Evil.’ Think about that word.”)
In a written statement, Dr. Ford’s lawyer described Trump’s remarks as “vicious, vile, and soulless,” adding, “She is a remarkable profile in courage. He is a profile in cowardice.”
All things considered, it would probably be a mistake to be surprised. Mockery of those who get in his way is one of Trump’s go-to moves – he’s publicly ridiculed everyone from American prisoners of war to those with physical disabilities – so it stands to reason he’d ignore his advisers and go after an alleged sexual-assault victim.
The question is whether Trump’s mockery will have much of an effect.
At least as of this morning, the president’s antics are drawing at least some notable criticism.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who sided with his Democratic colleagues last week in seeking a one-week pause on the confirmation process of Kavanaugh to allow the FBI to investigate multiple claims of sexual misconduct, called Trump’s remarks the prior evening “appalling.”
“There’s no time and no place for remarks like that,” Flake said Wednesday. “To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right.”
“I wish he hadn’t done it,” added Flake, whose vote Senate Republicans would likely need to confirm Kavanaugh if all Democrats oppose the nomination.
Of course, Flake may very well vote to confirm Kavanaugh anyway. Indeed, the president is counting on it.
From Trump’s perspective, the strategy has a certain logic to it. If he could win the presidency by mocking Gold Star families, prisoners of war, and the physically disabled, Trump probably figures he can win a Supreme Court fight by mocking an alleged sexual-assault victim.
It’s about fueling a sense of grievance among die-hard Republicans, who responded, at least last night, with chest-thumping satisfaction. Describing Dr. Ford as “compelling” and “credible” doesn’t get the far-right excited, but ridiculing her might.
And so, the former tack has been replaced by the latter.