Have you ever been at a party, engaged in conversation with someone, and you suddenly notice that while they're talking to you, their attention has strayed to an attractive person standing behind you, and they're now looking over your shoulder rather than at you?
That's how I felt watching today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing featuring Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who Ford has accused of assaulting her sexually back in 1982.
It was can't-miss drama for a political junkie like me. I watched most of the proceedings on TV. There was everything: suspense, tears, ups and downs between the D's and R's, anger, self-righteousness, the whole gamut of human emotions.
What didn't happen was what I'd hoped would happen: a Perry Mason moment (showing my age) where one of the Democratic Senators asks Kavanaugh a leading question, gets his answer, then whips out a piece of paper and says, "But Judge Kavanaugh, I have a sworn affidavit here from a classmate of yours that directly contradicts what you just said."
Sadly, because I believe Ford is telling the truth about being assaulted by Kavanaugh, the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee got in some good punches, but there wasn't anything close to a knock-out blow.
Which helps to explain my main theme in this post -- why everybody was talking to someone else at the hearing. They knew that today's hearing was going to end pretty much in a draw (both Ford and Kavanaugh said they were 100% sure that he did, or didn't, do what Ford accused him of).
This sort of redirected speech is common in politics, being a form of doublespeak, but I've never seen it as much in evidence as was the case in today's hearing. I'll discuss the doublespeakers one by one.
Now, the person who was most honest and direct was Christine Blasey Ford. If she was speaking to somebody else, it was her own self. Ford chose her words carefully. She struck me as wanting to speak her truth about the sexual assault with the care that a traumatic event like this deserved.
This made Ford the most believable person in the hearing room. I never felt like she was doing anything other than telling her story as accurately as possible. She was unfailingly polite and deserves a medal for having the courage to come forward with her accusation against Kavanaugh.
Brett Kavanaugh, on the other hand, pretty clearly was speaking to Donald Trump, even though his remarks were ostensibly addressed to the Judiciary Committee. His rough and tumble opening statement was very Trumpian in tone: angry, political, accusing.
It was like Kavanaugh was screaming to Trump, "Don't pull my nomination just because Ford was believable when she said she was sure I sexually assaulted her. Like you, I'm a street fighter. Stick with me." Kavanaugh came across as a guy who, if he could be this angry while sober, could be an even bigger asshole when drunk.
But Trump tweeted after the hearing that he was pleased with Kavanaugh's over-the-top testimony, so even though it may not have played well in living rooms across America, Kavanaugh connected with the one guy who could easily kill his nomination.
Likewise, Senator Lindsey Graham was speaking to Trump's base when he echoed Kavanaugh's ridiculous claim that the three women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct were part of a vast left-wing conspiracy, aided and abetted by the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.
Out in the hall during hearing breaks, and later during Kavanaugh's testimony, Graham seemed to be trying to outdo Kavanaugh on the It's a Democratic Outrage! front. It's likely that Graham also was trying to curry favor with Trump, as this is Job #1 for any Republican seeking re-election and hoping to fend off a primary opponent on the candidate's right flank.
Judiciary Committee Democrats were less aggressive toward Kavanaugh than I expected. Probably this is because they were speaking to Senate Republicans as much, or more, than to Kavanaugh. The only hope of stopping Kavanaugh from joining the Supreme Court is if at least two Republicans join every Democrat in opposing his nomination next Tuesday.
So the big theme of committee Democrats was "Let's have the FBI investigate the three allegations against Kavanaugh; what's the harm in waiting a week or so for the investigation to produce its findings?"
If only one Republican on the committee went along with this, tomorrow's Judiciary Committee vote wouldn't produce a positive recommendation to the full Senate, and an investigation might turn up some damning evidence against Kavanaugh.
Speaking of damning evidence, Democratic hopes of stopping Kavanaugh's nomination may rest on Michael Avenatti's claim that his client, Julie Swetnick, observed Kavanaugh engaging in "highly inappropriate conduct" with girls in the early 1980s. Avenatti is Stormy Daniels' attorney, and has ambitions to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020.
If Avenatti is able to produce solid evidence in the next few days that what Swetnick says is correct, this would be a big blow to Kavanaugh's ability to get 51 votes in the Senate. But if Avenatti can't back up what he's been saying in cable news interviews, this would hurt his already slim chance of being the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.