“It looks like she’s crying,” Hilda Darkins said, as several retirees around her dabbed their own eyes. “Who can blame her?”
At the Mid-County Senior Center in Lake Worth, Fla., two dozen people sat around circular tables, facing the television. They watched Christine Blasey Ford, who was watching in silence as Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) read lengthy opening statements.
Then Ford herself began to speak.
“She looks scared, and she looks nervous. But I think she’s telling the truth,” said Myrtle Facey, 78, a retired cashier. “She may have waited a long time to talk about it, but this is something that will never leave you, no matter what happens. You always remember it. You may not think of it every day, but it will always be with you, just like learning the ABCs. You never forget.”
On Thursday morning, Ford’s testimony — about an alleged sexual assault in the early 1980s by Brett M. Kavanaugh, now a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court — transfixed Americans in coffee shops, subway cars and Capitol hallways. It was a moment with tremendous political stakes: Kavanaugh’s nomination itself seemed in doubt, and with it a firmer conservative majority on the nation’s highest court.
Dr. Ford gave a heartfelt, emotional testimony and it destroyed any doubt that she was assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh some 30 years ago. It became a national event of importance.
The power of the moment — the reason that people cried in airplane seats and called into C-SPAN to tell their own stories of sexual assault — was in seeing Ford tell a story of private pain before a massive public audience.
It was to see her speak, without knowing yet who would believe her.
“16A: Crying. 14B: Crying. 17C: Weeping,” Ron Lieber, a New York Times columnist, wrote on Twitter from a flight headed from New York to Salt Lake City, listing the reactions as passengers watched the hearing on seat-back televisions. “I am one of the criers.”
As the hearings began, some of the busiest places in the country fell quiet. At the New York Stock Exchange, Brad Smith — an anchor for the news site Cheddar — said normally frenetic traders were all watching the TVs. Phones rang in the background, unanswered.
In the Capitol building itself, the halls were quiet, as senators not on the Senate Judiciary Committee bunkered in their offices to watch TV.
At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, so many employees watched the hearings on their computers that the I.T. department warned they would overwhelm the network.
In one therapist’s office in Washington, two women sat in the waiting room, listening to the hearing on tiny cellphone speakers. One reached for the other’s hand.
And then later this afternoon, America met the real Brett Kavanaugh
, and the real Senate GOP.
After riveting testimony from Dr. Blasey, Judge Kavanaugh took his turn before the Senate Judiciary Committee to proclaim his innocence — and outrage.
He opened the second half of the high-stakes hearing with a scorched-earth defense, denying he had ever sexually assaulted someone and denouncing a “frenzy” bent on destroying his nomination.
“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he said in an opening statement that he said he wrote himself on Wednesday. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’”
He condemned Democrats who he said had searched for reasons to sink him weeks before, only to turn to dark accusations. He pointed back at deep-seated liberal grudges, going back to the presidency of Bill Clinton and the victory of Mr. Trump as evidence of the animus. And he warned of dire consequences for the federal judiciary in decades ahead if nominees face a path like his.
And when he recounted his daughters praying last night for Dr. Blasey, he broke down in tears.
“My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional allegations,” he told the committee. But he vowed never to withdraw.
“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit,” he said. “Never.”
Dr. Ford was filled with fear and trepadation as she laid herself bare before America. Judge Kavanaugh was incandescently incensed that he had be inconvenienced by this mere woman on the way to his Supreme Court appointment for life.
The Judiciary Committee will vote tomorrow on Kavanaugh's confirmation, the entire Senate on Saturday, and nothing makes me think that Brett Kavanaugh won't be sworn in by Monday to start destroying 80 years of classic liberalism, civil rights, and equality.
But America won't soon forget this hearing, this day.
And they will speak in November at the ballot box.