The Weird Rhythm Of The Christine Blasey Ford Hearing

Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party 36 years ago, testifies during his US Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 27, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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The format Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has put forward for Christine Blasey Ford to testify about her allegations that Brett Kavanaugh groped her has created a jarring contrast between the Democrats’ and Republicans’ approach to the hearing — even more jarring than the typical hearing in which one side is fawning over the witness and the other is grilling him or her.

Rachel Mitchell, who’s doing the questioning for the Republicans, is speaking smoothly, but meticulously as she asks Blasey Ford about the minute details of her account.

She can never get very far down those lines of questioning however. The format is such that she only gets five minutes at a time, to supplant the five minutes that the Republican senator in line for questioning would get, before it’s time for a Democrat to question the witness.

Grassley has cut Mitchell off to tell her it’s the Democrats’ turn for questioning, which isn’t exactly helping the optics goal of bringing in Mitchell in the first place — to avoid awkward moments from the male Republicans.

The Democratic senators usually begin with a longwinded monologue that is more of the norm of the grandstanding that happens at these high profile hearings. When they do get to their questions, they’re often aimed on letting Blasey Ford stress how deeply the alleged assault has been ingrained in her memory.

Throughout both sides’ questioning, she has kept a calm composure, though her voice at times sounds raw. She has been careful in answering the questions, and has even corrected herself midway through testifying.

The tension between these two dynamics has been at times been broken by exchanges with Blasey Ford about the mechanics of the hearing. She said at the beginning of her testimony, when asked if she would need a break after her opening remarks, that she might need some coffee.

A few rounds of questioning in, Grassley asked her if she was still set for a break after another few rounds. Christine Blasey Ford asked if that worked for the members, prompting Grassley to say they’re just trying to accommodate her.

“I’m used to being collegial,” Blasey Ford said.

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