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Jujitsu Comms

Once Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s name was leaked as Brett Kavanaugh’s anonymous sexual assault accuser during his Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearing a couple of weeks ago, she reluctantly accepted the role of the #MeToo avatar in this historic fight for women’s rights. Ever since, watching her improvise her responses to the Republican Senate’s Judiciary Committee has been a fascinating study in using the hubris of power against itself.

The Republican Judiciary Committee’s singular focus on confirming Kavanaugh at all costs, and its belief it can “plow right through” any opposition – especially that of a “girl” – with naked power has caused them problems they never foresaw.

The Republican White House and Congress don’t seem to get that Blasey and her attorneys understand today’s politics better than they do, that they are about to be swept away by a force stronger and more devastating than Florence, that this is a situation where they could lose both the battle and the war.

The negotiations between the Senate Judiciary Committee and Blasey’s team have bought some time, and time is on Blasey’s side. The longer this takes, the more time Blasey and her surrogates have to pound at Kavanaugh’s and the Republicans’ positions, the more time Trump has to not be able to control his itchy twitchy Twitter thumbs, and the more time reporters have to dig further into Kavanaugh’s background stories. And in a few short days even more has come to light.

Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer’s story in the New Yorker about new allegations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh while a student at Yale University dropped Sunday night, Sept. 23 when the confirmation vote had been scheduled for the week before and was postponed by Basley’s demands for more time. That same Sunday night the ranking member of the Committee, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), called for the immediate postponement of the confirmation hearings until all allegations are properly investigated by the FBI. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) quickly called on Kavanaugh to “step aside immediately” for the “good of the country and the integrity of the court.” And now Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti is claiming he has a client who will step forward this week with even more allegations.

Concurrently, the time has allowed Blasey’s story to seep into the public consciousness, to have its outrage echo and find ever more tweets and retweets (#WhyIdidntreport) to enlist ever more fervent followers and energized activists. And the Republicans get this part – that’s a lot of why they have been insisting on hearing deadlines.

But here’s the part their “rush to judgement” ignores – Blasey and her astute attorneys have other and perhaps better options to communicate their story than the silly charade of the Senate hearing. In fact, that hearing could be their gold mine, the set up for taking this further, their Rope-a-Dope.

If I’m a producer for a TV newsmagazine show, say at 60 Minutes or some similar program, I’ve long ago realized that a review of Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Chuck Grassley’s investigations into the Kavanaugh matter, with its anti-democratic and anti-women antics, its suppression of requested relevant documents, free speech and women’s rights, is a ratings bonanza.  And I’ve already contacted Blasey and her attorneys and offered a platform for what is unlikely to ever come out in this Senate hearing. For Blasey and my program, that incidentally would end up heroically defending the Fourth Estate, this is a win win.

My program could:

+ Provide a national TV platform to Blasey’s other witnesses that the Committee won’t allow to testify at the hearing.

+ Cover the Committee’s optics problems, that all those Republican white men don’t want to be seen questioning a sexual assault victim, and can’t risk one or more of them chewing on their wingtips and giving Democrats footage for campaign ads

+ Assemble the clips and tweets of these Senators already having made up their minds, that for all their concern that Blasey gets heard, they don’t care what she has to say, she doesn’t matter.

+ Review the “#WhyIdidntreport” explosion, the hundreds of thousands of women who have publicly told their stories, often for the first time, amplifying and reinforcing Blasey’s points.

Although Blasey’s team and my program can’t subpoena Kavanaugh high school buddy Mark Judge, we can concisely summarize his writings, his year book statements, his published book and other articles to portray his and his pals’ behavioral modes at the time, and note his and Kavanaugh’s refusal to testify under oath.

And if the Committee moves ahead and votes to confirm Kavanaugh, that pulls the trigger.  I schedule the program to run as soon as possible after that and before the full Senate confirmation vote.

This is blockbuster stuff. Blasey’s team could then follow this up with the easy-to-book talk show interviews the following day. My program’s footage and quotes will dominate headlines for days.

But wait, there’s more.

Haven’t Congressional Republicans figured out that there is no statute of limitations on attempted rape in the state of Maryland, the site of the alleged crime? Blasey could file charges there now, triggering a law enforcement investigation and possibly a trial in a Democratic county and state. And a local District Attorney would have something more than a TV show does for its investigation – subpoena power. How’s that going to look for a Trump Supreme Court nominee, even if the Senate does vote to confirm him – a sitting Supreme Court Justice indicted for sex crimes? Could this be the Republican SCOTUS legacy?

Republicans only hope would be Blasey’s acknowledged disinclination to continue to be in the spotlight, and the increasing pressures on her and her family should she choose to do so. But the Republicans’ bullying and bullshit in their sham of a hearing may be the catalyst for pushing past that, and making this the national movement that destroys them.

This is not rocket science. Surely some Republican comms strategists must have seen this and told the Committee. Nevertheless, they persist.

Steve Stallone is the former political editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, former Communications Director of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), former president of the AFL-CIO’s International Labor Communications Association and former secretary of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, CWA-TNG Local 39521. He is currently semi-retired and freelancing out of Oakland, CA. He can be reached at: steve.stallone@gmail.com

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