What just happened?

On Thursday, Christine Blasey Ford  delivered a  stirring, credible account accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of assault.

This was followed by a loud, belligerent, and tearful denial by that nominee, who accused some committee members of trying to destroy him.  Yet less than 24 hours later, his nomination was subsequently voted out of committee with strings tied to an FBI probe that will last a week –strings that may or may not be honored by the full Senate.

What just happened is that the bitter partisan family feud that has spread beyond government and shredded civility and unity in this country has now sullied the highest court in the land.   The Supreme Court is supposed to be the adult in the room:  judicial in temperament, fair, impartial, informed, and reasoned.  For this we've invested it with the power to impact millions of lives, forever.

Obviously, this is not the first trip to the circus that the high court has taken; the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 that attempted to strip Anita Hill of dignity and respect while trotting out details of pornography and defiled Coke cans were one such trip.  But there was something far more fraught, more hysterical in Thursday's hearings:  Senators yelled, the nominee interrupted his questioners, trembled with rage, and accused Democrats of taking revenge for the Clintons.   More than once, we heard a Supreme Court nominee defend his fondness for beer.

Christine Blasey Ford's accusations were compelling, though subject to imperfect memory and lack of corroboration. Almost as troubling as these accusations was Kavanaugh's overall performance at the hearing. He was more than angry; he was furious, often evasive, defensive, and critical of Democrats who he claimed were out to destroy him.

Not only did Kavanaugh lack the temperament that we need and expect from the court, but the introduction of partisan hostility raises the question of whether he would act fairly as a justice. This question of bias is a dangerous cloud to be hanging over the highest court in the land.

But the question at the heart of the hearing was whether Kavanaugh has a negative bias toward women, manifesting itself in sexual assault.

Despite an FBI probe, that will probably never be determined with certainty.  It is likely, however, that we'll be able to see the answer to that question in the decisions he makes once he is confirmed to the court. And that adds a level of worry to many women who have felt a mix this week of vindication and defeat.

The vindication came at the beginning of the week, at the sight of a shambling Bill Cosby being led away to a prison sentence of 3 to 10 years for sexual assault – the first adjudication in the parade of sexual assault and harassment stories that have streamed into society of late.   The defeat – an almost certain confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, despite troubling accusations from more than one woman – will last much longer.  So will the cloud of partisan hostility that now seems positioned over the Supreme Court – and that should worry men and women alike.