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The Kavanaugh hearing seems designed to fail.

The first few rounds of questioning for Christine Blasey Ford can be described in one word: whiplash. Each senator gets only five minutes to ask questions, and the result is a surreal, veering experience between sympathetic Democrats and Rachel Mitchell, the Republicans’ genial but prosecutorial outside counsel.

Democratic senators are using their time to personally question Blasey about her experience, leaning on her experience as a clinical psychologist at one point to describe how memories are formed and stored. “So what you’re saying is this could not be a case of mistaken identity?” asked California Senator Dianne Feinstein. “Absolutely not,” Blasey replied.

The Republican perspective is represented by Mitchell, an experienced sex-crimes prosecutor from Arizona. Mitchell’s demeanor does not convey outright hostility, but her role is clearly intended to discredit Blasey by poking small holes in her account of that night. The optics are bizarre: Republican senators look on stoically as Blasey shares her story and their hired gun tries to disprove it.

The exception to this silence is Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, whose demeanor isn’t helping. His frequent interruptions of his Democratic colleagues to reiterate partisan divides between them added another layer of tension to the entire spectacle. If Republicans hoped this would help their case, it has not yet done so.