Columnist

Dear Republicans: Could you just … stop?

Since the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh became public about a week ago, you’ve been scrambling to defend your once-promising Supreme Court nominee while trying to prove that you support women, too. But you’ve gotten worse at it by the day.

First of all, Kavanaugh didn’t do it. And if he did, he shouldn’t be punished for something he did when he was only 17. Especially if it only happened once, which isn’t a pattern. Anyway, it wasn’t sexual assault; it was horseplay. Oh, we’ll listen to the lady, but only if she appears before us at our preferred time and place. We definitely want all the facts, but a full FBI investigation is out of the question.

And now the “doppelganger theory” has appeared.

There have been hints of the existence of  “exonerating evidence” since the beginning of the week, and Thursday night, we all got to see the GOP’s latest defense: A prominent Kavanaugh supporter presented the astonishing theory that perhaps Professor Christine Blasey Ford had been assaulted, but by someone else — someone who just looked like Kavanaugh, yet wasn’t the man himself.

Not to be rude, but this is insane.

Taking to Twitter with screenshots from Google Maps, scans of old yearbooks and floor plans ripped from Zillow.com (among other not-at-all-absurd pieces of “evidence”), Ethics and Public Policy Center president and Kavanaugh confirmation adviser Ed Whelan tracked down a potential location for the attack that Ford alleges. He then publicly identified another Georgetown Prep classmate of Kavanaugh’s as Ford’s possible attacker, though Whelan is careful to say he has “no idea what, if anything, did or did not happen in that bedroom at the top of the stairs” or whether any sexual assault even took place.

The 26-tweet thread is preposterous beyond parody — and has raised the question of defamation to boot (Whelan’s disclaimers notwithstanding). To make matters worse, it was swiftly rebutted by Ford herself.

And by the next morning, Whelan had issued a sort-of retraction, saying he had made an “appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment” — not in airing the ridiculous theory in the first place, just by posting it in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s classmate.

Guys, do you really want to keep doing this? You’re not helping your case.

Even if the FBI were to investigate these allegations — a completely reasonable possibility, which Senate Republicans have completely unreasonably refused to accept — it’s unlikely that it would reach a definitive conclusion. We might get more clues, but we will probably never know for certain what happened — or didn’t — 36 years ago.

But it’s easy to guess what will happen in the next few months if the GOP decides to ram Kavanaugh’s confirmation through.

“Justice” Kavanaugh will forever bear the taint of partisanship, perfidy and — worse than both — unresolved allegations of sexual assault. In fact, two of the nine sitting justices will have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct — just the thing to inspire trust. Any narrow decisions handed down will be viewed with a jaundiced eye — especially any that touch on gender, including conservatives’ hoped-for overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The scandal surrounding Kavanaugh’s appointment, combined with the suspicions about his moral fiber, will deteriorate public trust in one of our most important institutions — perhaps the only one that has survived the Trump era more or less intact. As my colleague Michael Gerson writes, “The Senate has become a factory of suspicion and contempt.” Must you ruin the Supreme Court, too?

And a majority of women, already skeptical of Kavanaugh’s conservative positions, are enraged at how callously Ford has been treated. Combine that with what could be an Anita Hill-esque hearing and the shadow of a president famous for “grabbing them by the p———y” (maybe throw in the ignominy of a certain Roy Moore to boot), and Republicans might lose that segment of the electorate for a generation — definitely for the midterms. In the #MeToo era, the GOP will have definitively become the anti-female party.

With all due respect: Are you sure you’ve thought this through?

Republicans in the White House and on the Hill are racing to distance themselves from this latest, ridiculous doppelganger claim. They should keep on running. At this point, I’m skeptical that the GOP can salvage this nomination. At best, the Kavanaugh saga is an embarrassing spectacle, and at worst an infuriating object lesson in naked partisanship and male entitlement.

More voters now oppose Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination than support it, according to the most recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. And there are other less tainted candidates waiting in the wings. So why keep this going?

Look, Republicans, I get it: You tried. But for all our sakes, could you consider giving it a rest?