For a day or so, Republicans and their right-wing media cheerleaders were high-fiving, congratulating themselves on having boxed in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. She’s got to come Monday, or that’s it! And no FBI investigation. Period. Hey, she’s not going to show — so we win!
Have these people never seen a negotiation? Do they imagine that the world operates by fiat? Maybe in their ideological fervor they’ve forgotten how to compromise and strike deals. Practicing lawyers do it all the time. Perhaps Republicans didn’t realize that senators don’t hold all the cards, as I pointed out Thursday. If they were unreasonable or unserious, she could hold a news conference or do a TV interview. There was always going to be a negotiation.
Sure enough, Republicans seem to be discussing a day later next week for Ford to testify and maybe even bringing in a witness or two. Hey, the Republicans don’t want the FBI to investigate first? Well, Kavanaugh will have to testify — and then hope and pray nothing comes to light afterward to contradict him. (This is one of many reasons he should want the investigation done first.) Between her own counsel and adviser Ricki Seidman, whose experience as a Democratic staffer goes back to Anita Hill, Ford seems to be holding her own.
As a result, Republicans who convinced themselves that Ford wasn’t going to show have been thrown for a loop. They must realize they cannot easily dispute that Ford was attacked by someone. Enter the wackadoodle conspiracy theories, as The Post reports:
Amid the maneuvering, the nomination was roiled further late Thursday by incendiary tweets from a prominent Kavanaugh friend and supporter who publicly identified another high school classmate of Kavanaugh’s as Ford’s possible attacker.
Ed Whelan, a former clerk to the late justice Antonin Scalia and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, pointed to floor plans, online photographs and other information to suggest a location for the house party in suburban Maryland that Ford described. He also named and posted photographs of the classmate he suggested could be responsible.
Ford dismissed Whelan’s theory in a statement late Thursday: “I knew them both, and socialized with” them, Ford said, adding that she had once visited the other classmate in the hospital. “There is zero chance that I would confuse them.”
See, if there is an FBI investigation, Republicans won’t embarrass themselves by postulating improbable theories that Ford easily could shoot down. (By the way, the ease with which Kavanaugh’s defenders made an accusation of criminality — Whelan apologized on Twitter on Friday morning — tells you something about the depth of their concern for a man’s reputation. It’s simply Kavanaugh’s skin they care about; everyone else gets mowed down.)
Ford understandably would like an FBI investigation. It would be helpful to have Mark Judge tell the FBI about the drinking the Georgetown Prep kids did and how blotto they got. Nevertheless, watching Republicans flail around, making wild accusations and opening lines of questioning that unintentionally benefit Ford could reveal a lot — about them.
There are two sentiments evident in the statements Republicans make.
The first view seems to be that that even if true, a little attempted rape as a teenager shouldn’t be disqualifying. Aside from the fact that would mean Kavanaugh has lied over and over again as an adult, that’s not going to fly with voters or even with Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who do think that attempted rape and lying about it are disqualifying.
It is also morally pernicious, as Nancy French eloquently explains, and contradicts conservatives’ views on everything from life sentences for minors (who they believe are responsible for their actions) to permanent condemnation of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who never in their eyes made up for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Weighing one’s good and bad deeds is a matter left for theology, and it’s no way to pick a Supreme Court justice. Here it’s “one strike and you’re out.” (Kavanaugh has his current job to worry about as well.)
Second, it is human tendency to believe that anyone you know and have pleasant dealings with couldn’t have possibly done something bad, even decades ago. We’ve all made fun of the neighbor interviewed on local news about the crazed criminal who lived next door (“I had no idea. He was so nice — he let me use his lawnmower!“). Former White House aide Rob Porter was a good guy, according to President Trump and the man who reportedly recommended him, who just happens to be Kavanaugh. The White House crew couldn’t imagine — even with photographs presented — that Porter would do the awful things that his ex-wives claimed he did.
We therefore have a parade of Kavanaugh’s classmates and more contemporaneous colleagues saying that the conduct Ford alleges is entirely out of character. Sadly, “good guys” have been known to do very bad things. Domestic courts are filled with them. It doesn’t mean Kavanaugh is necessarily guilty; it means that his allies’ utter faith in the character of 17-year-old Georgetown Prep student Brett Kavanaugh might be misplaced.
In sum, it looks as though we may hear from Ford next week. Republicans have every right to be glum, and they might want to think about a Plan B before Ford gets in front of the cameras.