President Trump reportedly has been frustrated with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for delaying the confirmation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. After the Thursday hearing, the White House apparently was vexed that Republicans didn’t hold a snap vote. Trump had a point: Given time for consideration of the facts and the declining public support for Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation becomes a heavier burden to shoulder for Republicans each day it drags on.
Voters didn’t like Kavanaugh before Thursday’s testimony, and now they like him less. According to the most recent CBS News poll, “The net shift in sentiment over the week has been toward opposition. Today 37 percent of Americans do not think the Senate should confirm (up from 30 percent opposed last week) and 35 percent think the Senate should confirm (up from 32 percent last week) as partisan sentiments have hardened.”
A YouGov poll similarly found: “More people thought that Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth than did Brett Kavanaugh. 41% thought Ford was ‘definitely’ or ‘probably telling the truth,’ compared to 35% for Kavanaugh. About a quarter were unsure about both.” Contrary to the insistence of Republican pundits who desperately want Kavanaugh confirmed, the issue is helping Democrats, not Republicans, in advance of the midterms. (“Sixty-five percent of voters who don’t want him confirmed, the survey finds, say the Supreme Court will be very important to deciding their vote in this year’s midterms, compared to 50 percent of those who support his confirmation — a gap that’s especially notable because, in the past, Republicans have often been substantially likelier than Democrats to prioritize Supreme Court appointments.”)
But don’t expect Republicans to dump Kavanaugh. Political logic no longer figures into the calculation. Senate Republicans are behaving rashly and recklessly, unable to comprehend how they sound to anyone except the worst partisan.
Right-wing male politicians such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have the audacity to declare that Ford has been victimized … by Democrats. (Maybe ask her?) Even if you thought that, why would anyone say such a stunningly condescending thing? Telling someone who has said she is the victim of a sexual assault whom she should and should not hold responsible for her pain represents a new low in Senate Republicans’ twisted exercise in blame-shifting.
Conflicting reports about the White House’s restrictions on the FBI suggest that Republicans might still not grasp the danger of a less-than-thorough investigation. Should the FBI not talk to relevant witnesses — and the Republicans nevertheless confirm Kavanaugh — Democrats surely would launch a post-confirmation investigation and perhaps an impeachment effort if they gain control of one or both houses of Congress. You can bet that FBI officials are documenting any restrictions placed on their investigation, which later would be fodder for impeachment proceedings (for either Kavanaugh or Trump, come to think of it).
As the investigation continues, Kavanaugh’s testimony about his drinking habits looks less and less credible. That in turn raises the question as to whether Kavanaugh lied under oath.
Chad Ludington, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s who says he drank frequently with Kavanaugh, put out a statement Sunday accusing Kavanaugh of lying under oath. It read in part:
In recent days I have become deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale. When I watched Brett and his wife being interviewed on Fox News on Monday, and when I watched Brett deliver his testimony under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, I cringed. For the fact is, at Yale, and I can speak to no other times, Brett was a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker. I know, because, especially in our first two years of college, I often drank with him. On many occasions I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive. On one of the last occasions I purposely socialized with Brett, I witnessed him respond to a semi-hostile remark, not by defusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man’s face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.
As Ludington pointed out, college drinking hardly would disqualify Kavanaugh, but lying under oath about drinking should certainly rule out a Supreme Court seat. Moreover, a deliberate falsehood of that nature would require investigation and possible removal of Kavanaugh from his current post on the D.C. Circuit.
Likewise, Senate Democrats never got around to quizzing Kavanaugh about his interaction with Ed Whelan, the conservative legal activist who, with zero evidence, cooked up a cockamamie theory pointing the finger at an innocent classmate. Should it come out afterward that Kavanaugh had any role in that scheme, this, too, would be grounds for seeking impeachment of Kavanaugh.
Republicans cannot be entirely blind to the risk of post-confirmation discoveries. However, in their Scarlett O’Hara mind-set (“Oh I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow”), they cannot bear to consider what happens the day after the midterms. Right now they can only consider short-term perils — huge humiliation if Kavanaugh fails, a lost opportunity to fill the seat before January (when a Democratic majority might conceivably take over) and a triumph for the members of the imaginary, vast left-wing conspiracy who they say whipped this whole thing up. (Again, in O’Hara’s words: “I can’t let him go. I can’t.”)
The delegitimization of the Supreme Court? The tumult of possible impeachment of a sitting Supreme Court justice? They’ll think about it all another day.
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