Saturday, September 22, 2018


The latest Bret Stephens column, which is on the subject of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh, is right about a few things ("I believe Merrick Garland was treated despicably by Senate Republicans") and wrong about many more ("That’s beside the point here. I believe Dianne Feinstein has behaved recklessly"). But this in particular jumped out at me:
I believe in the presumption of innocence. I believe this is fundamental, and that it should apply in courts of public opinion as well as those of law.
Really? Is Stephens arguing that we should presume Harvey Weinstein is innocent until he's had a jury trial? Is he saying the same thing about Les Moonves? Charlie Rose? Matt Lauer? That we should disregard the many credible accounts of abuse by these men? Outside the realm of predatory sexual behavior, should we presume that Osama bin Laden was innocent, because he never went to trial? What is Stephens saying here?

He goes on to write:
I believe that sexual assault is evil, but so is bearing false witness.

I believe women lie just as often as men do.
That might be true as a general rule, but does Stephens seriously believe that women lie just as often as men do about sexual assault? Do we need to explain yet again the men who lie about committing sexual assault will mostly be believed, while women who claim they've experienced it, whether they're telling the truth or not, will be subject to harassment, threats, and a smearing of their reputation?

The fact that feminism has altered that balance somewhat in the case of Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford -- a significant percentage of Americans suspect him and believe her -- doesn't change the traditional balance. Most men get away with not telling the truth about assaults they've committed. Most women who've reported assaults truthfully (or in some cases not truthfully) are assaulted once again by the system and become pariahs in the eyes of people who know them or know of them.

Does Stephens think the balance has shifted to parity? Really?

Friday, September 21, 2018


Nate Silver says:

Silver is responding to this analysis by Hot Air's Allahpundit:
Does McConnell Still Want This Nomination To Proceed?

... McConnell is a bottom-line guy.... in the end, it matters less to him which conservative gets to fill a SCOTUS vacancy than that *some* conservative does. He preferred Raymond Kethledge or Tom Hardiman....

McConnell is keenly aware, I’m sure, that Republicans are getting blitzed by women voters already in midterm polling. Anything that exacerbates that, like, say, Trump swiping at an alleged rape victim repeatedly for days on Twitter, will make the party’s electoral prospects worse. Meanwhile, the GOP’s chances of nominating and confirming a replacement for Kavanaugh before Election Day if he implodes this week grow slimmer by the hour....

All of this is a long way of speculating whether, in his heart of hearts, he wouldn’t prefer to have the nomination yanked and to proceed with alacrity on the confirmation of a replacement.... The process needs to start immediately, though. Assuming it’s not too late already.
McConnell is in a tough spot here, but I think he has to stay the course and hope Kavanaugh squeaks by, because if he doesn't, the Republican base will go into the midterms knowing that, at a crucial moment, libs were not owned. Lib-owning is the most important goal of the Republican base; the failure to own libs is the worst possible failure.

The Kavanaugh nomination was being managed as if the point was to persuade liberals and moderates that it wasn't part of an ideological war while conservatives realized that it actually was. Kavanaugh wasn't supposed to alienate moderates, especially moderate women; his handlers incessantly promoted him as female-friendly (carpool dad! girls' basketball coach! adored by women who've worked with him, even the liberal ones!).

But now that everyone knows we're in an ideological war, McConnell, on behalf of his troops, has to win -- the base won't accept failure. McConnell has to push Kavanaugh through because there's as much Democratic opposition as there is -- giving in would make him a cuck.

I think McConnell could achieve a significant amount of lib-owning if Kavanaugh were to withdraw and Amy Coney Barrett were to be appointed and approved in his place, because getting her approved would be seen as a blow to the hated Dianne Feinstein, whose remarks to Barrett when she was being considered as a lower-court judge were widely construed on the right as anti-Catholic. ("The dogma lives loudly within you" was the soundbite version of what Feinstein said; for more context, go here.) But McConnell is said to believe that Barrett is too obviously anti-abortion, which might inspire no votes from Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. (As if.) A bigger problem, I think, is Barrett's membership in a Catholic group called People of Praise, which isn't quite a cult but isn't all that easily distinguished from one. (The women in it were literally referred to as "handmaidens" until recently.)

Get her through and you'll really own the libs -- but that might be hard with much of the country noticing her and her belief system for the first time. (And I suspect Trump wouldn't appoint her -- he clearly prefers High Court appointees who are male and Ivy Leaguers, and she's neither.)

Approving Kethledge or Hardiman wouldn't be big lib-owns after Kavanaugh's fall, so it's full steam ahead with Kavanaugh, at least for now.


This happened yesterday:
Ed Whelan, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and the president of a think tank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center ... actually identif[ied] a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep, and suggest[ed] that he might have attempted to rape Ford, not the future judge.

The tweet storm showed the results of Whelan’s internet sleuthing. The supposed evidence ... includes:

• A Google map of where Ford, Kavanaugh, and other alleged witnesses lived when they were in high school.
• Real estate photos of the home where Whelan thinks the incident might have occurred, based on Ford saying the house was “not far from” the Columbia Country Club.
• A floor plan that shows that the upstairs bathroom is across from a bedroom in this house, just like Ford described.
• And finally, the big reveal: 35 years ago, this was the home of a Georgetown Prep student who looks kind of like Kavanaugh and was also friends with Mark Judge (who was allegedly present during the assault). Yearbook photos and a current photo of the classmate are provided for comparison to Kavanaugh.
The Twitter thread is still up as I'm typing this; the alleged Kavanaugh doppelganger, a middle school teacher named Chris Garrett, hasn't announced that he's suing for defamation, but it's early yet.

(UPDATE: The thread has been deleted and Whelan has apologized.)

I don't know how this was supposed to work, but I assume Whelan expected it to pass smoothly through what James Carville used to call the "puke funnel" -- it was presumably meant to travel from his Twitter feed effortlessly into the mainstream conversation, after passing through increasingly "respectable" right-wing media outlets. The Drudge Report and Power Line are taking Whelan seriously, as is Ross Douthat -- but Senator Orrin Hatch's communications director, who'd retweeted Whelan's earlier tease of the theory, distanced himself from Whelan yesterday:

The [Washington] Post reported that top Republicans tried to distance themselves from Whelan after his tweet storm flopped:
Republicans on Capitol Hill and White House officials immediately sought to distance themselves from Whelan’s claims and said they were not aware of his plans to identify the former classmate, now a middle school teacher, who could not be reached for comment and did not answer the door at his house Thursday night.
Garrett Ventry, communications adviser for the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted that they had no involvement...
And the right-wing press was lukewarm:
Even right-wing outlets from Hot Air to the Washington Examiner dismissed the theory and said Whelan was wrong to identify the classmate. “It is inconceivable that this Whelan defense will help Kavanaugh in any way. In fact, it’s so nasty and desperate-seeming that it taints Kavanaugh, despite that fact that he might have had nothing to do with it,” wrote The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher.
And if my favorite barometer for what the right-wing base is thinking -- Free Republic -- is any indication, the theory isn't catching on with hardcore right-wingers because ... it doesn't make Christine Blasey Ford seem evil enough. Some FR comments:
I doubt the “mistaken identity” dodge they’re digging out now.

Imo, the entire thing was a lie, start to finish.


Ford’s a liar, stop lending credence to her story by pretending it happened.


Nope, she's just a liar.


Or, far more likely, his accuser is a stone liar looking to make a splash.
So the puke funnel isn't working as well as it used to. Now, let's hope that defamation suit happens.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Politico reports that some Democrats are worried about an October surprise:
Democratic operatives are growing anxious that Republicans working to undermine the FBI’s Russia probe are teeing up a series of document dumps meant to gin up GOP voters ahead of the midterm elections.

After weeks of hand-wringing, President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the declassification of a slew of documents related to the FBI’s long-running investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential connections to Russia. The move came on the heels of top House Republicans revealing that they may also release documents related to their probes into Trump-Russia ties, as well as anti-Trump bias at the FBI and Justice Department.

... Democrats see a more sinister plan: to taint special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe, while simultaneously motivating Trump’s political base on the precipice of an election in which Democrats are favored to make gains....

“Oh, God,” said Jennifer Palmieri, former communications director for Clinton’s campaign. “Trump could be setting the stage for the same kind of manufactured October surprise designed to help boost his standing and undermine Mueller.”
Could Republicans release something that has a significant impact on the midterms? I suppose it's possible -- but I agree with Yastreblyansky that's there's a lot of self-gaslighting going on:
A good con man always believes the spiel, at some level, as in the thing I wanted to talk about, the plan Trump announced Monday for declassifying a host of Mueller-relevant documents, where I think they've really gaslit not just their followers but themselves—Nunes and Gaetz and Trump himself in particular. Once again, as with the Glenn Simpson testimony and the Peter Strzok testimony and the first unveiling of the Carter Page FISC application, they're going to open up a box without knowing what's in it, because they've gone and persuaded themselves, for at least the fourth, fifth, and six times during this circus, that they do know.
It's been reported that Trump hasn't read the material he just ordered released, and we know that Devin Nunes didn't read the FISA application for surveillance of Carter Page before seeking its release. But I'm not sure it matters -- even if they read the documents, they're incapable of imagining how a person who doesn't live in the right-wing bubble will react to them. They just know that the FBI and the Mueller investigation are evil, and everyone they know is equally certain of this, so the only possible reason everyone doesn't know this is that some people just don't have all the facts. All information leads to one conclusion because no other conclusion is possible! So release more information and everyone will agree!

How damaging will the upcoming document dumps be? Let's go back to the Politico story:
Trump’s directive was in line with requests from Nunes and other congressional Republicans. And it also came just days after Nunes announced his own upcoming document dump. The Intelligence Committee head said he would release hundreds — perhaps thousands — of pages from interviews the panel conducted.

The closely linked timing of the Nunes and Trump announcements raised eyebrows among Democrats, as they had spent months pleading with Nunes to release the very same transcripts.
(Emphasis added.)

Nunes thinks he's going to nail the Democrats and the Deep State by going public with documents whose release Democrats have also requested? That makes no sense.

Yes, they're gaslighting themselves.


I've edited the word "evangelicals" out of this post in response to a commenter who notes that many of the religious conservatives who were subjects of the survey under discussion were not evangelicals. Otherwise, I stand by what I've written.

For the past few days I've been reading reports about a survey conducted by Emily Ekins, the polling director at the Cato Institute, that draws surprising conclusions about religious conservative voters. Today Ekins discusses her findings in a New York Times op-ed titled "The Liberalism of the Religious Right."
In a Democracy Fund Voter Study Group report, I found that religious conservatives are far more supportive of diversity and immigration than secular conservatives. Religion appears to actually be moderating conservative attitudes, particularly on some of the most polarizing issues of our time: race, immigration and identity.

Churchgoing Trump voters have more favorable feelings toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims and immigrants compared with nonreligious Trump voters. This holds up even while accounting for demographic factors like education and race.

Churchgoing Trump voters care far more than nonreligious ones about racial equality (67 percent versus 49 percent) and reducing poverty (42 percent versus 23 percent)....

Religious participation also appears to pull Mr. Trump’s supporters away from the administration’s immigration policy. The more frequently Trump voters attend church, the more they support offering citizenship to unauthorized immigrants and making the immigration process easier, and the more opposed they become to the border wall.
The survey also says that frequent churchgoers who are white are less invested in their own whiteness than infrequent churchgoers.

Is this true? I haven't seen similar results in any other survey, but the work seems serious, and it doesn't seem to be tailored to push an obvious agenda.

Ekins draws one set of conclusions from the numbers:
Since the early 1990s, as record numbers of Americans began leaving organized religion, the percentage of white Republicans with no religious affiliation has tripled, according to an analysis of the General Social Survey. Today, only 31 percent of the president’s coalition attends church regularly. Forty-eight percent never or rarely attend services.

Some on the left might applaud such trends. Because of the L.G.B.T. culture wars, many incorrectly assume that if conservative churchgoers are less accepting of sexual minorities, they are also less accepting of racial and religious minorities....

Many progressives hope that encouraging conservatives to disengage from religion will make them more tolerant. But if the data serve as any guide, doing so may in fact make it even harder for left and right to meet in a more compassionate middle.
But I'm coming to different conclusions. It's been obvious for a while that Donald Trump isn't a devout Christian -- he doesn't go to church, he knows nothing about the Bible, and he's lived a life in which he hasn't followed the Christian moral code (most obviously in the area of sex). And yet religious conservatives are his most fervent backers.

Now we're told that religious conservatives are more tolerant and welcoming of people from other ethnic groups and other nations. So how many of their core beliefs are religious conservatives violating when they offer their support to Trump? And what does that say about their priorities?

Trump is giving them the judges they want. Brett Kavanaugh, or whoever might be nominated in his place if he withdraws from consideration for the Supreme Court, will almost certainly vote to effectively ban abortion in much of America. That clearly matters to religious conservatives, as do policies that hurt gay and transgender people, and policies that push religion into public schools and employer-employee relations.

We knew these issues mattered more to religious conservatives than how Trump lives his life -- but now we know that they matter more to religious conservatives than how Trump treats blacks, Hispanics, and immigrants. We knew that religious conservatives think it's a sin to be a pussy-grabbing dirty old man, but they voted for a pussy-grabbing dirty old man anyway. Now we're told that they don't like xenophobic racism -- but they voted for a xenophobic racist anyway.

So what good are these values if hatred gays, abortion, and breaking down the church-state wall of separation are always more important? Why should we try to make common cause with them on other issues if sex and their own status are the only issues they vote on?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


In The Washington Post, Aaron Blake writes this about the possibility that voting on Brett Kavanaugh might be further delayed while the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford are considered:
The main problem for Republicans is that they have no real arguments for why this can’t wait, apart from purely political motivations. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) ... said Wednesday that the confirmation couldn’t wait....

“It is imperative the Judiciary committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken ASAP,” Graham said.

The question is why? Why is it so imperative?
We know the real reasons it can't wait: Republicans want a base-motivating win before the midterms. They want Kavanaugh on the Court at the beginning of the next term. The president wants the next Supreme Court justice to be a believer in extreme deference to the whims of the president.

But they're not saying that. They're saying the vote needs to take place as soon as possible because ... it just does. Two years ago, they said Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination couldn't possibly be considered because ... it just couldn't. Not in an election year!

Republicans get away with this sort of thing all the time: They make up new norms on the spot and then Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, or some other Republican doing a note-perfect imitation of a Salem witch trial judge scoldingly accuses Democrats and other critics of being advocates of chaos and anarchy -- even though it's Republicans who are throwing out the old rules.

Because they posture as defenders of tradition, and because much of the political world falls for this posturing, they get away with portraying the Democrats as the party of bomb-throwers and anarchists who are effectively indistinguishable from Antifa.

I'm seeing this on-the-fly rule creation not only in the way they talk about how nominees are considered but also in the way we're asked to think about the specific allegations against Kavanaugh. What Lili Loofbourow describes in Slate is a process of defining what we're allowed and not allowed to call a sex crime:
It is a remarkable fact of American life that hordes of men are now defending sexual assault.... a substantial group, many of them in politics, has taken to the internet to argue that a 17-year-old football player should get to do as he likes to a 15-year-old girl—say, for example, trap her in a bedroom, violently attempt to remove her clothes, and cover her mouth to muffle her screams—without consequences to his life or reputation.... It’s all in good fun, defenders declare. Horseplay.

Here’s the most surprising part: They’ve launched this peculiar defense despite the fact that the accused party denies it ever happened....

A White House lawyer was quoted saying, “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” Similar things were voiced by Ari Fleischer and Joe Walsh. Per this dark vision of the future, any consequence for committing assault—even being unable to move from one lifetime appointment to another lifetime appointment—is the beginning of the end of a just society....

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Lance Morrow minimized the victim’s side of things further by declaring that the incident wasn’t serious enough to matter. “The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time. ... No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred.”
Conservatives believe they have the right to define or redefine norms whenever it suits them, and they expect the rest of us to accede to their definitions of what's allowed and what isn't. Too many people in and around politics let them get away with this, because Republicans seem to represent eternal values and tradition. That has to stop.


This is a reasonable request:
The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault all but ruled out appearing at an extraordinary Senate hearing scheduled for next week to hear her allegations, insisting on Tuesday that the F.B.I. investigate first.

Speaking through lawyers, Christine Blasey Ford said she would cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee and left open the possibility of testifying later about her allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But echoing Senate Democrats, she said an investigation should be “the first step” before she is put “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.”
It's reasonable, but it won't be hard for Republicans to persuade much of America that it's unreasonable. They have so many talking points that will make sense to non-politics junkies who haven't been following the Kavanaugh story closely: Dianne Feinstein held the accuser's letter for weeks (never mind that it was to protect the accuser's privacy at her request); there's no corroborating evidence; Kavanaugh has been through six FBI background checks; he's prepared to testify on Monday; she's a Democrat, and Democrats want to delay this so Kavanaugh can't be approved before the midterms.

NBC's Kasie Hunt is being called a stenographer for right-wingers because she posted this:

I agree with this. Yes, Anita Hill's charges against Clarence Thomas were investigated by the FBI. But people in the mushy, apolitical middle don't remember that. They remember testimony -- and Blasey Ford will be seen as unwilling to offer that. The people who'll understand her decision are the ones who are already eager to vote against Republicans in November -- I don't think failing to accommodate her requests will change any votes. We sometimes talk as if what conservatives do will anger "women" when in fact there are many conservative and moderate women who aren't in sync with feminism and don't choose to call themselves feminists. Donald Trump won the white female vote in 2016, even after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, and he's only a few points underwater with white women now.

So I think Senate Republicans can get away with proceeding to a vote if Blasey Ford doesn't testify. They'll say she had her chance. And much of America will believe it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Charles Blow considers a hypothetical:

Jemele Hill is thinking along the same lines:

Would it? I'm not sure. I'm not denying the existence of white racism, especially on the subject of black men and white women. But Republicans at that moment were very determined to seat Clarence Thomas, who they knew was likely to be a reliable ideologue on the Court for decades. They also wanted to be seen as a party of inclusion -- without, of course, changing any of the policies that alienated non-white voters. These goals were agreed upon throughout the party -- recall that Strom Thurmond, the old segregationist, escorted Thomas and his wife, who is white, into the hearing room on the first day.

They might have played it another way, using the conservative press to suggest that Thomas's white accuser had an healthy obsession with black men. Then-conservative hatchetman David Brock called Anita Hill "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty"; I think a white woman claiming that a black conservative committed sexual offenses might have been accused of imagining them for racial reasons. Of course, they'd have the opportunity to call her a racist, something conservatives love to do these days whenever liberals criticize a black person on the right.

Maybe I'm being a naive, oblivious white guy. But I recall the right treating the Thomas confirmation process as a must-win. I'm not saying Republicans aren't racist. But this was when the GOP was becoming a fully ideological culture-war party. Thomas was a right-wing zealot. Republicans argued even then that black people would be better off abandoning the Democrats; they pointed to Thomas as proof of concept. They wanted a victory. I don't think they would have let even a white female accuser stand in their way.


When I learned that James O'Keefe was about to release a new series of videos called "Deep State Unmasked," I wondered: Could he actually have found people who are openly subverting the Trump administration from within the government and are willing to talk about this to a stranger?

That's what O'Keefe's title implies, but that's not what he delivers, at least in the first installment. His opening sequence may include clips of John Brennan and Loretta Lynch, but his first subject isn't leaking White House dirt or sabotaging executive branch policy. The featured bureaucrat is a low-level functionary whose principal crime is trying to do campaign work for Democratic Socialists during office hours.

Stuart Karaffa has a job at the State Department, which sounds Deep State-y, but, in fact, he merely "works in the Office of Program and Policy Analysis at the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations." And that bureau does what exactly?
The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission. In concert with other State Department bureaus, foreign affairs agencies, and Congress, OBO sets worldwide priorities for the design, construction, acquisition, maintenance, use, and sale of real properties and the use of sales proceeds.
Prior to that, he had a job in the Defense Department. This would also seem like an opportunity for Deep State subversion, but, again, not really -- Karaffa was
a Research Specialist for the National Security Education Program (NSEP), which is a component of the Department of Defense. The mission of NSEP is to expand U.S. expertise in foreign languages and cultures, thereby enhancing America’s national security capabilities. Mr. Karaffa’s position focuse[d] on DoD-funded study abroad scholarships for college students learning critical languages. He also manage[d] several IT and administrative contracts.
Dude, where's my Deep State?

Karaffa boasts about doing non-government work on government time, and he really does have quite a few irons in the fire -- he's a commissioner on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in D.C.'s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, and, as noted, he works on Democratic Socialist campaigns -- here he's identified as a contact person for the campaign of Lee Carter, an ex-Marine and DSA member who was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, in an upset victory over the Republican who was the House majority whip, Jackson Miller.

Should Karaffa be doing DSA or neighborhood commission business on work time? No -- but this isn't the Deep State.

Over the weekend, O'Keefe spoke at a St. Louis gathering at which Mike Flynn was given a "Service to America" award by the late Phyllis Schlafly's Gateway Eagle Council. At the gathering, O'Keefe tried to link his new project to "resisters" within the federal government -- but notice how he was lowering expectations for the series:
"To some, this deep state is an anonymous, faceless resistance. To others, it is a vast unaccountable government bureaucracy or some would it an extra-legal state within a state," O’Keefe [said].

"Some call it a conspiracy theory. But that conspiracy theory recently took out an op-ed advertisement in the New York Times," he joked.

“At the most fundamental level, Americans make their voices heard through elections, and these people are circumventing that,” he told the audience, adding, “A lot of them brag about how they can’t get fired.”
Karaffa says in the video that he's safe because it's impossible to fire federal workers. O'Keefe didn't get what he presumably wanted -- evidence of federal employees working to thwart Trump -- so he defined "Deep State" down. Now it just means "government bureaucrats who bunk off work."


It's possible that Republicans sincerely believe #MeToo has changed the political calculations, and therefore they won't try to destroy Christine Blasey Ford's reputation. We know they're restraining the president -- Politico says that Don McGahn and Mitch McConnell persuaded Trump not to lash out, while The Washington Post says it was unnamed "White House aides." So treating Ford with some respect appears to be part of the strategy. It's possible that they're waiting for some opposition research to do her in, which won't have their fingerprints on it. But for now they're behaving, including Trump.

The Post says that the overgrown toddler in the White House was mollified by a diversionary tactic.
Trump’s advisers calmed him by giving him space to vent privately about Senate Democrats, whom Republicans accuse of improperly withholding the sexual assault allegation until now....
On the Senate floor last night, McConnell also directed his anger at Democrats, saying this:
It is an accusation which the ranking member of the committee of jurisdiction [Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA)] has known about for at least six weeks, yet chose to keep secret until the 11th hour. Neither she nor any of her Democratic colleagues chose to raise this allegation during the committee staff’s bipartisan background calls with the nominee. They did not raise it even with the name redacted in the 65 meetings Judge Kavanaugh held with senators before his confirmation hearing, including his private meeting with the ranking member.

They did not raise it even with the name redacted in four days of exhaustive public hearings while Judge Kavanaugh testified under oath. Even though they chose to raise myriad other matters at the hearing, including sometimes bizarre innuendo.

They did not raise it in the closed session, the proper forum where such an allegation could have been addressed with discretion and sensitivity. They did not raise it in the 1,000-plus follow-up questions that senators sent to Judge Kavanaugh in writing. But now — now, at the eleventh hour, with committee votes on schedule, after Democrats have spent weeks and weeks searching for any possible reason that the nomination should be delayed, now they choose to introduce this allegation.
Out in the fever swamps, there's a darker version of this message: Democrats are professional character assassins who do this all the time, cynically and with ruthless efficiency. Don't focus on the incident in question -- focus on the sinister, evil Democrats who put it before us. This a classic Democratic hit job.

That's why the Investor's Business Daily op-ed page says:
... getting to the truth isn't the goal of this week's Democrat-orchestrated circus....

This is about sending a warning.

Democrats are warning conservatives, and those who would appoint them, that they will do anything to derail their nominations. That includes flagrant attempts at character assassination — even if that requires throwing out unverifiable allegations from the distant past at the 11th hour.

At this point, the only real question that needs an answer is whether Republicans will reward Democrats for their craven attempts to scare highly qualified conservatives away from public service.
That's what Rush Limbaugh says:
How are decent people ever prepared to deal with these kinds of never-ending allegations, destruction, perversion? I mean we’re dealing with a genuine sickness here with people on the left, and it’s not right. Something about them is just not right.... This never ends, and it’s getting worse and worse and worse. Decent people are blindsided by this stuff every time it happens, and there’s a reason for that. Decent people do not wallow in this kind of mire.

Decent people are not calculating and plotting how to destroy people, how to ruin them. Decent people don’t do that. Decent people might get into arguments with people, try to find out how to win the argument or defeat a political opponent or whatever, but destroying people is not what decent people do. And, as such, decent people — it seems like — are always surprised....

He hasn’t done anything to anybody. He’s a decent person. It’s obvious he’s a decent person. He may define what a decent person is. He may be the epitome of decency. Same thing for his family. Yet here comes the left targeting — once again — another decent human being who happens to be Republican and conservative for utter destruction. Ruin his career, ruin his reputation, ruin his life and all of those who speak up and try to defend him. How do decent people deal with this?
And Noemie Emery:
The time had come to break glass and break out the ultimate weapon, the one that had (almost) worked last time — the unproveable claim of abuse that had never been mentioned to anyone at the time it was said to have happened....

If it works, you get to change history; if it doesn’t work, you live out your life as a martyr and heroine, revered as a goddess by silly young women, guaranteed a lifetime market for your appearances, speeches, and books.

And in case you think there was anything spontaneous about the time the accuser decided that she could in good conscience stay silent no longer, rest assured that it all had been planned for maximum impact, to coincide with demonstrations already planned to take place....

Do the Democrats keep a steady supply of female accusers, adjusted as to age, geography, and possible chance of having met the subject, ready and set to be called on as needed, depending on which nominee, from which part of the country, the Republicans happen to choose?

If they fail with Kavanaugh, will they try it again with the next male contender? if they succeed, surely they will try it over and over, until not a single male judge might be left.
This may be what McConnell is counting on -- the fever swampers will believe everything right-wing media tells them, so they'll think this is just a sleazy off-the-shelf plot from the same people who destroyed Roy Moore and tried to destroy Donald Trump with his own words on the Access Hollywood tape. Add in the people who aren't quite as fevered in their Republicanism but who know they don't like Democrats very much and you're approaching 40%. Sprinkle on a few earnest types who think a guy should get a break for what he did at seventeen (if he's white and has been portrayed as an ideal suburban dad) and who, now that you mention it, think women have a tendency to lie or misremember or whatever, and now you're near 44%, 45%, maybe more.

Republicans never care if their ideas have majority support -- look at the polling on guns and abortion and tax cuts for the rich. They just want a highly motivated near-majority, though if they get a real majority (Clarence Thomas had great poll numbers after Anita Hill testified), obviously they'll take that.

So I'm guessing that's the plan: make Democrats the Antichrist rather than the accuser, because it's always easy to demonize Democrats in the eyes of heartland white voters, and besides, that's what congressional Republicans need as a base motivator with midterms coming up.

Monday, September 17, 2018


It will be a good thing if Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh testify under oath about that high school party, but Marcy Wheeler is right: The third person in the room should also testify.
... she shouldn’t testify alone. Mark Judge should testify along with her. After all, according to her letter and the WaPo account, he was a witness to the event....

And while he currently claims he doesn’t recall the event, she says that the one time they crossed paths afterwards, he exhibited discomfort upon seeing her.

Judge has also admitted to being an alcoholic in high school. He and Kavanaugh both admitted to being Keg Club members together, and they appear in a number of pictures together.
Both Judge and Kavanaugh included "100 Kegs or Bust" in the yearbook summaries of their prep school careers; the goal was to tap 100 kegs before graduation.
In addition, Judge’s comments about women at the time were pretty atrocious.
His yearbook quote was a line from a Noel Coward play: "Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs."
Virtually all the people attacking Ford’s story are utterly silent on Judge’s presence as a witness. I suspect that’s because both his own descriptions of his social life at the time, and his professed inability to recall the event, might suggest that Kavanaugh, too, was simply too drunk to remember this attempted rape.
By his own admission, Kavanaugh was quite a drinker at least through law school. Mother Jones unearthed a 2014 speech he gave to the Yale Law School Federalist Society, in which he said:
I am approaching my eighth anniversary on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. I am approaching the 24th anniversary of my graduation from this school. That means I am approaching the 24th anniversary of my organizing 30 classmates in a bus to go to Boston for a Red Sox game and a night of Boston bar-hopping, only for us to return falling out of the bus onto the front steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m. One friend of mine, Steve Hartmann, actually had a Labor Law final the next morning. (I checked with him just yesterday to confirm that it was Labor Law.) True story.

On the bus, he actually had his book out and was reading his notes while people were doing group chugs from a keg. He got a P. I think the people doing the group chugs got H’s. Fortunately for all of us, we had a motto, what happens on the bus stays on the bus. Tonight, you can modify that to what happens at the Fed Soc after-party stays at the Fed Soc afterparty.
They've tried to portray Kavanaugh as a Boy Scout, a car pool dad and girls' basketball coach. They want everyone to believe that he's too nice to take away abortion rights, or consistently rule on behalf of the powerful and against the powerless.

I don't know what he's really like now. I suspect that -- admittedly like a lot of people, many of whom turn out fine -- he was a binge drinker in his youth. His circle of friends included Judge, who's a reformed alcoholic now but has alienated parts of his family enough that even his own brother thinks he's "a solipsist," "spoiled," and "unable to recognize any pain but his own."

I don't know what all this says about Kavanaugh, except that it suggests he's not the squeaky-clean guy we were supposed to believe he was. That's not a reason to reject him, but if he was sold as a Boy Scout, at least we'll get to see that he wasn't one when he was more or less of Boy Scout age. More important, we'll put the one witness to this alleged act under oath -- why wouldn't Democrats want to insist on that?


We know there are still some restraints on President Trump's behavior because, left to his own devices, he'd be all over Twitter this morning smearing Christine Blasey Ford as a liar and a Democratic operative (and probably worse). Someone has managed to persuade him that that's not prudent, and that can only be because he's been assured that there's a better plan in place to destroy her reputation and get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed.

I don't know what the plan is, and I don't know whether it will work, but I would never count the Republicans out. Axios's Mike Allen reported that they assumed she wouldn't want to testify publicly.
Some involved in the process are going to urge Senate leaders to call on the accuser ... to testify publicly this week, ahead of Thursday's scheduled Judiciary Committee vote. This gambit basically bets that she will decline, and Republicans can then say that they tried to investigate further.
But now her lawyer says she's willing to testify.

She can't prove that the allegation is true, but she's likely to be compelling and believable. The third person who was in the room, Mark Judge, was, by his own admission, a "drunk" in prep school.

I don't know how right-wingers will damage Ford's reputation, but if there's any way, they'll pursue it. So far they don't have much: She's a registered Democrat who's given a whopping $80.50 to Democratic campaigns since 2014, she signed a petition protesting family separation, and she attended a scientists' march against Trump in 2017, wearing a knitted "brain cap" modeled after the pussy hats from the Women's March.

But I can't believe Republicans won't find someone -- probably a woman, maybe one or more of the women who signed that pro-Kavanaugh letter -- who'll be willing to discredit Ford, probably as a fabulist, or as someone whose grasp on reality is tenuous. Or maybe she'll be portrayed as a shy, unworldly nerd who misread cues in that encounter, or as a younger girl (she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17 when the incident took place) who just didn't understand older teens.

They'll mount a counteroffensive. Maybe it won't work. But it could be nasty -- possibly nastier than what I'm describing. They can't expect the public to dismiss the allegation in the #MeToo era. They have to make it seem phony. And they'll try very hard to do that.


UPDATE: Well, I'm already seeing a claim on Twitter that Brett Kavanaugh's mother was the judge in a 1996 foreclosure involving Ford's parents. Is this true? Was there even such a case? I don't know. (Update: Here's one of the case documents. Martha Kavanaugh is one of the ruling judges listed. Power Line is already working this story.)

Oh, and she got a bad review from a student on RateMyProfessors. (No, wait -- several students.) Hang her!


UPDATE: Whoops -- the reviews aren't even for her:

It doesn't matter -- this will just be a fake fact about her that people on the right "know." Getting it out there was still worth it for the pro-Kavanaugh forces.


UPDATE: And the foreclosure story evaporates under scrutiny.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Michael Moore's new documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, had its U.S. premiere Thursday night in New York. This exchange took place on the red carpet:
Asked if he knew the identity of the anonymous New York Times op-ed leaker in Trump’s circle, Moore said: “No, but if you want me to make a wild guess, Trump wrote it or one of his minions wrote it.... He’s the master of distraction. He’s the King of the Misdirect. If we’ve ever known anything by now, it’s that he does things to get people to turn away and the line that is most identifiable in terms of what he wants the public to believe, the line that says, ‘don’t worry, adults are in the room.’ The idea is to get him to get us to calm down and look away from what he’s really doing.”
I'd assume this was just a joke on Moore's part, but he seems at least semi-serious about his explanation. And it's all wrong. Trump does appear to work very hard at creating distractions from news stories unfavorable to him -- unless we only think that's the case, and what we regard as distractions are really just Trump fighting every day to be the center of the media's attention, which for him is a primal need. What's clearly wrong about Moore's conjecture is the idea that Trump wants us to think, ‘don’t worry, adults are in the room.’ Trump obviously hates that idea. He think he's the adult in the room. The suggestion that he needs adult supervision is deeply offensive to him. Latest evidence: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was quoted by Bob Woodward as saying that Trump has the "understanding of a fifth or sixth grader," and now there are fresh rumors that Trump will fire Mattis after the midterms.

We know that Trump could never have written the op-ed -- it contains too many words and ideas he's incapable of understanding. And, of course, it directly contradicts many of his stated positions. There are staffers smart enough to write it, but I can't imagine Trump would approve it. Trump's preferred tactics are direct blunderbuss attacks on opponents and distractions mounted with all the subtlety of a rampaging elephant (HEY!!! LOOK OVER HERE!!! I'M ATTACKING MAXINE WATERS!!!). In this administration, even the people with functioning gray matter don't play eleven-dimensional chess.

I don't know who wrote the op-ed, but Trump is incapable, and no Trump loyalist ever would have done it.