Sunday, September 30, 2018


One of these names is not like the others:
* Ollie North

* Clarence Thomas

* Brett Kavanaugh

* Peter Strzok
Anyone remember this from a few months ago?

That was an angry, fiery, self-righteous monologue in a high-profile congressional hearing. But unlike Ollie North's Iran-contra testimony, Clarence Thomas's "high-tech lynching" monologue, and Brett Kavanaugh's enraged weepfest on Thursday, Strzok's testimony wasn't a game-changer -- he lost his FBI job and the president is still gunning for the Mueller investigation.

When I watched Strzok in the summer, I assumed he was consciously echoing the strategy of North. But this works only if what you're saying jibes with the political interests of the GOP, the party of male rage. If you are, you can pound your chest in a congressional hearing and be acclaimed a hero based on content and style. But if you're challenging the GOP, forget it -- righteous anger won't help you.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


NBC News reports that the FBI investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against Brett Kavanaugh will be a sham:
The White House is limiting the scope of the FBI’s investigation into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, multiple people briefed on the matter told NBC News.

While the FBI will examine the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, the bureau has not been permitted to investigate the claims of Julie Swetnick, who has accused Kavanaugh of engaging in sexual misconduct at parties while he was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in the 1980s, those people familiar with the investigation told NBC News. A White House official confirmed that Swetnick's claims will not be pursued as part of the reopened background investigation into Kavanaugh.

... the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of witnesses they are permitted to interview, according to several people who discussed the parameters on the condition of anonymity.

... Investigators plan to meet with Mark Judge, a high school classmate and friend of Kavanaugh's whom Ford named as a witness and participant to her alleged assault.

But as of now, the FBI cannot ask the supermarket that employed Judge for records verifying when he was employed there, one of the sources was told. Ford said in congressional testimony Thursday that those records would help her narrow the time frame of the alleged incident which she recalls happening some time in the summer of 1982 in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Two sources familiar with the investigation said the FBI will also not be able to examine why Kavanaugh’s account of his drinking at Yale University differs from those of some former classmates, who have said he was known as a heavy drinker.
The plan after that is presumably to mock liberals for complaining that the investigation didn't uncover evidence pointing to Kavanaugh's guilt. This will be every right-wing pundit as soon as the investigation is concluded:

Dr. Blasey Ford's recollection of seeing Mark Judge working in a supermarket shortly after the assault is borne out by Judge's book Wasted, as Philip Bump noted on Thursday:
In one passage, beginning on Page 92, Judge describes his time working at a grocery store in the context of his drinking problem. Emphasis added.
It was the summer before senior year, and by now, even though I wasn’t drinking every day, I was completely hooked. Going a week without getting drunk was unthinkable. I was spending between four and seven nights with the gang, either at a party or at O’Rourke’s....

Of course, alcoholics also get into all kinds of trouble because of their drinking. When they supersede their own tolerance, they suffer catastrophic hangovers. These can make getting through the day an Olympic event. This was never more evident to me than when, to raise money for football camp, I spent a few weeks working as a bag boy at the local supermarket.

My job was simple. People would leave their grocery baskets against a rail in front of the store, then pull their cars around. I would then sling their groceries in the car, sometimes get a small tip, and then wait for the next car.

It was a nightmare. Invariably I would be hungover — or still drunk — when I got to work at seven in the morning, and I spent most of the first hour just trying to hold myself together.
Judge graduated from high school in 1983. The summer before his senior year, then, would be the summer of 1982.

We know when that football camp occurred because Kavanaugh, in an effort to demonstrate that he hadn’t been at any such party as described by Ford, released his personal calendar from that summer.

... Football camp started Aug. 22, 1982. Judge worked for a grocery store for several weeks before that camp, meaning that he probably worked there for a period in late July to mid-August.
Or will Judge say that he took dramatic license in his book and that's not the case, at which point the FBI will be powerless to check the store's records?

The supposedly heroic Jeff Flake could be really heroic by threatening a no vote on Kavanaugh unless these restrictions are lifted. But he won't do that. So Democratic senators need to raise hell right now. It has to become widely known at the outset that this is a sham investigation. Otherwise, people who aren't politics junkies -- i.e., the majority of Americans -- will believe that the investigation is on the up-and-up and will assume that Democrats are sour-grapes whiners when they question the inevitable favorable-to-Kavanaugh outcome. And there's an outside chance that raising hell will pressure the White House to lift some of the restrictions.


Yesterday, after Jeff Flake forced the Senate to postpone a final vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, I wrote a post about a tangential matter -- the likely increase in Flake's status among elite journalists -- and was chastised for it in comments. This was a victory, if only a temporary one -- couldn't I just savor it for a moment?

But how much of a victory is it? It means that the truth will be pursued, which is good, although we know there'll be significant constraints on the investigation, apart from the time limit (it needs to be wrapped up by Friday):
The renewed F.B.I. background check of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh over allegations of sexual assault will be relatively limited, relying on voluntary interviews and document production.

Former prosecutors said that because it is not a criminal investigation, F.B.I. agents will not be able to get search warrants or grand jury subpoenas compelling witnesses to testify or hand over documents. Witnesses and others can refuse to cooperate....
I suspect that the investigation will find that the allegations made by Christine Blasey Ford (and possibly Debbie Ramirez, if her story is investigated) are consistent with verifiable facts -- but there'll be no certainty as to whether any allegation is actually true. To supporters of Brett Kavanaugh, that will be treated as an exoneration.

What's worse is that this has become what America talks about when it talks about Brett Kavanaugh: sexual predator or not? There are many other reasons not to confirm him -- his ideological extremism, his dishonesty about non-sexual matters, his temperament, the partisanship that came to the surface on Thursday. But when Democratic senators vote no on Kavanaugh, we'll be told that he's been cleared of the worst charges against him (even though that won't be true) and yet Democrats, those unbudgeable partisan zealots, still despise him. If Jeff Flake hadn't saved Republicans from themselves, Republicans would have obviously been the angry extremists; it would have been clear to Americans outside the partisan camps that Republicans had rushed to judgment and chosen an angry, defensive, dissembling man over a woman who seemed unimpeachably honest. Now Republicans seem like decent folks -- and yet the outcome will probably be exactly the same, even though Kavanaugh won't really be exonerated.

I realize that anything could happen in a week, including more allegations or the discovery of additional evidence supporting existing allegations, possibly by the media. Buying time is good.

But Republicans will now seem like fair-minded people. That's not good. A Supreme Court with Kavanaugh on it -- the most likely outcome -- will be seen by most Americans as having legitimacy. That's not good. Democrats will be accused once again of being the bad-faith actors in all this. That's not good.

Friday, September 28, 2018


Jeff Flake has developed a conscience, apparently, or the right-centrist version of one --
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Friday to advance the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh after securing a key vote from Sen. Jeff Flake, who asked for a delay of up to a week before the full Senate votes.

Flake (R-Ariz.) said the delay would allow a limited FBI investigation of allegations of sexual assault while Kavanaugh was a teenager.
This happened after Flake had a televised confrontation with two sexual assault survivors.

Before we learned of Flake's demand -- at a moment when it appeared that he was merely planning to vote in lockstep with his party -- I cynically argued on Twitter that the pro-Kavanaugh vote wouldn't prevent him from getting better mainstream media coverage if he decides to run for president in 2020 than most of the Democratic candidates. You know my take on this subject: Insider journalists loathe Trump but will feel contempt for most of the Democratic aspirants in 2020 because they're just too ... progressive; they'll turn up their noses at Warren, Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, and the rest while rhapsodizing over Flake, John Kasich, and Mike Bloomberg (as well as any socially/environmentally liberal corporatist who runs -- Howard Schultz, Sheryl Sandberg).

But now I think Flake is the front-runner in the MSM primary. I say this even though Republican voters undoubtedly hate him even more now than they did 24 hours ago, and he'll run (if he does run) either as a longshot anti-Trump Republican or as an independent seeking the votes of, among others, disaffected Republicans.

I don't know whether this delay will prevent Kavanaugh's confirmation, but, as Scott Lemieux says, the press will now have more time to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh even as the FBI conducts its limited probe, so this has some potential to make a difference.

If it does, Jeff Flake will be a mainstream media hero. There'll be think-pieces suggesting that he run in 2020 as a Democrat.

Poor John Kasich. He said before yesterday's hearing that a vote should be delayed until an investigation can be conducted. Flake came late to this idea, but he'll get all the glory.


Just to get this out of the way: I fully expect Brett Kavanaugh to get the vote of every Republican on the Judiciary Committee this morning -- yes, including Jeff Flake -- and then the vote of every Republican, and probably two or more Democrats (Manchin and Donnelly for sure) when the nomination hits the full Senate. There'll be no delay, despite calls for one by the American Bar Association, which had given Kavanaugh its highest rating.

I gather Flake is doing a Hamlet act, but remember that he sees himself as representing a pre-Trump conservatism, and Kavanaugh is a proud part of that pre-Trump GOP establishment. (Please note that George W. Bush is making calls on Kavanaugh's behalf.) Flake will march in lockstep.


There's good work being published on yesterday's hearings, and then there's this -- John Harris's Politico Magazine piece, which is industrial-strength bothsidesism.
... earlier are-you-watching-this?! moments, when politics and culture collided on live television amid revelations and recriminations, were inevitably accompanied by furrowed-brow commentary gravely asking, “Where will this all lead?”

Now we know: This all leads to a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office building, where Brett Kavanaugh and senators of both parties over eight hallucinatory hours on Wednesday served up the distilled essence of a potion—a toxic mixture of foaming malice, self-righteousness and conspiracy theory—that has been brewing for nearly three decades.

... notable was the casual fluency in which all the Washington actors—Kavanaugh very much among them—spoke in the language of contempt toward their adversaries. The insults and assertions of bad faith—Democrats manipulated the timing of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation going public for political purposes; Republicans are purposefully stifling a full investigation—flowed like second nature.
But it's a plain statement of fact that Republicans are purposefully stifling a full investigation. Democrats wanted an FBI investigation; they wanted Mark Judge subpoenaed. Why, at least, wasn't the subpoena issued? Why weren't other Kavanaugh accusers heard from? Republicans said no. Why was it "toxic" to say so?

And I know that even many non-Republicans believe that Democrats "manipulated the timing of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation going public for political purposes," although the truth is that Blasey Ford requested anonymity and her request was granted. But can someone please tell me what advantage Democrats gained from a later rather than earlier revelation of the story? They got a hearing that was hastily thrown together, with no possibility of follow-up. That was the payoff? That's what they got for their alleged bad faith?

It was Bill Clinton who made famous the phrase “the politics of personal destruction.” His compromised sex life made him far from the ideal messenger but there was little denying his essential point. It was that his generation of baby boomers, who grew up arguing over sex, drugs and Vietnam and never stopped their rancid debate over every dimension of culture and ideology, had developed a style of politics in which the best way to defeat an argument was to say that it flowed from the defective character of the person making it. The opposition was wicked, deceitful—not just wrong-headed but wrong-hearted.
Bill Clinton never stopped trying to reach out to Republicans. In a 1993 slip of the tongue, he even made reference in a speech to "my fellow Republicans." It was Newt Gingrich whose GOPAC political action committee recommended using such words as "traitors," "intolerant," "sick," and "abuse of power" in reference to (presumably all) Democrats.
One grim possibility raised by the Kavanaugh hearing is that the politics of personal destruction has become so ritualized that it has become the politics of institutional destruction.
Who's destroying the institution of the Supreme Court -- the party that wants to put a now unabashed partisan hack who may also be a rapist on the Court, or the party that wants to prevent this? Opinions differ!
Kavanaugh is a generation younger than Clinton but it seems possible that his nomination could become a symbol of a brand of politics that doesn’t even nod to the notion that long-term stewardship of democratic institutions is a shared responsibility.
In paragraph after paragraph, no one is responsible -- it's just "politics."
In a day of emotional peaks, one of the last belonged to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who sometimes gets hailed as an example of a bridge-builder across partisan lines but not on this day.
And not on any day in the future, I can safely predict.
In an angry outburst that set the tone for the remainder of the afternoon, he called the session “a sham.”

Then he uttered words that it is possible, these days, to imagine almost any senator of either party uttering about the other party: “Boy, you guys want power. I hope you never get it.”
Except that no Democrat said that Republicans should never hold power (even though that's true). All the cranked-to-eleven histrionics yesterday were from the right, yet Harris is saying they could have come from either direction.

They didn't. This is bothsidesist nonsense.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


We're in the midst of Brett Kavanaugh's testimony as I type this and I'm just going to defer to the women:

If Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had been angry, self-pitying, accusatory, hostile to half her questioners, she would have been seen as having thoroughly discredited herself. She wasn't like that. She wasn't allowed to be. She was engaging and believable, though she shouldn't have had to be engaging.

Kavanaugh has been ... well, a person I wouldn't want to sit near in a bar, much less put on the Supreme Court for the next 35 years.

I've been half-expecting him to leap over the table and slug someone -- though if he did, I don't think even half the Republicans in the Senate would abandon him. (Dick Durbin was asking for it!)

Naturally, he's a smash hit among conservatives. Jeet Heer collects the reactions:

Self-righteous self-pity worked for Nixon, it works for nostalgic neo-Confederates, and it's working for Kavanaugh, at least with the base. (I'll admit I've never understood why conservatives think whining is manly, at least when it's this kind of whining, but they do.) Kavanaugh's approval numbers among white men and non-college whites overall are probably skyrocketing, even as college-educated women defect.

The pundits will probably declare the whole day a wash. And I fear will be a wash as far as public opinion goes, which means we're probably still on course for Kavanaugh's approval (unless the overnight private polls the GOP is likely to be conducting are simply godawful for Kavanaugh).

America has learned nothing since 1991, and this will probably end the same way Hill-Thomas did. Except that Anita Hill got an FBI investigation and at least some corroborating witnesses heard, and Clarence Thomas never broke down in self-pitying sobs.


Many people from the left and center are asking why Republicans don't simply cut their losses, dump Brett Kavanaugh, and replace him with someone else who'll be a Kavanaugh clone on the bench. But as Sarah Frostenson, Micah Cohen, and Perry Bacon Jr. note in this FiveThirtyEight conversation, for conservatives this fight is about more than appointing any old movement rightist:
sarahf: ... given the partisan divide on issues of sexual misconduct, Kavanaugh withdrawing or President Trump asking for him to withdraw (which I think is unlikely) could backfire among the base.

perry: So you think Republican voters will be turned off because they think Trump would be bowing to liberal views on sexual harassment/misconduct/assault.

micah: Yeah, and maybe that plays more of a role in how the GOP base reacts than their views on the Supreme Court.
Peter Beinart echoes this view in an Atlantic essay:
Trumpism, at its core, is a rebellion against changes in American society that undermine traditional hierarchies. It’s based on the belief that these changes, rather than promoting fairness for historically oppressed groups, actually promote “political correctness”: the oppression of white, native-born Christian men. To understand the conservative response to the allegations against Kavanaugh, a few data points are useful. Between 2013 and 2018, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the percentage of Republicans who said that in the U.S. “there is a lot of discrimination against women” fell by half, from 28 to 14 percent. (Among Democrats during the same period it rose from 55 to 71 percent). By contrast, between 2012 and 2016, the percentage of Republicans who said men face a “great deal” or a “lot” of discrimination doubled from 9 to 18 percent. (Among Democrats it declined slightly). And in 2016, according to PRRI, 68 percent of Trump supporters said American society is becoming “too soft and feminine.”

If you’re already inclined to believe that America increasingly victimizes men simply for acting like men, the accusations against Kavanaugh confirm your fears. First, because if these charges can sink Kavanaugh, they can sink lots of other men too. “Is there any man in this room that wouldn’t be subjected to such an allegation?” asked Iowa Republican Representative Steve King earlier this week.... As the conservative pundit Erick Erickson tweeted on Wednesday, “If they cannot confirm Kavanaugh, they cannot confirm anyone. This is the beginning of a new age of judicial character assassination and it only gets worse from here.”
To a great extent, this is a belief that we on the left are engaged in a massive plot to simply make stuff up about Kavanaugh, something we can and will do in the future to even the most blameless conservatives if we get away with it now. (In essence, all of them, even the ones like Erickson who've claimed to be #NeverTrumpers, are echoing Trump's "fake news" conspiracy theory.)

But what's also in play here is what I think of as the right's "good man" theory: A belief that once you've been designated a "good man" (a phrase George W. Bush used a lot) or a "high-quality person" (a phrase the president has applied to both Donald Trump Jr. and Kavanaugh), you should simply be above suspicion. A person's goodness, in this view, is not called into question by bad acts; once a person is defined (by conservatives) as good, that's all that needs to be known. At that point, it's slanderous to accuse the person of bad acts.

Here's part of a piece Erickson published yesterday about Kavanaugh that expresses this view:
What about Kavanaugh?

He graduated at the top of his class at Georgetown Prep.

He graduated with honors from Yale.

He graduated from Yale Law School and made the Yale Law Journal, which only those in the top of the class do.

He has published articles in the Yale Law Journal, the Georgetown Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review, the Notre Dame Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review, the Catholic University Law Review, the Marquette Lawyer, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Lawfare, among other publications.

He clerked for multiple federal appellate court judges, a Supreme Court Justice, and worked in the United States Solicitor General's office.

He was a partner at a major law firm.

He served as an advisor to the President of the United States.

He was even hired by Elena Kagan to teach at Harvard.

He now serves on the United States Court of Appeals.

He has been through six FBI background checks. The drug running operation that everybody knew about never came up. The rape gangs never came up. The sexual assaults never came up. There've been no mistresses, no assaults, no nothing about the guy during the course of his professional career when a guy who had that much power could have wielded it to his advantage. He did not.

Maybe there is another Brett Kavanaugh out there who failed at life.

But this Brett Kavanaugh is an accomplished husband, father, lawyer, and judge who has a highly regarded personal and professional reputation. That quote at top is right. One does not go from running rape gangs in college to the US Court of Appeals after serving Presidents and Supreme Court Justices. It just does not happen.

Democrats who want us to believe it does want us to disregard everything we know about human behavior. Garbage people never stop being garbage people and Brett Kavanaugh is not a garbage person. He's practically got a halo.
Pedophile priests? Bill Cosby, who was a Ph.D. as well as a man with high accomplishments in many areas of entertainment? I guess, to Erickson, none of these people ever really did anything of value before being exposed as "garbage persons."

And of course, to the right, the opposite of a synonym for "garbage person" is "liberal."

This worldview explains why religious rightists persist in seeing the obviously irreligious libertine Donald Trump as one of their own: He does many things Christian conservatives want, therefore he is a Christian. (The word "Christian," to conservative Christians, is synonymous with "good person.") And because he's a Christian, his un-Christian deeds must be made to vanish. His goodness, his Christianity, exist by definition. Christian Trumpists don't need to weigh evidence.

All this is related to what Frank Wilhoit says about conservatism:
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
Conservatives reserve to themselves the right to decide which in-groups the law protects but does not bind: fellow Republicans who are "good men," and, of course, corporations. The in-groups should not be bound by law because they're defined as good, therefore they're incapable of doing things that aren't good. (Conservatives literally believe this about corporations under capitalism, which they regard as perfectly self-regulating.)

The rest of us fall into the other category. We're not the Elect. Sucks to be us, I guess, but Republicans will fight like hell to preserve this system.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


The Washington Post has published a fact-check of the many dishonest statements President Trump made in his news conference today on the subject of sexual misconduct. Here's an excerpt:
“I’ve had many false charges. I had a woman sitting in an airplane and I attacked her while people were coming onto the plane.”

Trump is referring to a 2016 interview in the New York Times with Jessica Leeds, who described an encounter with Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight more than three decades ago, when she was a traveling business executive at a paper company. It did not take place as people were coming onto the plane, as Trump claimed. Instead, about 45 minutes after takeoff, she said, Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. “He was like an octopus,” Leeds said. “His hands were everywhere.” She fled to the back of the plane. “It was an assault,” she said.

Leeds told the story to at least four people close to her, who also spoke with the Times. The Trump campaign offered the perspective of a British man who claimed to have sat near the two on the plane and somehow three decades later remembered the incident in detail. “She was the one being flirtatious,” he said.
What the Post neglected to add was that the British man who allegedly witnessed this incident, Anthony Gilberthorpe, had a rather checkered past.
1987: Announced his engagement in the Times to Miss Leah Bergdorf-Hunt. “But there was no engagement, and indeed no Miss Bergdorf-Hunt.... the whole thing was a fantasy.”

1988: Sued three newspapers over a story that the reporter said came from Gilberthorpe himself. “The three newspapers appealed, and dug out new information which cast serious doubt on [his] version of events.... The newspapers paid not a penny in damages and contributed only £5,000 to his legal costs — leaving him very much out of pocket and with egg all over his face.”

1997: Betrayed his friend Piers Merchant MP, who had come to Gilberthorpe’s home for a weekend visit with his mistress. After cheery goodbyes, Merchant and his girlfriend later found quotes from their pillow-talk and photos of them in bed splashed all over the Sunday Mirror. “Gilby, it transpired, had fitted out the spare-room with hidden cameras and microphones and shopped his loyal friend to the tabloid for £25,000.”

2014: Gilberthorpe told the Daily Mirror that he had procured “rent-boys” for senior Tory politicians—all of them conveniently dead—back in the 80s. “Trawling seedy streets during a Tory conference, Gilberthorpe says he was asked to find underage rent boys for a private sex party at a top hotel....In a series of explosive claims about conferences at Blackpool and Brighton in the 1980s, he alleges boys as young as 15 indulged in alcohol and cocaine before they had sex with the powerful politicians.”
Gilberthorpe, who was 54 in 2016 when he defended Trump's honor, was 18 when the flight in question took place. He claimed he was able to ID a passenger from a flight 36 years earlier because he has a "photographic memory." It's about as plausible as his other claims. Amazing he's never gotten a job in the administration.


In his prepared statement for tomorrow's hearing, Brett Kavanaugh will say:
But I was not perfect in those days, just as I am not perfect today. I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many.
Hallelujah -- Kavanaugh admits he drank beer in high school. National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke would like you to believe that Kavanaugh already admitted that in his Fox News interview, but he didn't:
KAVANAUGH: ... yes, there were parties. And the drinking age was 18, and yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there. And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school – I think all of us have probably done things we look back on in high school and regret or cringe a bit, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
Not only did he never say that he "might have had too many beers on occasion," but he never expressly said that he drank at all in high school, as if he wanted wiggle room in case a Southern Baptist might withhold support knowing that spirits had crossed his lips before he reached adulthood.

So he's now boldly acknowledging that all the references to kegs and ralphing in his high school yearbook allude to activities with which he may have had a passing acquaintance. Great -- small steps. But in his new statement, he's still telling us he's a choirboy:
I spent most of my time in high school focused on academics, sports, church, and service....

The record of my life, from my days in grade school through the present day, shows that I have always promoted the equality and dignity of women.
Dude, really? You "promoted the equality and dignity of women" in grade school?

Why are you incapable of dialing down this whitewashing of yourself?

In the Fox interview, Kavanaugh went only slightly further:
When I was in high school — and I went to an all-boys Catholic high school, a Jesuit high school, where I was focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects, and friendship, friendship with my fellow classmates and friendship with girls from the local all-girls Catholic schools.
A serious question: Can Kavanaugh provide any evidence that he was deeply focused on "service projects" in high school? Can he provide evidence of any significant platonic friendship with a girl? There's no shame in being unable to do either of these things. All by themselves, they shouldn't disqualify him from a seat on the Supreme Court.

But he continues to insist that he was the perfect young man, or the nearly perfect young man who occasionally had a brewski too many. Why won't he stop doing this?


Ross Douthat recalls Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas:
I’ll talk about the two great sex-and-politics tangles of my adolescence, the Bill Clinton and the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill scandals.

I grew up with Northeastern liberals, went to high school with Northeastern liberals, attended college with Northeastern liberals, and so most people that I knew in my teens and 20s maintained two firm convictions: Bill Clinton was just a consensual philanderer railroaded by awful puritanical Republicans, and Hill was obviously telling the truth and Thomas was obviously a pornography-obsessed sexual harasser.

At the same time from late adolescence onward I identified as a conservative, wrote as a conservative in college and hung out with conservatives in Washington, which meant that I was frequently in worlds where Clinton was regarded as a predator and likely rapist who deserved to be impeached and where Thomas’s innocence and Hill’s duplicity were articles of faith.
He's building up to his main argument: that being a well-informed partisan leads to a foolish certainty on such matters. But there's another conclusion to be drawn from this, and from what's happened since. Douthat nearly grasps it, but then veers away from it.

He writes:
... with time and social change and the Trump-era partisan reversal on the question of presidential character, the near absolute certainty that so many serious, thoughtful liberals once held about Bill Clinton has weakened, even crumbled — not to the point where the liberal consensus is willing to forgive Ken Starr, but to a point where many liberals are willing to admit that Clinton might well have raped Juanita Broaddrick (an event for which there is far more contemporaneous evidence than has yet emerged in the Kavanaugh case), and that if he did so it casts a rather different light on the other allegations that they once dismissed as ginned-up partisan hit jobs.
Yes, there are liberals who are now willing to concede that Broaddrick's story was plausible, most notably Douthat's colleague Michelle Goldberg. The Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey stories seem a bit hinky to some of us now as well. And Ted Kennedy's history with women also makes some liberals queasy.

But I don't know of a single conservative who's ever had second thoughts about Clarence Thomas. The point of Douthat's column is that certainty in such matters is for partisan fools, but he mostly doubts Thomas's accusers:
The key weakness of the pro-Hill liberal consensus is that its presentation, then and now, tends to make it sound as if Thomas could have been a #MeToo case like so many recent ones (Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, etc.), with multiple credible allegations spilling out, if only the men on the Senate Judiciary Committee had been willing to call three other victims who would testify to his harassing ways.

But in fact only one of those three women, Angela Wright, was actually alleging harassment; the second was confirming that Wright had told her that Thomas hit on her, the third was alleging generally that Thomas created a created a sexualized atmosphere at work — a claim contested by 12 other female witnesses who had worked with him. And Wright was not a particularly credible witness. Even Mayer and Abramson conceded that “her files contained ample ammunition for anyone trying to embarrass her,” including a checkered workplace history in which she was fired by a congressman’s office, resigned from a State Department job and immediately accused her boss of racism, and then was fired by Thomas himself for poor performance, after which she reportedly told a friend that she was “pissed” and wanted “to get him back.”

Which doesn’t mean that she was necessarily lying when she claimed Thomas had made persistent and sometimes lewd advances; it just means that she was not some slam-dunk, Hill-vindicating witness, but someone whose testimony would have raised lots of reasonable doubts.

The same problems attach to other testimonies. When Abramson revisited the Thomas case earlier this year for New York Magazine, she pointed to two other female witnesses who could confirm Thomas’s penchant for inappropriate remarks. But one’s account surfaced secondhand, and the witness herself immediately issued a statement that “she never experienced any type of inappropriate behavior.” The other, Thomas’s girlfriend at the time of the Hill case, offered her stories — which were mostly about general lasciviousness rather than harassment — nearly two decades later while shopping a memoir and expressing irritation with Thomas’s conservative record on the bench.

But does all of this add up to a clear vindication of Thomas? No, I don’t think so. There were weaknesses in Hill’s testimony but no clear motive for such a dramatic fabrication, Mayer and Abramson found witnesses from Thomas’s workplace who had heard about the famous “pubic hair on a Coke” can line that he denied uttering, there was plausible testimony as well [as] hearsay that he had a pornography habit of some sort ... I could go on.

My own sense, when I wade back into the “he said, she said” detail, is that neither of their testimonies were entirely believable, and that there’s some missing piece of the story that may never come to light.
I guess that counts as doubt, but it's barely that. There's certainly no one on the right willing to write a column titled "I Believe Anita." Goldberg's column about Broaddrick was titled "I Believe Juanita.")

Douthat writes:
... any mystification or bafflement or anger that you feel about someone else’s certainty — how it simply must be cynical, manufactured, malign — should be tempered by a recognition that your own certainty might have to be revised 20 years from now....
But no one on the right will ever reconsider Brett Kavanaugh twenty years from now. Maybe a future Douthat, a right-centrist writing for a liberal audience, will acknowledge that Kavanaugh might not have told the whole truth. But once most right-wingers are dug in, they stay dug in. They never back down.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


I would advise [Brett Kavanaugh] against letting Senate Republicans ram his nomination through in a fashion that will forever attach an asterisk to his service on the Supreme Court.
--Benjamin Wittes in The Atlantic

I think that if he does get on court, he will be there under a cloud, there will always be an asterisk next to his name. And I think it’s not good for institution of Supreme Court.
--Senator Mazie Hirono

If you are confirmed after this truncated and concealed process, there will always be a taint, there will always be an asterisk after your name.
--Senator Richard Blumenthal

... if they go through a Senate hearing and it becomes a circus, they push it through, he passes, he’s seated on the Supreme Court, there will be, as we've said last week, an asterisk next to his name as long as he’s there.
--Willie Geist on Morning Joe
And you know what? Kavanaugh doesn't care. Neither does the rest of the GOP.

After Clarence Thomas's confirmation hearings, I thought he would always have an asterisk next to his name. But America shrugged, accepted his confirmation, and treated him as a validly appointed justice.

I though George W. Bush would always have an asterisk next to his name, what with losing the popular vote, along with all that family and party skulduggery in Florida (and, later, at the Supreme Court). But even before 9/11 he was accepted as a legitimate president. It was said that because of the circumstances of his victory he'd need to "govern from the center" -- but he did exactly the opposite. So has the current president, whose election was even more dubious and asterisk-worthy than Bush's.

The GOP is the party of asterisks. It wins by means of gerrymandering and vote suppression; it's widely understood that Democrats won't take the House this year if their overall vote is "only" six or seven points greater than the Republicans'. Yet there's no widespread sense in American politics that this creates a crisis of legitimacy -- Republicans simply rule no matter how they attain office.

Asterisks have never been impediments for other Republicans. So nobody on the right cares if there's an asterisk next to Brett Kavanaugh's name.


As Jennifer Rubin points out, President Trump rebuts accusations by simply denying them:
President Trump’s modus operandi in cases in which he or others are accused of sexual assault or harassment is “deny, deny, deny,” Bob Woodward reported in his new book “Fear.”
Rubin says Trump's Supreme Court pick is imitating the man who chose him:
As a dutiful and increasingly political appointee following Trump’s advice, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh has taken this to an extreme.
It's not just that Kavanaugh denies all accusations of sexual misconduct. It's not just that he denies any past ill will toward Renate Schroeder Dolphin, who's the subject of undoubtedly sexualized references in Kavanaugh's high school yearbook, on his own page and elsewhere. And it's not just that Kavanaugh denies being an excessive drinker, even though there are blatant references to significant consumption of beer on his yearbook page.

Kavanaugh also denies what he's clearly done throughout his career in politics and law:
While he considered former judge Alex Kozinski a mentor and close friend, he somehow cannot recall (which differs from “denies”) being included on email chains with clerks that contained crude sexual jokes.

... his continual denial of participation in the confirmation proceedings of Charles Pickering did not live up to the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” standard we’d expect of a federal judge....

In the same vein, his insistence that he had no clue as a lawyer during the George W. Bush administration that information he received from a GOP operative was purloined from Democrats strains credulity....
But here's the difference: Trump frequently gets away with denying what he's accused of because his supporters don't really care if he's guilty. He denies cheating on his wife with porn stars, but the fan base finds it titillating to believe he did. He denies collusion with Russia, but the base agrees with him that Putin is cool. He denies actually doing the things he describes in the Access Hollywood tape, but the fans, well...

Kavanaugh can't pull this off. He was marketed to us as an overgrown Boy Scout -- a carpool dad, a girls' basketball coach, you know the drill. So he couldn't even pull off the George W. Bush line from the 2000 campaign: "When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish."

That would be risky now that he's being accused of sex assaults brought on by binge drinking -- but by foreclosing the option of saying, "I got a little crazy when I was young, but I was never that crazy," he comes off as thoroughly unconvincing in his denials of misconduct now. We expect moral uprightness from our judicial appointees, but I suspect that, for better or worse, an appointee who'd all but confessed to being a teenage bad boy would have more public support right now than Kavanaugh does. That would be for creepy reasons, but it would help Kavanaugh. The paradox is that he's portrayed himself as too nice to effectively fight off the charges that he's nasty.


Watch this clip from last night's Brett Kavanaugh interview on Fox.

MACCALLUM: Did you guys ever look at each other and say “I’m out, this is enough. This just isn’t worth it”?

KAVANAUGH: I’m not going to let false accusations drive us out of this process. And we’re looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend the -- my integrity, my life long record – my life long record of promoting dignity and equality, starting with the woman who knew me when I was 14 years old. I’m not going anywhere.
What happens at about the 0:15 mark? Up to that point, Kavanaugh is inclining his head slightly to the right as he makes eye contact with Martha MacCallum, his interviewer. He glances at his wife once. But then at 0:15 he looks purposefully off to his left, and his answer changes -- as if someone has sent him a signal that he should mention "my integrity, my lifelong record ... of promoting dignity and equality."

Do you doubt that Fox would let Kavanaugh have coaching in the room where the interview took place? This wasn't journalism -- the news organization, the interviewer, and the interviewee are all on the same side. So I think it happened.

Carlos Ramos might have declared this an infraction, but it's just another day at the office for Fox.

Monday, September 24, 2018


I called it a week ago:

And I see we're already getting sneak peeks:

Don't we need documentation or corroborating witnesses before we can believe that?

Of course, it doesn't matter whether he was a virgin in prep school. You can grope someone against her will if you're a virgin. You can put someone in fear that you're going to rape her if you're a virgin, even if you didn't persist. And you can certainly drunkenly wave your penis in someone's face if you're a college student and a virgin.

Maybe he's trying to rebut the "train" story Michael Avenatti is peddling, but what he's saying doesn't rebut the Ramirez and Blasey Ford allegations. But it will probably fool a fair number of viewers.


Lindsey Graham today:

Lindsey Graham yesterday:
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday he believes “a bureaucratic coup” led by enemies of President Trump is taking place at the Justice Department, and the senator asked that a new special counsel be appointed to investigate.

Graham, a veteran member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made the comments on “Fox News Sunday” in response to questions about a report that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein suggested secretly recording Trump and possibly using the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.
Lindsey Graham in Bob Woodward's book, according to the Daily Beast:
Graham, a recurring Trump golfing buddy, appears to have developed a vocabulary that hits all the right notes in his conversations with the president—warning of hits to his legacy, and trash-talking the Obama foreign policy brain trust at which Trump himself has taken aim.
On Brett Kavanaugh, on Rod Rosenstein, on Barack Obama, he's trying to be Trump's most loyal pal. I think I know why, and I have a hunch as to how it will work out for him.

You may believe the Russians are blackmailing Graham, but I think he has his eye on a job in the post-midterms Trump administration -- attorney general (as a replacement for Jeff Sessions) or defense secretary (Jim Mattis is said to be on the outs with Trump).

But I suspect the president is playing Graham for a chump. Trump is pretending to be friendly with Graham, but I think he's treating him just the way he treated Chris Christie. He's dangling the prospect of a top position in the administration that he never plans to offer. Trump regarded Christie as basically a mascot. I think he's treating Graham the same way.

We'll probably find out soon enough -- that Saturday Night Massacre might start on Thursday, although Mattis probably won't be gone until November. But I think Graham will find he's been suckered.


It's possible that the new allegations against Brett Kavanaugh will persuade Republicans that it isn't worth fighting to save him. But if that were the case, there'd be silence right now on the right as the party assesses its options. Instead, we've got this from a top apparatchik at the Wall Street Journal editorial page:

We've got this at Axios:
Brett Kavanaugh's allies plan to aggressively contest what they call the "foggy memories" of his accusers — an approach that's likely to lead to nasty confrontations at Thursday's showdown hearing on his confirmation to the Supreme Court.

... The plan is to fight back right away, and to emphasize denials and hazy recollections. And the mission is to portray the debate as cheap-shot politics orchestrated by liberals and abetted by the media.
It's theoretically possible that the president will be persuaded to withdraw the nomination, but according to The New York Times, that's not happening either:
The president was briefed on the allegation on Sunday, according to people in contact with him, and was remaining firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh, who is also scheduled to testify before the committee and who has vehemently denied the allegations. But one of the people said the president argued that the new charge showed why the White House should have fought back against Dr. Blasey from the beginning.

In a sign that the White House was prepared to take a more aggressive approach to the newly lodged accusations against Judge Kavanaugh, White House officials sent out a document around midnight on Sunday casting doubt on the article with a point-by-point list of rebuttals.
A woman named Deborah Ramirez is accusing Kavanaugh of waving his penis in her face during a night of heavy drinking when she and Kavanaugh were undergraduates at Yale. Eyewitnesses have denied that it happened, but it's not true that, as Strassel insists, "everyone denies it": Other classmates have contemporaneous memories of hearing about it, and one, without prompting, remembered details that matched Ramirez's account. This classmate also "recalled Kavanaugh as 'relatively shy' until he drank, at which point he said that Kavanaugh could become 'aggressive and even belligerent.'"

The new accusations were reported by Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer at The New Yorker. There's also a less credible accusation from Michael Avenatti:
... Avenatti said he had evidence that at house parties in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh, his friend Mark Judge, and others plied women with alcohol and drugs "in order to allow a 'train' of men to subsequently gang rape them."

Avenatti did not identify any witnesses or disclose more details about the alleged incidents....

Avenatti elaborated to Politico later on Sunday that he represents a group of people, including one victim and multiple witnesses, who can corroborate allegations involving Kavanaugh and Judge.
The GOP seems dug in; the message from the right is, in effect, "pics or it didn't happen" (pics or at least documentation). Republicans will hang tough and refuse a further delay or an FBI investigation of any of the charges; they won't call Ramirez as a witness (assuming she'd be willing), and they'll declare Kavanaugh exonerated no matter how persuasive Christine Blasey Ford is in Thursday's hearing, or how evasive Kavanaugh is.

They need base voters to be fired up in November, and that won't happen, as I've said in recent days, unless they own the libs. So unless Kavanaugh himself gets cold feet, or unless Avenatti somehow produces credible witnesses to a gang rape, this process won't be derailed.

The key will be winning the spin war. They have to dominate the media with the message that Democrats and Blasey Ford didn't lay a glove on Kavanaugh. If he doesn't blurt out out a Perry Mason-style confession, they'll claim vindication no matter what happens.

They could ask Kavanaugh to withdraw, then run on a stab-in-the-back message in November -- we have to defeat every possible Democrat because they're evil liars who fabricate stories in order to destroy their enemies. But they believe that failure at lib-owning will be fatal to them in November. So they're going to press on, and in the end I still think they'll win.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Brett Kavanaugh's polling is terrible -- in a Fox News survey, 50% of respondent say they wouldn't vote to confirm him, while 40% would -- but I think he'll make it, especially after this:
CNN has learned that the committee has reached out to a longtime friend of Ford named Leland Ingham Keyser.

"I understand that you have been identified as an individual who was in attendance at a party that occurred circa 1982 described in a recent Washington Post article," a committee staffer wrote Keyser earlier this week.

On Saturday night, her lawyer, Howard Walsh, released a statement to CNN and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Simply put," Walsh said, "Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford."
Even though...
The Washington Post reported late Saturday that it had talked to Keyser, who told the paper she believed Ford's allegation.
Both Keyser and Blasey Ford could be telling the complete truth -- Keyser was at the gathering but wasn't aware of the incident because it took place in another room of the house and was never discussed afterward; Keyser attended with Kavanaugh but doesn't know Kavanaugh.

(In your teens and twenties, how many parties, or even impromptu gatherings, did you attend at which people you'd never met showed up? Did you get know all of these people? Probably not. Also, do you think you were aware at the time of every consensual hookup that took place off in some corner of every party you attended? If your focus was elsewhere, would you know? Would you recall them all now? Remember, no one talked about this at the time as an attempted rape. And as Blasey Ford's lawyer said in a statement, "It's ... unremarkable that Ms. Keyser does not remember attending a specific gathering 30 years ago at which nothing of consequence happened to her. Dr. Ford of course will never forget this gathering because of what happened to her there." )

It's conceivable that Keyser is choosing the course of least resistance. Her life isn't so great these days:
Keyser is married to John Keyser, who initiated the women’s golf program at Georgetown. At some point, Keyser suffered a neck injury that led to her announcing her departure from Georgetown in 2005.

Of his wife’s injury, John Keyser said in an interview with Blue Ocean Common Wealth, “My wife had become a bit disabled and I retired to become a caregiver and soccer mom for the kids....”
Maybe she has a dim memory of Kavanaugh's presence, but no firm recollection. She doesn't remember the specific incident because it took place out of her sight. She's physically impaired now. She probably started receiving death threats the minute the Washington Post story went live. Why go to the Capitol with dim memories so she can be second-guessed by pro-Kavanaugh senators and have her reputation trashed by the online right?

Now the right can say that all three named witnesses deny what happened, even though two are the alleged perpetrator and his alleged accomplice, Mark Judge (who we now know is a creepy and despicable human being), and the third is a man who's as unlikely to have registered the incident as Keyser was (and who might also be operating under the bro code that seems to bind all these overgrown prepster boys for life).

Senate Republicans will attempt to appear reasonable and non-sexist as they cast doubt on Blasey Ford's story when she testifies -- that might be a struggle, but I think they'll try their damnedest. They'll hope that Democrats overreach in questioning Kavanaugh (and if Democrats don't, the right's media machine will take something a Democrat says out of context and turn it into a fauxtrage). Many, most recently Lindsey Graham, have said that nothing that emerges in the hearing will change their minds. At least they're being honest about that.

It's conceivable that Blasey Ford will be so compelling as a witness that she'll derail this express train -- but I find Anita Hill's testimony extraordinarily compelling and plausible, and yet that changed nothing. (Among other things, former judge Alex Kozinski's obsession with forcing porn on female subordinates only makes what Hill said about Thomas's porn talk seem more believable.)

The GOP will take a hit from confirming Kavanaugh, but not with women per se -- it'll be with non-conservative and better-educated women. (In the Fox poll, 44% of white women without college degrees believe Kavanaugh, and only 24% believe Blasey Ford.) I'm sure Republicans are calculating that they've already lost a large percentage of the women they'll anger, but they'll infuriate and de-motivate their own base if Kavanaugh isn't approved.

If you think rubber-stamping Kavanaugh in late September will be a death blow to the GOP, remember that the Access Hollywood tape hit landed in early October of 2016, and Donald Trump won anyway. There'll be a great deal of headline-grabbing news between now and November. This will matter, but don't assume it will be front of mind for most people by Election Day.

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?