Saturday, September 29, 2018


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.

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