In this edition: a victory for Texas Republicans, a new GOP ad buy in Trump country, a surprising poll in Minnesota, and an interview with the man who wants to put Democrats in charge of the states again.
How a #MeToo story gets transformed into a political football, previewing the Beto-Cruz debate, and the president’s approval rating.
The interviews with the special counsel are a new sign of the special counsel’s progress in getting firsthand accounts from key players.
Christine Blasey Ford deserves a hearing, although at the moment it’s not clear if she really wants one. What she doesn’t deserve is to be believed automatically just because she’s a woman making an accusation.
When our system of justice is at its best, it judges each individual—the accuser and the accused—fairly, on the basis of the evidence, and with an adversarial process that has proved over the centuries the best way to ascertain the truth.
Ford’s charge is serious by any standard, and despite the shameful way it was handled—Senator Dianne Feinstein sat on it for weeks, until it leaked out at the eleventh hour—Republicans appropriately agreed to delay a committee vote and hear from both Ford and Kavanaugh at an open hearing.
The problem is that Ford’s accusation doesn’t seem particularly provable—an alleged incident 36 years ago, with few details to check against—and the Democratic-media complex isn’t very interested in proving it. It wants to take Ford’s truthfulness as a given, as matter of cosmic and gender equity.
“I believe the survivor,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal says of Christine Blasey Ford, asserting her status without having any idea whether it’s accurate. The point here is to take rhetorical and political advantage of her alleged victimhood before it’s been established—indeed to use her assumed victimhood to foreclose any serious questioning of whether she is a victim or not.
What we’re seeing, in effect, is the importation of the infamous kangaroo-court apparatus for adjudicating sexual harassment and assault cases from college campuses—which often denies the accused basic protections of due process—to the United States Senate.
Without having any independent knowledge of whether Ford’s account of Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged attempt to rape her is true or not, Blumenthal is still a hanging judge. “This nomination will not only cast a shadow over Judge Kavanaugh, if he were ever to be confirmed,” he says, “it will also stain the United States Supreme Court irreparably.”
There you have it. The court weathered Roger Taney and Dred Scott, but it will be brought to ruination by Brett Kavanaugh.
If we aren’t going to simply assume Kavanaugh’s guilt, we have to be willing to challenge Ford’s account and ask questions about it. But we’re told this is risky, or even out of bounds.
Senator John Cornyn noted Ford’s fuzzy memory of key details, and—in a hardly inflammatory sentiment—concluded, “There are some gaps there that need to be filled.” Chris Cillizza of CNN deemed these kind of queries “walking a VERY dangerous line,” although they are obviously central to testing the accuracy of Ford’s account.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand pronounced, “By refusing to treat her allegations properly”—her otherworldly description of an invitation to Ford to testify in an open or closed setting—“and by playing games to protect Kavanaugh’s nomination, they’re telling women across the country that they’re not to be believed. That they are worth less than a man’s promotion.”
No, that’s not what they’re telling women, or anyone else. The message is that they will try to find the truth before crediting an accusation. This once was a tenet of liberalism, back in the day when it celebrated the Arthur Miller play The Crucible and supported the old-school ACLU. Now, “liberal” means something different—braying for collective justice, regardless of the evidence, to right historic wrongs.
The ABC News commentator Matthew Dowd opined, “If this is ‘he said, she said,’ then let’s believe that ‘she’ in these scenarios. She has nothing to gain, and everything to lose. For 250 years we have believed the ‘he’ in these scenarios. Enough is enough.”
Putting aside the tendentious history, this is a call for people to subordinate their reason and their moral discernment to a social and political agenda. Not all women are to believed, whatever the past sins of the patriarchy. The Duke lacrosse players weren’t guilty. The University of Virginia fraternity story wasn’t true. The Columbia University student who carried a mattress around as a symbol of her alleged rape was found, by a campus tribunal, to have falsely accused her supposed assailant.
This obviously doesn’t mean that women should be disbelieved, either. Almost all the #MeToo allegations against high-profile figures in Hollywood and the media have been credible. It does mean accusations of sexual misconduct—like any other accusation—should be evaluated case by case, and on the basis of the evidence. This isn’t victimizing the accusers. It is serving the cause of justice.
Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii captured the current temper of the left when she said, “I want to say to the men of this country: Shut up and just step up and do the right thing.” This says much more about her—and her own suitability for high office—than Kavanaugh. He has no obligation to shut up—even if about half his Senate audience is losing its interest in due process or fair play.
Democratic outside groups have largely sat on the sidelines when it came to attacking Republican incumbent Will Hurd in the Texas 23rd District. But no more.
A lawyer for the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, of sexual assault told a Senate panel on Thursday the professor will not testify on Monday as Republicans want but would be willing to appear sometime next week if certain terms are met.
Democrats will “get to the bottom” of Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh if they take control of the House or Senate after this fall’s midterms, one Senate Judiciary Committee member said Thursday.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that “as soon as Democrats get gavels,” the party will vet the FBI’s handling of Ford’s claim against the Supreme Court nominee – even if Kavanaugh is already seated on the high court by that time. Whitehouse’s comments point to a continued Democratic focus on Kavanaugh that could help turn out liberal voters in November, regardless of whether the GOP can confirm him.
“You can’t ignore a crime victim’s claim that something happened, refuse to investigate, throw her up into the stand without the least bit of support for her, without the least bit of effort to corroborate what she says and then walk away from that,” Whitehouse told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
His comments suggest that Democrats are prepared to keep digging in on Kavanaugh, sustaining the bitterly partisan tone of this fall’s confirmation battle well into 2019.
And other Democrats echoed Whitehouse’s anger about the Republican push to confirm Kavanaugh as soon as this month, even if ongoing talks aimed at securing Ford’s testimony fail to bear fruit.
“They’ve made it very clear that they don’t care about facts of sexual abuse, or anything else,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a onetime Judiciary chairman and one of three members still on the panel who participated in 1991’s Anita Hill hearings, said in an interview. “They just want to ram it through.”
“It’s harmful to the court’s legitimacy and to Judge Kavanaugh’s legitimacy on the court to simply go through a confirmation vote” without conducting any FBI investigation, said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), also a member of the Judiciary panel.
Whether House Democrats, who have a far stronger chance than their Senate counterparts to take control of their chamber after the midterms, would echo that interest in Kavanaugh remains unclear. But a senior House Democratic leadership aide on Thursday floated the idea of investigating Kavanaugh’s statements on Ford if Democrats win back that chamber. The party has no plans to do so yet but is clearly examining the idea.
Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), declined to address the hypothetical question of how Democrats would address the allegation against Kavanaugh should the party win back power in November. But he aligned with Ford’s call for an FBI inquiry into her allegation that Kavanaugh tried to force himself on her when both were in high school.
“Dr. Ford is right — the FBI should conduct a background investigation of her serious allegations of attempted rape,” Hammill said. “Judge Kavanaugh should not fear a FBI investigation unless he is hiding something.”
Only 15 judges have been impeached in the history of the United States. One of them is current Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.). He was impeached by the House in 1988, convicted in a Senate impeachment trial and removed from the bench the following year. Hastings — who had been earlier acquitted of criminal bribery charges — won a House seat in 1992.
Rebecca Morin and John Bresnahan contributed to this report.
In the latest installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast’s “Model Talk,” Nate Silver discusses how unexpected events, like a troubled Supreme Court nomination, are processed by the forecast model. He also answers listener questions about how long the model’s code is and where it’s stored.
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