Kavanaugh’s Defenders Aren’t Helping
Prominent supporters of the embattled Supreme Court nominee, including the President, are doing him no favors.
As detailed in recent posts, I’m sympathetic to the plight of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. A week away from reaching the pinnacle of his profession, an 11th-hour accusation of an attempted rape some 35 years earlier has him in the position of trying to prove a negative. But high-placed Republicans are doing him no favor in attacks on his accuser.
As Doug Mataconis noted yesterday, President Trump himself got into the action on Twitter. Among other things, he declared, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.” Not only is that an incredibly stupid thing to write in light of what we’ve learned about the pressures stopping women—let alone teenage girls—from reporting sex crimes but it increases the pressure on Senators from swing states, and especially female Senators, to withhold their support from Kavanaugh. Indeed, Maine’s Susan Collins has already been forced to issue a statement declaring “I was appalled by the president’s tweet.” Collins explained, “First of all, we know that allegations of sexual assault – I’m not saying that’s what happened in this case – but we know allegations of sexual assault are one of the most unreported crimes that exist. So I thought that the president’s tweet was completely inappropriate and wrong.”
Alas, Trump’s position is almost sane compared to some others.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson blamed the accusation on a socialist plot to take over America.
“If you really understand the big picture of what’s going on, then what’s going on with Kavanaugh will make perfectly good sense to you,” Carson said at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington. “There’ve been people in this country for a very long time, going all the way back to the Fabians, people who’ve wanted to fundamentally change this country.”
“They don’t like what America is and what it represents, and they want to change us to another system. In order to do that, there are three things they must control: the education system, the media, and the courts. The first two of those they have,” Carson said. “The other they thought they had, but it was snatched out from under their noses in November of 2016.”
Now, Carson continued, these forces “are like wet hornets, just completely lost control off the deep end, and the further they get away from being able to control the courts the more desperate they become,” he said. “They don’t see themselves as being able to control the courts for another generation, so what is left? Chaos and destruction.”
The Republican legal analyst and commentator Ed Whelan had a bizarre Twitter thread Thursday attempting to pin the crime on a Kavanaugh classmate who slightly resembles the judge. We’ve learned that a Republican PR firm helped him craft that brilliant strategy:
It turns out that the Keystone Cops detective work by conservative legal activist Ed Whelan — which set Washington abuzz with the promise of exonerating Brett Kavanaugh, only to be met by mockery and then partially retracted — was not his handiwork alone.
CRC Public Relations, the prominent Alexandria, Virginia-based P.R. firm, guided Whelan through his roller-coaster week of Twitter pronouncements that ended in embarrassment and a potential setback for Kavanaugh’s hopes of landing on the high court, according to three sources familiar with their dealings.
After suggesting on Twitter on Tuesday that he had obtained information that would exculpate Kavanaugh from the sexual assault allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford, Whelan worked over the next 48 hours with CRC and its president, Greg Mueller, to stoke the anticipation. A longtime friend of Kavanaugh’s, Whelan teased his reveal — even as he refused to discuss it with other colleagues and close friends, a half dozen of them said. At the same time, he told them he was absolutely confident the information he had obtained would exculpate the judge.
The hype ping-ponged from Republicans on Capitol Hill to Kavanaugh’s team in the White House, evidence of an extraordinarily successful public relations campaign that ultimately backfired when Whelan’s theory — complete with architectural drawings and an alleged Kavanaugh doppelgänger — landed with a thud on Twitter Thursday evening.
The coordinated effort was a testament to the far-reaching but frenzied attempt among conservatives to save Kavanaugh, which appeared to have spun out of the White House’s control. Indeed, Whelan told associates that he had kept his friend Kavanaugh and those working with him in the White House in the dark about his plans.
Not only did the campaign backfire on Whelan, potentially putting his law license in jeopardy and setting him up to be sued for defamation, but his relationship with Kavanaugh further complicates his friend’s efforts to clear his reputation.
Meanwhile, Ken Cramer, the Republican nominee for the North Dakota US Senate seat running against Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp, argued that, even if true, the accusation was no big deal.
“If to the degree there was any legitimacy to Anita Hill’s claims, and she tried and didn’t prevail — Clarence Thomas did and America did — this case is even more absurd because these people were teenagers when this supposed alleged incident took place,” Cramer said on the Jarrod Thomas Show on 1310 KNOX, a local North Dakota radio station. “Teenagers. Not a boss-supervisor-subordinate situation, as the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill situation was claimed to be. These are teenagers who evidently were drunk, according to her own statement. They were drunk. Nothing evidently happened in it all, even by her own accusation. Again, it was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere.”
That defense might have been effective 30 years ago. But they’re astoundingly stupid in the wake of the #MeToo movement. And even moreso several days into the story, when people have had ample time to craft their message.
Meanwhile, Chuck Grassley, the 85-year-old chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee charged with managing the whole thing, is issuing moronic tweets in broken English:
“Five times now we hv granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w her desire stated one wk ago that she wants to tell senate her story Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. Come to us or we to u”
“Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive”
“With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I’m playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and Schumer is the conductor”
Not only is he (or whoever he has managing his Twitter account) seemingly unaware that he’s not limited to 130 characters anymore, but it’s completely unfathomable what he thinks this whining is going to accomplish. Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? Either delay the hearing or hold it. You’re an octogenarian who’s been in the Senate since 1981 and were just re-elected to your umpteenth six-year term in 2016. You don’t have to run again until 2022, at which time you’ll be 89! In the meantime, you look like a petulant child, not an honest broker capable of being trusted to run a dignified hearing on an incredibly sensitive matter.
What the hell’s wrong with these people?
Of all of these, the Ed Whelen thing is really the most bizarre. He’d spent the better part of the week commenting on Twitter about some bombshell news that would prove Kavanaugh innocent. Then, Thursday night he puts forward a bizarre theory that would make Alex Jones proud and even went so far as to accuse someone else of a crime merely because they kinda-sorta looked like Brett Kavanaugh when the two of them were teenagers. One would have thought that someone of his background would know better.
Not only “a” PR firm, but the one that represents the Federalist Society. It certainly couldn’t be that this was more than a foolish prank on Whelan’s part, could it?
Whelan thought he could get away with it because he is a man. He said himself that he thought his version was more credible than Christine Blasey Ford’s. The man has always been believed over the woman. Hasn’t he? Hasn’t he?
Honestly, this is another move by the Republican Party to prove how unfit for governance they all are.
Given Whelan’s own links to Leonard Leo, who heads The Federalist Society, it’s no surprise that they’d use the same PR firm.
@Doug Mataconis: Indeed. And we can ask what other advice passed among them.
But wait! There is more:
It’s not just Whelan, Kavanaugh’s fingerprints are all over this little stunt.
The aptly named ‘Creative Response Concepts’ PR firm that seems to have done the leg work for Mr Whelan also did the ‘Swift Boat’ campaign against John Kerry. Lovely bunch.
What’ s wrong with these people is that they’re living in an insane situation which people like James Joyner are doing nothing about, so they’re angry and they’re frustrated and they’re lashing out.
On the basis of one, non-credible, 30+ year old allegation, a Supreme Court nominee is now being casually referred to as either an attempted rapist or an alleged attempted rapist. And the people upset by that nonsense are the problem?
Besides the obvious sexism, there is also the issue of class, both of which combine quite nicely into “rich-guy impunity.”
“Kavanaugh and Trump are part of a larger crisis of elite accountability in America,” Matthew Yglesias wrote recently. He has a point that, I think, can be extended to Whelan – except this time he overdid it.
I’ll start this off with Grassley, but I’ll probably follow on with the others:
because Grassley tweeted:
Actually it’s 140 characters.
He is a Senator. He has staff. He has a staffer who specializes in social media (I hope).
If your thoughts and insight necessarily must run longer than 140 characters, just add 1/ at the end of the first tweet, post, write the next bit append 2/, etc. There are tools that will do this for you. Twitter just added back the reverse chronological timeline – you will confuse no one.
Maybe this is old school on my part, but I don’t want a 85 yo Senator saying hv and u and ur and wk and w and b.
You’re 85, not 15. And you’re a Senator. And you have staff. I want official statements from a US Senator to sound like a serious, smart, hyper-competent adult composed it.
Draft a statement, and have someone you employ for this very reason, fashion it into an appropriate text for the platform.
Also old white people shouldn’t buffalo stance and fake rap. It’s always horrible.
Whelan also had Ford’s name as Kavanaugh’s accuser before it was public knowledge:
“On Sunday, Ford noticed that — even before her name became public — Whelan appeared to be seeking information about her.
That morning, Ford alerted an associate via email that Whelan had looked at her LinkedIn page, according to the email, which was reviewed by The Post. LinkedIn allows some subscribers to see who views their pages. Ford sent the email about 90 minutes after The Post shared her name with a White House spokesman and hours before her identity was revealed in a story posted on its website.” (emphasis added)
The allegation is new. There’s no reason to think the accuser, a successful professional with nothing to gain and a lot to lose, is less than credible. And what would one call the subject of an allegation of attempted rape other than an “alleged attempted rapist”?
I agree with Yglesias but for one point. Trump was never a “member of New York high society in good standing.” He was desperate to be one, certainly. But real society–old NY society–wanted absolutely nothing to do with him, nor did the influx of billionaire arrivistes in the 1980s; they had ambitions to be accepted by the haut monde, and they knew any association with him would taint them irredeemably. This is one of the principal reasons we have Trump as president now–he’s getting his revenge against the Manhattan “elites.”
MBunge, of course, almost perfectly illustrates what Yglesias’ “crisis of elite accountability in America” is all about.
All these powerful men (Carson, Whelan, Grassley, etc.) simply can’t help themselves. They’re angry and frustrated because some random blogger (Joyner) hasn’t automatically rallied to their side. And now they are helpless (the poor things) and must spout vile nonsense.
Also, bitches be lying.
If it’s true, then Kavanaugh is straight up lying, just like he did about those stolen documents.
Maybe they’re stupid people with shitty values?
Kavanaugh was nominated because of those things that Ygelsias outlined. All of the “despites” he notes are pluses for Rs.
Any R President will always nominate a Federalist Society compromised partisan. It’s baked in.
If those guys are perpetually animated by Bork, then we need to be perpetually animated by Garland. I am.
Here is my desire – stifle the Kavanaugh appointment until after the mid-terms, win the House and Senate, and then refuse to hold hearings on any Trump nominated SCOTUS nominees. McConnell’s actions re Garland must have *hard* consequences – what McConnell did was unconscionable, unprecedented, defied norms, and was a coup de etat.
What makes Ford’s allegation non-credible, and what does the vintage have to do with anything?
it’s being made by a woman, who also dared to become an expert in a field.
That’s enough right there for him.
Read Ben Carson’s statement and tell me that’s not just flat-out projection.
I love the “stinger”:
Pot imagines it meets a straw person version of Kettle; determines that straw-Kettle is also soulless and un-American just like Pot is and will behave like Pot has already done and will continue to do.
Depending on the state that Whelan posted from, he was not just defamatory, he could face criminal libel issues.
Civil libel requires that the offended party pursue action. Criminal libel does not. Where did Whelan tweet from? (IANAL)
You’re kidding me. The Republicans have completely turned Over the selection and vetting of Supreme Court Justices to the Federalist Society. And it turns out their PR firm were the slimey bottom dwellers responsible for the Swift Boat campaign.
I’ve been saying for years, you simply cannot underestimate how far the modern Republican Party has descended into the cesspool
Yeah. If you let McConnell bring a gun to your scheduled knife fight, and you insist on being honorable and sticking with your knife, you will bleed out in a very principled, respectable way.
I will add a crucial distintion:
It’s an allegation made by a woman about a Republican.
Against the guy who could re-write Roe v Wade.
They are all about “eyes on the prize” on this and Kavanaugh is just the actor – it could be anyone on the top 25 list from the Federalist Society and the reaction would be exactly the same.
#metoo informs all of this. Republicans could not have chosen this battle at a worse time. Women of all ages and races know what Ms. Ford wrote about what happened to her and why she was reluctant to report it then and now.
What would do?
@de stijl: I would not expect an answer.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I wasn’t expecting a response like “It offends my tribal understanding of politics” which, while truthful, won’t be offered. But the question can’t hurt.
In fact, I’m a fan of replying to people who make these types of declarative assertions with that exact type of question – you said x was non-credible (or whatever, the adjective varies), Why do you think so?
@de stijl: Did you mean What would I do?
Try like hell to win the senate and then refuse to hold SCOTUS hearings for the remainder of Trump’s presidency. Only real option. Talk of impeachment is innumerate nonsense, unless one thinks the House vote alone is meaningful.
280 now. Used to be 140.
@James Joyner: Supreme Court Justice?
That sounds like we agree *exactly* and I never mentioned impeachment, so why were you dogging me?
@de stijl: I wasn’t dogging you. I said “Yeah.” in agreement with you. The impeachment comment was an additional thought in response to constant discussion I see online and wasn’t directed at you.
HAHAHAHA what a bunch of deplorable, shitty people.
That just lays it out completely. It is not who is truthful – it is who prevails. Pure tribalism. He plays it out like it was a trial – Hill v Thomas, and since Thomas was confirmed, he was therefore innocent and Hill’s allegations were untrue.
And then the bit about “teenagers”…
Sexual assault by a teenager is still sexual assault and does not require penetration. That it happened with two teen-aged people makes it “absurd” to him. Was she drinking? Was she dressed provocatively? Was he drinking? Apparently, those questions are salient to him. They are not salient. Sexual assault is sexual assault.
Why does the concept of two-party consent confuse so many people?
I apologize. I read your response wrong.
(I read “Yeah” as “whatevs, idiot!” Bad assumption on my part.)
I know they can’t publically comment but can you imagine what the other 8 members of the Supreme Court are thinking right now?
So basically, we’re responsible for their behavior because we provoked them? Am I reading that correctly?
I applaud the sentiment. I just was noting that this particular person is not prone to answering direct, reasonable questions.
@de stijl: I was vague, I understand the miscommunication. I think you’ve got the best approach. I really, really hope the Senate flips. A retrograde GOP SCOTUS could seriously damage the country.
You know who else was 17? Trayvon Martin.
@Steven L. Taylor:
That’s why we should ask those types of direct, reasonable questions. If they respond appropriately, they are worthy of debate. If not, no.
(I had to back-track to see who the individual was that we are having this general talk about was, and, no, that guy/gal is unlikely to engage – goes by “Mike” so I’ll go with “he” unless corrected. He does not have a history of frank and fruitful exchange. A history of bad-faith makes me expect bad-faith.)
But, in asking those questions, you either find a conversation / debate, or you puncture the very premise of their argument in a way that the commenter will not continue with their initial argument. Or will now argue from a knee-capped position.
I’m all for engaging with people of good-faith and will not with bad, so it helps to find out quickly who is which.
They don’t seem smart enough to notice that their argument is essentially, “We aren’t responsible for acting out when our precious fee-fees are hurt.”
Fragile little things. By their own admission they’re too emotional to be making important decisions.
@de stijl: While part of me admired your determination to try to have a reasonable discussion with this particular person, another part of me is just sorta shaking my head. It’s the part that makes me wonder just what is going through Charlie Brown’s mind when he thinks (after 70 years), “Maybe this time Lucy will hold the ball!”
@Steven L. Taylor:
Perfect example – I just found out Teve was a good interlocutor.
I misunderstood his reaction, asked a question, Teve clarified, and I apologized – all over a “Yeah”
Fist bump to Teve.
I wasn’t really trying to engage with MBunge by saying
I was (hopefully) implying “put up or shut up.” It was defiance.
One good way to thwart a troll is is to make them show their work with references. “I believe unproven x” should generate a response like “why do you believe x?”
When you look behind the curtain it really is ugly, eh? Even to a conservative Republican like James Joyner…
I’m still pissed I actually wrote coup de etat instead of coup d’etat and can’t edit it.
@Scott: I know at least 4 of them are praying we don’t start digging into their high school days.
Well under the Peter Principle, doesn’t that make him the Platonic ideal Supreme Court Justice? Bleep! Roberts should step down as chief so that Kavanaugh can succeed.
@de stijl: Alas, that “the Left” is bent on destroying America just as much as “Radical Islam” is has become a theme with these guys. You don’t have to listen to Rush, Levin, Beck, or most of the others for longer than about 10-15 minutes before “destroy America” comes up.
I certainly agree that we should engage. My view is that MBunge is a bad faith participant who almost always refuses to answer direct, reasonable questions and I was making that point when noting he was unlikely to provide an answer. It is a long-term issue.
@Scott: Unfortunately, I’m confident that 4 of them have no problem with what’s going on at all and just wish the Senate would “shut the bitch up and push this though.” They got a railroad to run, ya know.
@Steven L. Taylor:
The cool thing is that I asked a direct, reasonable question…
and I stuck my figurative thumb in his eye and undercut his premise.
Win / win.
It is unlikely that MBunge, but not impossible, would proffer a good answer and respond properly in good faith – that would have been win / win / win.
No one is utterly incorrigible. Except TM01 – screw that guy.
If you’re talking about MBunge, that’s exactly right. MBunge has repeatedly accepted one particular woman’s rape accusation: Juanita Broaddrick.
Here are several examples of MBunge comments I was able to collect with a quick Google search of OTB’s archive:
Oct. 5, 2016: “Yes, it’s almost as bad as a political party inviting an accused rapist to speak at its last five national conventions.”
Feb. 28, 2018: “I can hear you over the wild applause and media love for an accused rapist at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.”
July 5, 2018: “They were content with a publicly accused rapist becoming First Gentleman.”
Aug. 7, 2018: “Here’s the definition of stupidity: Writing a post like this without acknowledging the final alternative to Trump was putting an accused rapist and his #1 enabler back in The White House.”
Note that in the casual way MBunge describes Bill Clinton as an “accused rapist,” without elaboration, he’s essentially implying that the mere existence of a rape accusation automatically means we should distrust the accused. He never says that Clinton was credibly accused; he simply describes Clinton as “accused,” as if that alone settles the matter.
The main source of MBunge’s double standard here isn’t sexism or even partisanship per se (he has attacked Republicans and praised Democrats plenty of times). Rather, it’s his long-standing, virulent hatred of all things Clinton and his absolute, slobbering devotion to Donald Trump.
You’ve been engaging with this person for what, two years? When has this strategy ever worked with them?
@Steven L. Taylor: