No one in government seems willing to call Dr. Christine Blasey Ford a flat-out liar. Republicans seem to have skipped right over this step to instead construct ridiculous, offensive, and illogical defenses of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s character and conspiratorial excuses for what might have happened that night 36 years ago. There is, however, the singular and notable exception of Kavanaugh himself, who categorically denied not just Dr. Ford’s accusation of attempted rape, but pre-empted others as well:
This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.
Aside from that oddly perceived need to forfend possible allegations from other women, Kavanaugh also includes that he didn’t know who Dr. Ford was, as if that were air-tight evidence in his favor. This isn’t, “I didn’t do it, the end.” This is weird, and perhaps why no ranking government officials will flat-out call Dr. Ford a liar. They seem to believe her accusation is at bare minimum credible, and they distrust Kavanaugh enough that they won’t stick their neck out for him in the chance he’s the liar, which seems undoubtedly the case.
Instead we’ve seen GOP officials and surrogates scramble to assemble rickety scaffolds of excuses for this objectively hideous nominee. Their ouroboros defense goes like this: It didn’t happen. But why bring it up now? And she doesn’t remember it correctly. And even if he did it, he was young and drunk. And so was she. And it actually wasn’t that bad. And it was a long time ago. He’s a good guy now. So it doesn’t matter. Even if it did, the FBI can’t investigate it. But there’s nothing to investigate because it didn’t happen.
These excuses range from wrong to stupid to duplicitous to misogynistic sophistry to batshit insane. So in no particular order — except the last, which is the worst of the bunch — here’s a compendium.
Hell, here’s a freebie to get things started:
1. Some of My Best Friends Are Women
Within a day of the allegations, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley improbably released a letter attesting to Kavanaugh’s character signed by 65 women, Republicans and Democrats alike. The day after Dr. Ford came forward herself, reporters from Politico reached out to the women, and only seven have so far confirmed they still stand by Kavanaugh. The overwhelming majority didn’t respond.
Oh well! If he didn’t bother 65 women in his life, surely he couldn’t have attacked anyone.
However, the woman who organized the propaganda effort, Meghan McCaleb, told Fox News in an interview “I’m not certain” when asked if she believed Ford. McCaleb added, “She alleges that she had this traumatic event, and I feel like it is not the Brett Kavanaugh that we know.” Another signee, Sharon Crouch Clark, said she didn’t know Dr. Ford but was happy to add her name. Still, Clark wouldn’t dismiss Dr. Ford’s accusations, either: “If it happened to her, that’s horrible.” Instead Clark floated the idea that Dr. Ford misremembered the event, citing the absence of specifics such as the date and place.
In response, 600 women from Holton-Arms School, where Dr. Ford was a student at the time of the assault, signed a letter in support of Ford.
But they’re right about one thing: Details matter.
2. She’s Mixed Up
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said Monday he though Dr. Ford was “mistaken” in her account. Hatch told CNN, “I talked to [Kavanaugh] on the phone today… [he said] he didn’t do that, and he wasn’t at the party. So, you know, clearly, somebody’s mixed up.”
Clearly somebody is. The octogenarian Hatch once removed eyeglasses that weren’t on his face.
But should we be concerned about what people can and cannot remember? Of course. Kavanaugh’s claim (per Hatch) that he wasn’t at the party doesn’t quite jibe, because as mentioned above, Ford hasn’t said yet exactly when or where the attack happened. It seems impossible for Kavanaugh to remember something without knowing what he’s remembering. When this occurred to Hatch, he walked it back, saying instead that Kavanaugh told him he wasn’t at a party like the one Ford described.
We should note that Hatch offered no mercy to Democrat Al Franken when he faced charges of sexual harassment. But Hatch does have a history of defending Republicans, even offering up an excuse to vote for credibly accused pedophile Roy Moore.
3. More about Memory
Trump surrogate Alan Dershowitz told Fox News that the confirmation process should continue regardless, because “women forget, men forget.”
However, professor of clinical psychiatry Dr. Richard A. Friedman wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed that “neuroscience research tells us that memories formed under the influence of intense emotion — such as the feelings that accompany a sexual assault — are indelible in the way that memories of a routine day are not… This is why you can easily forget where you put your smartphone or what you had for dinner last night or last year. But you will almost never forget who raped you, whether it happened yesterday — or 36 years ago.” For good measure he adds, “There’s very little chance that you are, as some senators suggest Dr. Blasey is, ‘mixed up’ or ‘confused.’”
There’s a double-standard here, too. The public believes men who, without hard evidence, accuse priests of rape decades ago, but when women who come forward are assumed to be “asking for it,” or dressed provocatively, or drunk, or their accounts are spurious and driven by an agenda to take men down. This, by the way, raises another screw-eyed conspiracy about Dr. Ford: That she’s motivated by a decades-old vendetta against the Kavanaughs, because Brett’s mom once sat as a judge for Dr. Ford’s parents’ foreclosure hearing. The case, however, was ultimately decided in favor of Ford’s parents, so it’s unclear what exactly Ford would want to avenge.
Beyond this, though, Dershowitz’s point also seems to beg for an FBI investigation, which would likely involve, among other things, recovering additional contemporaneous accounts and carrying out in-depth interviews with possible witnesses, such as Kavanaugh’s partner in doucherie Mark Judge.
4. Kavanaugh Is a Gem
Plenty of people have attested to Kavanaugh’s purportedly excellent character, but for my money nothing beats Sean Hannity, a man of the cloth if ever there was one:
Everything else you see about Judge Kavanaugh’s life, in his church, in his community, this is a guy that spends a lot of time feeding the homeless, I mean he actually is the real deal in terms of helping people in his life now and throughout his profession and you’ve got 65 women who were contemporaries during his high school years that they’ve all come out and said that he was a great guy, a person of great character and great integrity.
Of course, anyone familiar with investigative reporting after some act of mass or heinous violence — in other words, everyone reading this — is familiar with the shock expressed by people who knew the perpetrator. This applies to sex criminals as well: Bill Cosby, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., etc etc. “But he always seemed like such a nice guy!” (Related: it’s almost always a he.)
5. Well He Was Just 17, If You Know What I Mean
Ford alleges Kavanaugh and Judge attacked her when they were 17 years old and drunk. The National Review pitched the argument this way: “Teenagers in general and teenage boys in particular do a fair number of stupid, rude, and inappropriate things, and doubly so when drunk, horny, and in the presence of the opposite sex.”
So it should be okay. Not that it happened in the first place.
Actually, it should not be okay. Kavanaugh is asking for us to hold him to the highest moral standards in the land. Surely the GOP can find a conservative judge who hasn’t tried to rape anyone. Not only that, but Kavanaugh has doubled down on his denial, and if and when it becomes apparent he’s lying he’ll find himself deep in his own ditch. If he had the kind of moral rectitude appropriate for the Supreme Court he would publicly accept his responsibility, express remorse, ask forgiveness of Dr. Ford and the people of the United States, and illustrate how and why he changed his life since then. We know why this hasn’t happened.
6. Boys will be boys!
This Tuesday the spokesperson for the Judicial Crisis Network — an organization that supports GOP judicial nominees — said that Kavanaugh’s alleged behavior would “cover a whole range of conduct, from boorishness, to rough horseplay, to actual attempted rape.” She acknowledged that what Ford has specifically described implies an attempted rape, but added, paradoxically, “I’m saying the behavior she describes could describe a whole range of things.”
7. Oh Well, The FBI Can’t Investigate
This is simply wrong. President Trump can ask the FBI to investigate Ford’s claims. There’s obvious precedent: In the early 1990s the FBI investigated Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against George H.W. Bush’s SCOTUS nominee Clarence. It took three days.
And for those who claim it’s too late now, former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt pointed out that the confirmation hearings for John Tower set a precedent, too. “New information was introduced late in the process that had not been uncovered in the FBI background check,” Schmidt wrote on Twitter. “The [Democratic] Chairman, Sam Nunn, immediately referred the matter to the FBI Director to reopen the background check.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, who is a real weasel and a disgrace, tweeted that “Requiring an FBI investigation of a 36 year old allegation (without specific references to time or location) before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth, but delaying the process till after the midterm elections.” I have a number of critiques of this argument, but the most obvious is that forcing a vote without an FBI investigation is also about the midterms.
8. Blame the Victim
In a category of his own devising, Dinesh D’Souza:
9. Winner Winner
The most insane, most offensive take of all belongs to Ed Whelan, a lawyer and prominent Washington insider who runs the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. And as you read on about this, keep in mind Whelan befriended Kavanaugh years ago while working in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, when Kavanaugh served in the White House Counsel’s office during the George W. Bush administration.
But this take is literally incomprehensibly stupid. As in impossible for someone to comprehend what — beyond a possible manic break or his son swapping his Lipitor out for Vyvanse — could have led Whelan to put this together. It’s basically a doppleganger theory: Whelan posted a thread on Twitter using “evidence” that included a Google map and Zillow floor plans to somehow prove that Ford mistook Kavanaugh for someone who looks a lot like him. Then Whelan NAMED that private person and POSTED HIS PICTURE, which almost certainly opens Whelan up to a defamation lawsuit. Further, Whelan reportedly told multiple DC contacts he could prove Kavanaugh was innocent “near 100%,” which implies he’d been in touch with others about his idea, and so in the event of a lawsuit, whatever coordination or communication Whelan might have had with Kavanaugh or anyone on the hill (the Judiciary Committee immediately denied involvement) will likely come out in discovery.
Here’s a trenchant analysis of the disaster from Paste’s Shane Ryan.
Also, Dr. Ford came out and said not only that she knew the man Whelan identified, but knew him well enough to have once visited him in the hospital. Which makes sense, because as Whelan should have calculated, the prep scene in DC sure ain’t that big, and DC itself is an incestuous town. The odds Ford knew both this guy and Kavanaugh (not out of the question we will learn she actually interacted with Kavanaugh later, too) are pretty high.
So put aside for a moment how inhumane it is to drag a private person and his family into this. In terms of pure strategy, if the GOP wanted this to disappear, it seems the last thing they’d want to do is construct a parallel narrative that would precipitate an investigation of its own.
Whelan isn’t the progenitor of this theory, though. That distinction goes to Kathleen Parker, who in a Washington Post op-ed earlier this week first asked the doppelgänger question.
She wrote: “As crazy as that sounds, it wouldn’t be unheard of. And, given the high regard in which Kavanaugh has been held throughout his life, including during high school, it would make the most sense.”
It would certainly make more sense than putting this piece of trash in the highest position of moral authority in the United States.