Don't forget: Kavanaugh probably would have been blocked if Democrats hadn't filibustered Gorsuch

I already made this case last week, but Drew McCoy reminded me of it this afternoon and now I want to re-up it as an overlooked factor in Kavanaugh’s now all-but-certain confirmation. There’s no way to know for sure how things would have gone on Earth 2 if Gorsuch hadn’t been filibustered and Collins, Flake, and Murkowski were now presented with the momentous choice of nuking the filibuster to confirm Kavanaugh. But consider: If Murkowski wasn’t willing to vote for cloture this morning, she obviously wouldn’t have voted to nuke. Manchin certainly wouldn’t have crossed his party on a huge vote like that, knowing that it would have repercussions for future nominees, not just Kavanaugh. And given Flake’s squeamishness about the entire past three weeks, the idea of him going nuclear to get Kavanaugh through seems farcical.

Even with Collins firmly in Kavanaugh’s corner, McConnell would have lost the filibuster vote 49/51. (Or worse.) Which means Kavanaugh would have needed 60 votes for cloture. Which in turn means either that McConnell would have had him yanked after the first signs of trouble with Ford or Trump would have had to nominate a more moderate candidate from the start to have any shot at 60. And even then, purely to avenge Merrick Garland, Democrats might not have given it to him. This seat might have been open for two more years.

So, thanks to the Dems for being so stupid and strategically short-sighted as to have chosen to stage the big filibuster fight over Gorsuch, not Kavanaugh.

Other unsung heroes of the Kavanaugh confirmation:

1. Michael Avenatti. Collins herself alluded to his role in this in her floor speech today but Robby Soave spelled it out at greater length:

Even on the Republican side, many people seemed to the think the testimony offered by Ford was credible. But it’s much easier to take the position that the allegations against Kavanaugh are all lies if you have reason to believe at least one of the allegations is untrue. This is yet another problem with the automatically-believe-all-women philosophy embraced by fourth-wave feminism: When a woman is shown to have (probably) lied about her experience—something that does happen from time to time—the entire philosophy looks silly, because it rests on the idea that the consequences for coming forward are so awful that no one would ever lie. Swetnick undermined the believe-all-women position with her story, and Avenatti helped her by pushing it to the forefront of the news cycle.

Avenatti—and to a lesser extent, Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, who ran with a story so thin The New York Times wouldn’t print it—took the narrow question of whether Kavanaugh or Ford were more believable, and raised the stakes by asserting he was a serial sexual abuser, rather than an inconsiderate, sexually aggressive teenage drunk. It was always going to be easier to poke holes in the grander narrative. This very well may have been a gift to those who were looking for cover to vote for Kavanaugh.

Avenatti is whining about Collins and Republicans this afternoon, predictably, but the most deafening silence in this process came from Democrats who didn’t rally behind him and Swetnick after she came forward. Partly that’s self-interest at work: 2020 hopefuls like Booker, Gillibrand, and Harris have no incentive to inflate his profile further by promoting him as the white knight of the Kavanaugh fight. But partly it’s because Swetnick’s allegations were implausible on the merits, unsupported by any on-the-record witnesses (even though the media eagerly sought corroboration), and it was all too easy to believe that Swetnick was a production of a guy who’s forever seeking out new reasons to promote himself. He blew it. If he had anything and was serious about vindicating Swetnick, he should have showed all his cards from the beginning.

2. Jeff Flake. You can think he’s a gutless RINO generally but he came through on the big vote. And his demand for a one-week delay helped Kavanaugh in various ways. John McCormack counts five separate developments over the past week that ended up bolstering Kavanaugh’s case. Collins might have voted to confirm regardless but would Flake and Manchin have taken the plunge last Friday without further reassurances?

The FBI interviewed all the alleged party attendees—Ford’s lifelong female friend Leland Ingham Keyser, Kavanaugh friend P.J. Smyth, and alleged accomplice Mark Judge. Keyser had previously said she recalls no party at which Kavanaugh was present and does not know Kavanaugh. Schumer and Feinstein gave no indication Keyser has changed her story.

The FBI also interviewed Chris Garrett, a person Ford went out with around the time of the alleged assault in 1982 and Ford’s only known social connection to Kavanaugh and Judge. The FBI also interviewed Tim Gaudette, who hosted a July 1, 1982, party that has been the focus of much speculation. Schumer and Feinstein gave no indication those interviews turned up groundbreaking information.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley said in a statement: “This investigation found no hint of misconduct and the same is true of the six prior FBI background investigations conducted during Judge Kavanaugh’s 25 years of public service.”

Flake gambled that giving the FBI a week to do its work would make the case for Kavanaugh stronger, not weaker. He was right.

3. Harry Reid. Lefties will forever argue that McConnell would have nuked the filibuster on SCOTUS nominations irrespective of Reid’s decision to nuke it for lower-court nominees in 2013. Could be. Without question, McConnell would have tried to nuke it. But McConnell can’t make the rules by decree. He would have needed 51 votes from his own side to do it, and between Flake, Collins, and Murkowski and the hard realities of a 51/49 Senate, it’s anyone’s guess if he could have gotten any of them to agree to do it last year for Gorsuch if not for the cover Reid and Democrats provided him by going nuclear first. I’d bet big money, though, that he couldn’t have gotten them to do it for Kavanaugh, given the uneasiness over what he’s been accused of and the much higher political stakes of Kennedy’s swing seat coming vacant. Reid set the table. The centrist Republicans dined on it.

They couldn’t have done it without you, Harry. You’re the real MVP.