As soon as Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s once-anonymous accuser started stalling for time over testifying, you knew another sexual assault allegation was in the works.
Sure enough, a New Yorker story dropped Sunday night, when news competition would be minimal. It’s possible we’ll have yet another tardy “revelation” before Thursday’s scheduled appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee, so desperate are opponents of the judge and President Trump.
News consumers need to understand how this vicious PR game is played to avoid being played themselves.
It’s become an integral part of the political process of political assassination as practiced in Washington by anonymous pols and operatives in complicity with competitive media willing to be played in return for a “scoop” in this 24/7 news cycle. Actually, it’s not really a news cycle anymore; it’s a continuous stream.
In this case, the desperate protagonists are on the left and their sympathetic pals are in certain media. Both know how high are the stakes if a highly-qualified Kavanaugh adds to a reliable, long-lived conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Sometimes these assassination attempts are one-hit wonders. Remember George W. Bush’s DUI case on the Thursday before the 2000 presidential election? The case was actually 24 years old. But the anonymous leaker collected the little-known details, saved them until the last minute when they’d do the most damage and leave the least time for repairs, then fed them to Carl Cameron of Fox News.
Bush forthrightly addressed the news that day, the best way to cauterize a PR wound. Bush’s chief strategist, Karl Rove, admitted later not getting that information out sooner was the campaign’s worst mistake.
But here’s how that one leaked story created years of bitterness and almost changed U.S. history: Bush was polling ahead in Maine when the story broke.
On Election Day, he lost Maine. It’s only three electoral votes. But if Maine had stayed in the GOP column, there would have been no Florida recount with weeks of bitter legal wrangling settled only by, oh look, that same Supreme Court.
Ideally, from opponents’ point of view, damaging leaks should come late and be spread out, providing a poisonous drip-drip that seems to worsen the case. Remember almost a year ago the repeated unsourced media reports about Secy. of State Rex Tillerson’s disagreeable personality, insularity and simply awful management style, this about a man who ran one of the world’s international oil giants through complex mergers and a tumultuous time?
Worst, was the many terrible things unidentified people allegedly said he allegedly said about President Trump. Sound familiar? Secy. of Defense James Mattis recently had to deny reports he’s spoken ill about Trump.
Think about that. The current political environment, enabled by some in a rabid, often careless and likely sympathetic media, has with the #MeToo movement changed our public legal perceptions to presumed guilty until proven innocent. How does someone like Mattis or Kavanaugh prove something did not happen?
You can’t disprove unverifiable facts with verifiable ones, which is what the left is counting on to sink the judge.
The She-said-He-said element of this sordid Kavanaugh business leaves it to polarized Americans now to take their appointed sides with no consensus resolution, believing the facts that fit their choice.
Now, if there was video of a teenager boasting of the incident, Kavanaugh’s nomination would be dead right now.
Remember in 2008 how close Barack Obama said he was to his Chicago minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who married the Obamas and baptized their girls? And how religiously Obama said he attended Sunday services at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ?
That was a perfect set-up for an Obama primary opponent to leak a videotape of a Wright sermon that included racist, anti-Semitic and anti-U.S. statements. There was a huge furor because tacitly accepting such drek threatened Obama’s core pitch about bringing Americans together. Obama said he recalled no such sermons.
But then came another videotape. And another videotape. And another.
Eventually, Obama was forced to give a speech about race and how he could no more disavow Pastor Wright than his own white grandmother, who Obama claimed had made racially insensitive remarks. Even more eventually, however, Obama did disavow Wright.
That attempted campaign destruction failed to end Obama’s career. But the tactic endures and, indeed, thrives this week.