Welcome to the new “Democratic norms,” the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board warns today — as if the lesson could possibly have escaped anyone’s notice. Now that the FBI has found no corroboration for the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, the entire process — especially last night’s particularly despicable and McCarthyist smear from Dick Durbin and his fellow Judiciary Democrats — has been exposed as a character-assassination strategy in service to power politics, the WSJ’s editors write. If the left can do this to a well-regarded, mainstream, center-right jurist, they warn, it can happen to any of us:
Mr. Trump’s nomination of Mr. Kavanaugh is a credit to the process he established to win the election and govern with conservative support. He sought the help of legal elites on the right, led by the Federalist Society, who compiled an impressive list of potential nominees. This isn’t a rogue judicial operation to choose presidential cronies. It is the gold standard for legal talent that believes in the original meaning of the Constitution. It’s hard to see how any GOP President would have done better, and others have done much worse.
Yet this is precisely why Democrats and the left have set out to destroy Judge Kavanaugh—not in legal philosophy or competence, which they knew was a political loser, but as a human being, a spouse and father. They need to destroy him personally with accusations but no corroboration, as they tried with Clarence Thomas, so they can deny the open Supreme Court seat to a judicial conservative.
So much the better if playing the #MeToo card also helps Democrats retake Congress. In this sense too, Mr. Trump is the left’s foil, though the Kavanaugh fight has usefully exposed the dishonesty of the loud worries about Mr. Trump’s threat to “democratic norms.”
Democrats were so worried about Senate norms that they hid Ms. Ford’s name from Republicans for six weeks, found her a lawyer, midwifed a lie detector test whose results they still haven’t fully disclosed, and then orchestrated the rollout of her accusations. Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is too often divisive and dissembling, but no action in his Presidency comes close to matching the partisan viciousness of the Senate ambush of Brett Kavanaugh. These are today’s Democratic norms.
Perhaps this won’t surprise readers, given the WSJ’s editorial support for much — but hardly all — of what Donald Trump and his administration have done so far. More surprising may be the argument from Trump opponent Bret Stephens at the New York Times, who finds himself grateful for having a bully in office at this particular moment. The rush to assassinate Kavanaugh’s character without any evidence has provided a road-to-Damascus moment for Stephens, and a new appreciation for someone who fights:
I’m grateful because Trump has not backed down in the face of the slipperiness, hypocrisy and dangerous standard-setting deployed by opponents of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m grateful because ferocious and even crass obstinacy has its uses in life, and never more so than in the face of sly moral bullying. I’m grateful because he’s a big fat hammer fending off a razor-sharp dagger.
Stephens then relates his journey to gratitude by reliving eight “moments” over the past couple of weeks. It’s well worth reading in its entirety, but these stood out:
The first moment was a remark by a friend. “I’d rather be accused of murder,” he said, “than of sexual assault.” I feel the same way. One can think of excuses for killing a man; none for assaulting a woman. But if that’s true, so is this: Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, reputational and professional harms that can last a lifetime. This is nothing to sneer at.
The second moment, connected to the first: “Boo hoo hoo. Brett Kavanaugh is not a victim.” That’s the title of a column in the Los Angeles Times, which suggests that the possibility of Kavanaugh’s innocence is “infinitesimal.” Yet false allegations of rape, while relatively rare, are at least five times as common as false accusations of other types of crime, according to academic literature.
Since when did the possibility of innocence become, for today’s liberals, something to wave off with an archly unfeeling “boo hoo”? …
Sixth moment: Listening to Richard Blumenthal lecture Kavanaugh on the legal concept of falsus in omnibus — false in one thing, false in everything — when the senator from Connecticut lied shamelessly for years about his military service. And then feeling grateful to Trump for having the simple nerve to point out the naked hypocrisy.
Finally, Stephens hints at the destruction of norms cited directly by the WSJ:
Will a full-bore investigation of adolescent behavior now become a standard part of the “job interview” for all senior office holders? I’m for it — provided we can start with your adolescent behavior, as it relates to your next job.
Don’t think for a moment that this is limited to Kavanaugh, or Trump. If Democrats can gin up a massive character assassination on someone as mainstream as Kavanaugh, they can do so with anyone. They will do so by destroying norms and committing vast hypocrisies in the name of saving the norms and exposing hypocrisies, and as we have seen in this sorry episode of McCarthyism, much of the media will provide them with the cover to do so. The only way to prevent this is to punish its purveyors at the ballot box. And fortunately, that opportunity is only a few weeks away.