Whelan rightfully apologized for this, and was rightfully attacked for his potential libel. But some of his critics have used this foray to argue or imply that any attempt to raise questions about Ford’s memory, any attempt to put forward an alternative narrative that might point to a different situation or a different perpetrator, should be regarded as the lowest and wickedest and most embarrassing of plots.

But if Kavanaugh is actually innocent, there are really only two alternatives: Either Ford is a brazen liar, or some scenario of clouded or mistaken memory must be true. So to treat any version of the latter defense as simple confirmation of the nominee’s villainy is to close even the narrow door that Wittes (and I) would leave open for Kavanaugh’s potential exculpation. If you are being asked to prove a negative, you cannot be denied the opportunity to explain what you think that negative might look like.

That is the charity that Kavanaugh deserves, given the burden of proof being laid upon him. If his accuser testifies credibly and all he has to offer are vehement denials, followed by a rushed Republican attempt at confirmation, then he may be innocent but his nomination will deserve to fail. But an obligation not to elevate a clouded nominee must coexist with an obligation to hear out any serious alternative explanation of the facts.