First, as it stands, the facts are in Kavanaugh’s favor. The charge against him is vague, uncorroborated and completely inconsistent with virtually all other accounts of his character.

Second, an accusation of attempted rape can’t be allowed to hang in the air without a more serious investigation. In matters of such cruelty and lasting damage, there is no exemption for youth and inexperience. I would no more want a Supreme Court justice who had attempted rape than I would want a president who committed sexual assault. That is not too high a standard.

I am on record saying that Republicans should go the extra mile to examine the Ford accusation. But not an extra marathon. Of all our institutions, the FBI retains some shred of moral standing. It should be instructed by the president to conduct an investigation, in a limited amount of time, with a narrow remit: to see whether there are any other witnesses or contemporaneous evidence that would make Ford’s claim seem likely. If not, Kavanaugh should be quickly confirmed.