Kavanaugh's will be the end of "normal" SCOTUS confirmations

Jim Geraghty opens up today’s Morning Jolt with an observation regarding the messy confirmation process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh: We need a way to evaluate accusations of sexual misconduct against public figures beyond “I like the accused person” or “I don’t like the accused person.”

I don’t disagree with Jim’s assessment at all, but I would follow it up (if you’ll excuse the sarcasm) by saying that we also need to figure out a way to invent a practical perpetual motion machine so everyone can have free energy forever. At this point, I’m not sure which of those goals is more probable. With the assumed arrival of professor Christine Blasey Ford in Washington to offer her observations on Judge Kavanaugh and the return of the judge to answer her charges, we’re heading into something far worse than simple he said, she said territory. The two sides are already lining up to deliver their verdicts before either of the players in this ugly drama has spoken. One is prepared to declare Kavanaugh a knavish scapegrace, with a dark, hidden history defining his lack of suitable temper for such a lofty station. The other side is ready to either dismiss professor Ford’s story as fiction, symptoms of a flawed memory or a dastardly plot by progressive forces.

As Jim sums it up, no matter which way it goes from this point, it’s going to be nasty and it won’t end well.

The coming week is going to be an ugly one, with half of the political world screaming at the other, “How can you be so certain that she’s telling the truth?” and the other half yelling back, “How can you be so certain that she’s lying?” The problem is that if Kavanaugh is confirmed, a (likely vocal) segment of the public will forever accuse him of committing sexual assault and getting away with it — and if Ford is telling the truth, he did. If Kavanaugh is rejected, it means an accuser can come forward after 36 years, with no evidence beyond her own account, and not able to remember key details, and ruin the life and career of a man.

It’s that paragraph which really sank any remaining optimism I may have had for these proceedings. Either Kavanaugh will be confirmed (which I still believe is the more likely and desirable outcome), or he will be sent back to his old job with a dark asterisk next to his name. If he’s on the SCOTUS bench and progressives don’t let go of this tale (which I’m fairly positive they won’t), then every 5-4 court decision will be answered with a cry of, “that’s not legitimate since you had two rapists voting for it.”

If Ford is telling the truth, or at least a story with more than a kernel of truth at the heart of it, then such accusations will be impossible to completely refute. But if the charges are false and Kavanaugh’s career is left in ruins, that’s just as bad, if not worse.

The problem is, this story will leave a lesson for politicos across the spectrum. Whether such a story is true or not, it can be an effective weapon in political warfare, particularly for those who truly believe the end justifies the means. If your back is against the wall and you’ve run out of normal options, this is the new nuclear option. Anyone being considered for the bench will be, at the youngest, in their forties. Most will be in their fifties or beyond. That leaves a lot of history, blurry and fading, to pluck something out of. If you can find a willing surrogate who grew up anywhere in the vicinity of the candidate, who knows what they might “remember” under duress? And who is to say if their occasional nightmares or other issues might not be rooted in some long-forgotten trauma buried in their teenage years?

The professor’s story simply can’t be completely proven or disproven absent some totally remarkable piece of physical evidence or truly compelling testimony from multiple individuals with remarkable memories and sterling reputations for unvarnished truth-telling. And with that, the weapon has been put on the table. Given the arc of politics in the modern era, do you honestly think that nobody else will pick it up in the future? The #MeToo moment is spawning many children and some of them are looking very problematic.

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