The firestorm we referenced in Friday's 'home stretch' post has taken a few more twists and turns since we published that piece, prompting elements of the Democratic Left to predictably insist over the weekend that Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation vote must be defeated or delayed because he might have attempted an assault as a high school student -- according to, well, someone. That someone has since come forward, and we'll address her and her claims in a moment. As a backdrop to the new developments, here's what we had up through Sunday afternoon:
(1) A fairly hazy, unsubstantiated, anonymous accusation, (2) described in a letter sent to a Democratic Congresswoman that (3) almost nobody had actually seen or read (including, it seems, many of the journalists who have reported on other people's characterizations of the letter), and that (4) apparently alleged that a 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh and a friend attempted to carry out some sort of sexual assault against a female student at a party in 1982 -- but did not end up following through because the girl managed to extricate herself from the alleged situation. Also, (5) Kavanaugh and the friend both adamantly deny that any such thing took place. That friend, by the way, was identified and tracked down by the Weekly Standard. There's a lot of weirdness to this story, including this detail from that interview:
The man discovered that he'd been implicated in a decades-old alleged attempted assault when a journalist called him about it -- and upon learning this, the co-accused party couldn't ascertain basic components about the accusation against him. Based on what was then relayed to him, the individual rejected the claim about Kavanaugh as "absolutely nuts," and that he never saw Kavanaugh do anything of the sort. A left-wing publication responded by dredging up an essay by this man (the friend) who once wrote about drinking to excess and blacking out during his high school days -- which proves...what, exactly? That any and all denials of an unsubstantiated claim against two boys mistreating a girl at a teenage party three-and-a-half decades ago cannot be believed because one or both of the supposed aggressors may not remember any of it?
Meanwhile, other lefties have been floating utterly baseless conspiracy theories about how Kavanaugh's established track record of empowering women, hiring lots of female clerks, and being an active father to his daughters may all have been an elaborate program of self-imposed overcompensation and penance, arising from guilt over being a sexual predator. Or something. This is the veritable definition of cynical lose-lose political demagoguery. Similar tinfoil hattery accompanied the publication of a letter signed by 65 bipartisan women who knew Kavanaugh back in high school, vouching for his character and treatment of women. The GOP must have known about, and covered-up, these allegations if they were prepared with this letter so quickly, some Kavanaugh critics have 'reasoned.' Here's the truth:
In which I answer questions about our letter supporting Brett Kavanaugh: https://t.co/CPEEZoTbcr— virginiahume (@virginiahume) September 14, 2018
Judge Kavanaugh's former law clerks started organizing the 65 female high-school classmates' letter after 5 pm yesterday. Grassley's office released the letter today right after we received it. Impressive work. https://t.co/GT7j9H00d8— Mike Davis (@mrddmia) September 14, 2018
Fearing that their old friend and boss was being smeared and defamed, dozens of women sprang into action to defend him, in very short order, of their own volition. To the fanatically unpersuadable, this, too, is somehow evidence of guilt. More broadly, the contours of this controversy took clearer shape yesterday, when the Washington Post named and quoted the alleged would-be victim, who says she didn't tell anyone about the 1982 incident for 30 years, first raising it in a 2012 therapy session:
Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend — both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges — corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County. While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.” Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling.
Ford said she told no one of the incident in any detail until 2012, when she was in couples therapy with her husband. The therapist’s notes, portions of which were provided by Ford and reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students “from an elitist boys’ school” who went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” The notes say four boys were involved, a discrepancy Ford says was an error on the therapist’s part. Ford said there were four boys at the party but only two in the room...She also doesn’t recall who owned the house or how she got there.
After days of rumors and hearsay, we finally have an alleged victim and a specific accusation. Kavanaugh and his friend categorically deny any of this ever happened. Her evidence to fortify her claim is a statement to a therapist 30 years after the fact. If this incident occurred exactly as she describes it, it would constitute a serious instance of sexual misconduct on Kavanaugh's part. It's also worth mentioning that Ford may have genuinely been convinced (at the time, or over time) that she experienced an attempted rape, and even that her life was at risk (that part of the claim is certainly attracting especially strong skepticism) -- even if the boys viewed it as sexually-charged, drunken horseplay. Her hand-over-mouth accusation would underscore her claim that it was a dangerous and threatening situation. Her description of the boys' laughing and tackling could indicate that they weren't intent on doing her any real physical harm. Ford apparently did not tell anyone about what happened at the time, including the authorities. If she had, it's unclear whether the encounter, based on her own recollection of it, would have been legally actionable in a contemporaneous setting. How on earth can we reasonably adjudicate it today? Again, if most or all of the story is true, Kavanaugh could very credibly be accused of lying now to protect himself. Then again, how on earth can we reasonably determine that it's he, and not she, who's being dishonest?
Which brings me to the other side of this coin: What if it's not true? What if Ford is inventing the accusation out of whole cloth (false accusations are by no means unheard of, as we've learned on numerous occasions, and can be ruinous)? Or, to be more charitable, what if 30-plus years later, she misremembered certain critical details about what occurred (she admits she doesn't remember certain important facts), or who was involved? As for the target of the claims, what defenses might Kavanaugh's partisan opponents accept as sufficient? That's the problem with old, unverifiable allegations like this:
4) You simply can’t prove a negative. That’s what makes this so tricky. And it’s especially hard to clear your name when so many people are invested in disbelieving you solely because of politics...— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) September 14, 2018
Some conservatives have likened this situation to the flurry of accusations that brought down Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, but that comparison fails. Moore faced numerous accusers, many of whom had contemporaneous evidence backing them up, from friends and family members they told at the time, to other bona fide evidence about Moore's proclivities and modus operandi. In that case, there were many women who came forward with cascading stories, including a number of self-described conservative Republicans. In this case, we have one woman who lacks contemporaneous corroborating evidence and who is a liberal activist and donor -- with, I'm told, professional ties to the abortion industry. Her attorney is also apparently well known for her involvement in progressive causes. Neither woman's politics prove or disprove anything about the veracity of Ford's allegation, I should emphasize; but they also aren't completely irrelevant pieces of context, as people try to assess the credibility of the nature and timing of all of this. Speaking of politics, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin seized on the "Me Too" aspect at play in order to call for a delay of Kavanaugh's confirmation process, adding it atop other complaints Democrats have been raising for weeks. He did so before we knew Ford's name, or heard from her directly. Allahpundit and others see Durbin's play as calculated and cynical:
Even sleazier than the tactic itself is that Durbin won’t squarely own what he’s doing. Instead of demanding a delay so that the sex-assault allegation can be further investigated, he’s demanding more time to review documents from Kavanaugh’s days of working for Bush. If he wanted a delay for that reason, he could have called for it at any point in the last few weeks; only after the #MeToo bomb was dropped on the nominee did he feel bold enough to actually do it. He’s trying to have it both ways, seemingly too skeptical of the accusation himself to rest his case for a delay on it but not so skeptical that he won’t mention it in explaining why the vote shouldn’t happen now...Charles Cooke notes the semantic sleight of hand in [Durbin's] last tweet, in which the attack is rightly described as “alleged” and yet Kavanaugh’s accuser is casually referred to as a “survivor.” That does efficiently capture the duality of modern lefty thinking on sex crimes, though, particularly on campus. Some bare check-the-box gesture is made to due process but the accused is more or less presumed guilty going in.
Chuck Schumer has followed suit in demanding a delay. Here are responses from key committee Republicans, with Jeff Flake quasi breaking ranks. There's also the matter of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's handling of this letter. She reportedly received it from a fellow California Democrat in July, and apparently did...nothing with it. But when whispers about the letter's existence conveniently bubbled over after Kavanaugh's hearings (Feinstein did not question Kavanaugh about it while he was under oath, even in closed session), she passed it on to the FBI, with the Ford's name (bizarrely) redacted. If Feinstein had viewed the accusation as credible, verifiable and disqualifying, she could have confronted Kavanaugh with it. Instead, she waited until the hearings were over before lifting a finger. The result is a reputation-damaging accusation (that's virtually impossible to verify or falsify) leaking into public view -- against the original ostensible wishes of the accuser, by the way -- just before key votes. That timing, coincidentally, follows the same pattern of Anita Hill's sexual misconduct allegations against then-SCOTUS nominee Clarence Thomas. And the actions of the judiciary committee's ranking Democrat have contributed heavily to the ensuing sequence of events, raising justifiable suspicions about whether a political agenda is driving this last-minute line of attack. Even some Senate Democrats aren't comfortable with how this has all gone down:
On CNN, Sen. Doug Jones says that his Democratic colleagues should have brought up the Kavanaugh allegations, at least behind closed doors— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) September 16, 2018
It's worth pointing out that many conservatives predicted the accuser would reveal herself and give media interviews when the moment arrived, with some even anticipating that something along these lines would emerge as a final eleventh-hour act of desperation. So where does this leave us? Kavanaugh's committee vote is slated for this week, and you'd better believe this allegation will dominate much of the media attention leading up to it. On one side of the ledger, we have a fairly prominent professional woman who says Kavanaugh attempted to assault her nearly 40 years ago -- something she didn't tell anyone about until 2012. On the other side, we have strong denials from both men who were allegedly involved, and testimonies from dozens of women from across the political spectrum who knew Kavanaugh in his teenage years, who say Ford's claims do not align with their knowledge of his deeds and character. We also see this explosive accusation emerging during the narrow, sensitive window between Kavanaugh's hearings and the votes on his nomination -- a sequence that was at least partially orchestrated by the chief Democrat on the relevant panel. I tend to agree with this conclusion from conservative writer John McCormack, who tweeted this prior to the Post's story about Ford:
We should take allegations of assault seriously without accepting the notion that a single anonymous accusation--with no further supporting testimony & not part of an overall pattern--is all it takes to destroy the life of the accused in the court of public opinion. 4/4— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) September 14, 2018
Updating this sentiment to reflect new information, we now have a single non-anonymous allegation with scant (and notably non-contemporaneous) supporting evidence -- with zero indication that the claimed actions are part of any sort of pattern of behavior. As I opined over the weekend, I'm open to new facts, and I fully acknowledge that hearing from the actual accuser in her own words is qualitatively different than reading second-hand, indirect accounts of a mysterious letter of unknown provenance. But in the absence of anything beyond an isolated, unverifiable, unsubstantiated, decades-old 'he said/he said/she said,' it would strike me as grossly unfair to exploit this single claim as an excuse -- and that's exactly what this looks like to many -- to derail the nomination of a man with a lengthy professional paper trail and a widely-held sterling personal reputation, earned over many years. I have no concrete cause to call this woman a liar, nor can I confidently declare that she's inventing a lie for political reasons, based on her ideological bent. I will say that the timing of her allegation seeping into the public eye, and the apparent reasons behind that timing, reek of politics -- and that if the goal were to launch a last-gasp push to undermine Brett Kavanaugh at a critical juncture, with virtually no way of reasonably ascertaining who's telling the truth, this would be the way to do it.
We must not establish a dangerous new operating precedent under which the claims of a lone accuser, lacking compelling supporting evidence, are sufficient grounds to collapse the confirmation process or career of a high-profile governmental nominee -- especially in a country whose justice system is predicated on the presumption of innocence. Adopting such a flimsy standard would not only be deeply unjust to Brett Kavanaugh; it would also be deeply unjust to future targets of similar campaigns, which will inevitably arise if these sort of tactics prove to be effective, and are 'rewarded' accordingly. This is exactly right:
Legit or not, this allegation was sat on to maximize the chances that it would be too late to confirm a different justice before the midterms. Our political process is entirely unscrupulous at this point, and everyone's culpable and it's goddamn depressing.— neontaster ?????? (@neontaster) September 16, 2018