Democrats' New Anti-Kavanaugh Smear Strategy: Guilt By Association

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Posted: Aug 07, 2018 2:05 PM
Democrats' New Anti-Kavanaugh Smear Strategy: Guilt By Association

They've got nothing of substance on him, and they know it -- so we now appear to be entering another round of impotent foot-stomping in the Kavanaugh confirmation drama.  Having failed to find any coherent line of argument against Kavanaugh's qualifications for the position, and after test-driving some school yard taunts and shouting about complicity in "evil" or whatever, the Left is moving on to a furrowed-brow fishing expedition over Kavanaugh's ties to a judge on a different circuit court of appeals who retired amid allegations of sexual harassment.  Unless they're engaged in an elaborate head fake and have some heretofore unseen bombshell to drop during the confirmation hearings, Senate Democrats look like they're resorting to exceptionally thin gruel with this:

Senate Democrats are gearing up to press Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on his decades-long relationship with former Judge Alex Kozinski, who was forced into retirement last year by a mounting sexual harassment scandal. It’s not just what, if anything, Kavanaugh saw during his time as a Kozinski clerk in the early 1990s that’s on Democratic minds. They also want to know how President Donald Trump’s high court pick would address the judiciary’s ongoing internal reckoning with sexual misconduct that was sparked by Kozinski — one of Kavanaugh’s early mentors who introduced the younger appellate court judge at his Senate confirmation hearing in 2006...The White House already has stated that Kavanaugh "had never heard any allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment" before the claims against Kozinski began piling up last year...No evidence has come out to disprove the broad denial on behalf of Kavanaugh, who has taken public pride in hiring a high number of female clerks. But Democrats plan to raise scrutiny nonetheless.

There's been precisely zero evidence presented indicating that Kavanaugh had any idea whatsoever about the alleged proclivities and misconduct of a man whom he knew professionally for years. If Trump had nominated Judge Kozinski for some inexplicable reason, that'd be one thing. If he'd nominated one of Kozinski's Ninth Circuit colleagues who'd been credibly said to have ignored or covered-up accusatory whispers, Democrats may have a leg to stand on here.  Instead, they're exploiting the behavior of an ex-jurist from the other side of the country in an unjust effort to drag Kavanaugh into the ugly morass of #MeToo politics.  So far, it looks like this approach has been a flop -- and that Kavanaugh's team has been preparing for these exact tactics:

Christine O.C. Miller, the retired federal judge who shared allegations against Kozinski, said in a telephone interview Monday that she expects Kavanaugh “would answer truthfully but would say he had no knowledge about it." Miller called Democrats’ plans to ask about Kavanaugh’s knowledge of accusations aimed at Kozinski “unfair, and goes against my knowledge of what was going on at the time.” The White House is fully prepared for and expecting a Kozinski-related line of questioning, an official there said, and considers Kavanaugh’s record in supporting female clerks and colleagues to be exemplary. In remarks after Trump tapped him, Kavanaugh said he was “proud that a majority of my law clerks have been women,” and 18 of those former female clerks signed a letter last month that hailed him for making their industry “fairer and more equal.” The White House has also collected public statements from three individuals who worked under Kozinski at the same time as Kavanaugh who say Kozinski exhibited no improper behavior at the time.

Even a key female figure in the Kozinski matter is dismissing Democrats' plan as "unfair" and baseless.  For a further sense of how weak this line of attack is, look no further than this line from the Politico story outlining the strategy: "For some who want to see senators press Kavanaugh about Kozinski, the most important question isn’t what he knew but what he plans to do about harassment in the judiciary should he be confirmed to the high court."  That suggests there isn't even a serious expectation among opponents that Kavanaugh's connection to the Kozinski scandal even reaches its periphery; instead, they'll demand that he denounce sexual harassment, which...shouldn't be difficult.  

Ed Morrissey looks at the state of play and describes how he views this act of "desperation."  He writes, "this isn’t a strategy to defeat Kavanaugh; it’s a strategy to damage him as much as possible for the rest of his career. Never mind that Kavanaugh hired more female clerks than males, and never mind that all of those who are able to declare a public endorsement have done so. Senate Democrats want to paint him as a secret harassment enabler, even while having absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Kavanaugh knew of Kozinski’s actions — or even whether Kozinski harassed any women while Kavanaugh worked in his office as a clerk."

Meanwhile, with upper chamber Republicans looking increasingly likely to vote unanimously in favor Kavanaugh's confirmation -- which unto itself would guarantee his installation on the High Court -- and some intellectually honest liberals and feminists praising Kavanaugh's credentials, a slew of red state Democrats are starting to bow to reality by scheduling meetings with the nominee.  They may be willing to play along with Chuck Schumer's time-buying gambit for awhile, but if a relatively smooth confirmation process continues to evolve into a fait accompli, wavering Dems will start peeling off.  For now, they're straddling the fence between their base (assuring them that they want to raise document production issues in meetings with Kavanaugh) and their home state electorates, who want to see him confirmed.  

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But Allahpundit is surely correct in this analysis: "There’s never been a realistic scenario in which Kavanaugh is confirmed with exactly 50 votes. Either he gets borked because something happens to scare off Collins and/or Murkowski, in which case all the red-state Dems will vote no, or Republicans hang tough and vote to confirm unanimously, in which case all the red-state Dems line up behind them to protect their right flank. The over/under on Kavanaugh’s confirmation should be set at 55 or so, not 50."  I might set the over/under at 53, but the only number that really matters is 50.  I'll leave you with a report of a pro-Trump outside group dropping seven figures on an ad campaign pressuring the three Senate Democrats who backed Justice Gorsuch's confirmation (Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelley) to cast votes in favor of Kavanaugh:  

President Donald Trump’s allies are escalating their support of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, sinking millions more into pressure campaigns on red-state Democrats facing tough reelection fights in November. America First Policies, a Trump-aligned advocacy group promoting the president’s nominee with a seven-figure effort, will take to broadcast TV beginning Wednesday with ads targeting Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, according to information the group provided to POLITICO...America First plans to spend nearly $1.2 million over the nearly monthlong blitz...

The Judicial Crisis Network has been on air with similar spots since Kavanaugh's nomination was announced, and here's the ad Americans For Prosperity (backed by the Koch brothers, who very clearly haven't entirely withdrawn from conservative politics)  has been running for weeks: