Mike Littwin: The only sure thing in Ford v. Kavanaugh may be that one side is panicking
September 22, 2018
It's apparently never too early to argue the merits of Christine Blasey Ford's allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, although it might be better to wait until they actually testify at the Senate hearing. But even at this point, some aspects of the case of Ford v. Kavanaugh are beyond question.
For one, Republicans are panicked. To protect Kavanaugh, they won't let the FBI investigate Ford's allegations and they won't allow witnesses other than Ford and Kavanaugh to be called. They give Ford arbitrary deadlines, when to testify, when to agree to testify, when to agree to agree to testify.
The idea is to leave us with a he-said/she-said situation, hoping we'll end up hopelessly confused. Meanwhile, committee Republicans want female outside counsel to do the questioning of Ford because, in 2018, every single Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee is, well, male. (Four Democrats on the panel are women.)
For another, Donald Trump is still — and always will be — Donald Trump. But you knew that.
And for another still, in the run-up to the hearing, Kavanaugh's defenders are only making matters worse with a series of defenses that range from the sadly expected to the downright bizarre.
We can begin with Trump. For days now, we've been hearing about the remarkable Trumpian restraint in this matter. His advisers had warned that attacking Ford would not only alienate female voters in the November midterms, but also possibly the few Republican women in the Senate, those who could decide Kavanaugh's fate. And, remarkably, he seemed to have listened to the advice — for a while.
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Those days of restraint came to a sudden halt in a Friday morning tweetstorm. And whether that is a sign of how much trouble Kavanaugh's nomination is in or simply the fact that the leader of the free world has the impulse control of a dog when confronted by a squirrel, we'll leave to the historians and to the mental health field.
What we know is that Trump has gone on the offensive with the oldest, least empathetic and predictably wrong-headed attack, one which should offend everyone, regardless of race, creed, gender or political preference.
Here are two of his tweets (warning: for the easily dumbfounded, you may want to skip this section):
"I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!"
"The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved NOW. Why didn't someone call the FBI 36 years ago?"
The FBI post is just funny, if, that is, sexual assault could ever be funny. Does the president of the United States not know the role of the FBI? Does he know what the "F" in FBI refers to? Does he think when sexual assault victims call 911, a friendly FBI agent answers?
But the first tweet is the far more serious one. Apparently having missed the entire #MeToo movement (I guess "Fox and Friends" didn't cover it), Trump wonders, even now, why sexual assault victims often don't report the attacks. Shouldn't Trump's own reaction to his own accusers — what is it now, 16? — clear that up?
If it doesn't, here are some handy statistics, courtesy of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: Of every 1,000 rapes, 310 are reported to police, 57 lead to an arrest, 11 cases are referred to prosecutors, seven lead to felony convictions, six to jail time. Is that a good enough answer?
Trump is just adding to the problem. A senator called her allegations a "hiccup." Mitch McConnell said they "plow right through" a hearing. Meanwhile, the various defenders seem to have settled on as many as three possibilities.
One, Ford is a liar, egged on by what Trump calls "radical left-wing lawyers" in order to stop the nomination. This defense is sadly predictable.
Two, also predictably, is that even if Ford is telling the truth, Kavanaugh was 17 years old, and geez, who among us has not at some point in our elite-prep-school lives drunkenly tried to pull off someone's clothes at a party while covering her mouth so her screams couldn't be heard? I mean, isn't that just roughhousing?
Three, she's "mixed up," as Orrin Hatch said. He said this apparently after talking to Kavanaugh. Hatch's credentials in these matters go back, as we know, to his offensive grilling of Anita Hill. The mixed-up defense — that she's got the wrong guy — allows us to "believe" Ford without, you know, believing her. After all, Kavanaugh has insisted he wasn't at the party, even though if he wasn't there, how would he know which party?
And then along comes Ed Whelan, a close friend of Kavanaugh's and a prominent force in the conservative legal world, promising new information that would be exculpatory, as lawyers like to say. Kavanaugh's defenders, in Congress and at the White House, waited breathlessly for the revelation, which came in a 24-tweet barrage — that has all now been deleted along with, just guessing here, whatever reputatation Whelan had.
He played sleuth, basing his attack on an Internet investigation, using Zillow, Google Maps images and old yearbook photos to conclude that another classmate — one Whelan actually named and whose photo he published — was the likely attacker. Because this classmate lived close to the country club named in a Washington Post story, and he had an upstairs bathroom (also described in the story) and, in their yearbook photos, he and Kavanaugh had very similar … haircuts.
Ford has since said she knew both boys and wouldn't confuse them, which seems like the way to bet. Whelan apologized for naming the guy, although not for his wacko sleuthing, and we'll now wait to see if Whelan is sued for libel. And the question that people now want answered — including, I'm guessing, every Democratic senator on the panel — is who knew about Whelan's conclusions before he published them.
In fact, I'm waiting to see who is the first to suggest that either the FBI or Google investigate the matter.
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com.