Politics & Policy

Fight for Kavanaugh 

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, September 4, 2018. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

The cynics — or, perhaps more precisely, the realists — believed that the Democrats were playing for time in the hopes of finding another accusation against Brett Kavanaugh. The cynics were right.

The New Yorker stooped to publish a shoddy story alleging that Kavanaugh exposed himself to a woman while he was at Yale. The alleged incident occurred at a drunken party when both were in their freshman year. What’s extraordinary is that the woman making the charge, a fellow Yale student named Deborah Ramirez, admits that she hesitated to come forward because there were such large gaps in her memory.

As the magazine puts it: “In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty.” She only decided to talk, it says, “after six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney.”

Even after her new-found certainty — which happens to accord with her political interest as a Democrat — her story still contains gaps. She was drunk and didn’t directly see that it was Kavanaugh who put his penis in front of her face when she was on the floor. She says she heard someone yell out that it was Kavanaugh who had done this, and she saw him make a motion afterward that was consistent with pulling up his pants. So even she is making the charge as a matter of hearsay and interpretation.

The only other corroboration is an unidentified classmate who tells the magazine that he heard of the incident afterwards — in other words, more hearsay.

Otherwise, the authors write, “The New Yorker has not confirmed with other eyewitnesses that Kavanaugh was present at the party,” a rather important lacuna if you are publishing a story that will contribute to an effort to destroy a man’s reputation. (Where’s William Shawn when you need him?) Two male students identified by Ramirez as being present at the party said they had no recollection of any such incident.

The New Yorker story comes on the heels of another blow to the credibility of Christine Blasey Ford’s account. She has identified four other people who were present at the high-school party where Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her as a teenager. All have denied it, now including Leland Keyser, who is a long-time friend of Ford’s and a Democrat. She told the Judiciary Committee through her lawyer, “Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.”

Clearly, the opposition to Kavanaugh hopes that the two stories — with perhaps more on the way — will support each other despite their inherent weakness. If Democrats take down Kavanaugh on the basis of these charges, they will have achieved the miraculous by stopping a Supreme Court nominee with two unproven and probably unprovable charges, in a smashing victory for garbage-pail politics.

Brett Kavanaugh is an excellent jurist who has earned his sterling reputation over decades of public service. If his career is going to be ruined and his reputation besmirched, it should require clear and convincing evidence. We are willing to follow the facts wherever they lead, but so far, they lead only to the belief that this is a disgraceful episode that makes Borking look above-board and responsible by comparison.

If Republicans surrender on the basis of what we know now, they will face the fury of their own voters — and rightly so.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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