As of 3 p.m. yesterday Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court was dead. Conservative friends with whom I was chatting online were describing what had transpired to that point with the following words: “disaster,” “disaster,” and “disaster.” Then Brett Kavanaugh began to speak.
Mark it in your memory: 3:10 p.m., September 27, 2018. If what Kavanaugh had to say sealed his confirmation (and I think it did), and if Kavanaugh serves as a resolute constitutionalist on the Supreme Court (and I think he will), his speech did what so many political speeches try to do but don’t come close to accomplishing: It changed the course of American history. By 3:20 it was apparent that he was on his way to pulling off the political equivalent of what the New England Patriots did to the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
Kavanaugh pounded the Senate process: “You have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’” He called out the gratuitousness of Democratic rhetoric: “A Democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as evil. Another Democratic senator on this committee said, ‘Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.’” He lambasted the “calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.” When he presented his defiance it sounded like Margaret Thatcher telling us “the lady’s not for turning”:
I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. You have tried hard. You’ve given it your all. No one can question your efforts. Your coordinated and well-funded efforts to destroy my good name and destroy my family will not drag me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit. Never.
Never mind Thatcher, this was Churchillian stuff. And there were even more affecting moments to come: a moving description of how Kavanaugh’s ten-year-old daughter suggested to her sister that both should pray for their father’s accuser, how he bonded with his father by adopting the old man’s habit of keeping detailed calendar-diaries and retaining them forever: “Christmastime, we sat around and he would tell old stories. Old milestones, old weddings, old events from his calendars.”
Yet our friends on the left were slow to grasp what was happening. As late as 5:46 the feminist Jessica Valenti was tweeting, “If you want to know how I’m doing, I just ordered a hamburger AND a whole pizza for dinner,” followed by a delirium emoji. Fellow abortion enthusiast Cecile Richards jovially replied, “And you are going to Paris. Don’t forget that part.” “Paris,” replied Valenti, “is not prepared for how much of their food I’m going to eat.”
By 6:48 the truth was starting to sink in. Valenti now saw what my colleagues and I had absorbed a few minutes into Kavanaugh’s speech: that he had completely reversed the tides of the hearing. She tweeted, “Well that was awful. And I think they’re going to push him through. I don’t know how women keep living another day when [sh**] is like this.”
The Left spent hours on Twitter telling one another that Kavanaugh was hurting himself by looking angry. The reality was otherwise. Abandoning the blandly composed and bloodless attitude of his Fox News interview Monday evening, he tapped into the anger that was simmering just beneath the surface among tens of millions of American men and women. He channeled both the widespread fear that the Me Too movement was becoming so careless that it could take down innocent men and the well-justified loathing of the shameless collusion in the elected Democrat-activist-media triangle. The nation’s leading media outlets — even the legendarily fastidious New Yorker — had abandoned all normal journalistic practice to run highly suspect stories that would until five seconds ago have set off the B.S. detector of any small-market newspaper’s metro editor. Wednesday night CNN promoted a cockamamie story about a nonexistent sex assault on a Rhode Island boat for hours after the person who made the charge in a letter to a senator had recanted. Under the breathless headline, “Senate probed new allegation of misconduct against Kavanaugh,” NBC News reported that Senator Cory Gardner had received a (completely useless) anonymous letter claiming another person, also unidentified, had been abused by Kavanaugh in 1998. The Senate “probe” of this piece of crazy correspondence consisted of asking Kavanaugh whether this allegation was true, or if he had ever done anything like what the letter described. He said it wasn’t, and he hadn’t.
Around the time CNN and NBC News were thus committing arson against their own reputations, a few writers on Left Twitter started to become openly queasy. Patently scurrilous accusations were diluting the power of Christine Blasey Ford’s story. To the average American, it might well have started to seem that every accusation against Kavanaugh was being dredged up from the same big pot of bogus stew.
That wasn’t the case. Ford’s story was more credible than the Deborah Ramirez New Yorker story, and Ramirez’s story was more credible than the Michael Avenatti–promoted Julie Swetnick gang-rape story, and even Swetnick’s bizarre and completely unsubstantiated claim was more credible than the anonymous accusation sent to Gardner and the already-recanted story about the yacht.
But it turned out that two sides could play the guilt-by-association game. If Kavanaugh was to be considered under a cloud of suspicion for being part of the fratty, preppy culture of privileged party boys who make dumb jokes in yearbooks, then Ford could equally be tarnished by association with left-wing activist lawyers, their eager and hysteria-promoting allies in the media, the fanaticism of the anti-Trump resistance, and the game-playing of the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh excoriated all of these in his opening statement, and it was glorious to behold. It may not have been wholly responsive to Ford’s claims, but how can you prove a negative? Under these circumstances, a lawyerly statement along the lines of “I wasn’t there and didn’t do it” would not suffice.
To rescue his nomination Kavanaugh had to do something that would match or exceed what Ford had accomplished, and she’d accomplished a lot. Her statement was credible. Her emotion was heartbreaking. With her girlish voice and her slightly unkempt hair, she seemed like the opposite of a hardened, professional political operative or even a dour, pedantic academic. Her reluctance to speak was easily explained by her apparent nervousness at what might happen to her should she go public. She even flashed a dazzling smile. She had moved the narrative beyond the realm of facts, which was fortunate for her because after all these years of remembering, after more than two months of back-and-forth with the media and the Judiciary Committee, she still didn’t have her facts straight. In recent weeks she has repeatedly changed her account of how many people were present at the party in question. At the hearing she couldn’t remember whether her therapist’s notes had been reviewed by the Washington Post just weeks ago, even though the Post had already reported that its reporters had done so. As recently as the paper’s September 16 report, she didn’t know in what year the alleged attack took place, but somehow this week she managed to nail down 1982. And of course all four people she had placed at the party, including a lifelong friend of hers, said they didn’t remember it. The friend said she had never been present at any party with Kavanaugh.
None of this mattered, though, as of 3 p.m. yesterday, because Ford had the power of emotion — the power of tears — behind her. Kavanaugh needed to bring some emotional fireworks of his own, and he more than delivered. The two displays of emotion canceled each other out, and we were all dumped right back where we started: With the facts. With an account that, however gripping, was nevertheless completely uncorroborated, indeed denied by all known witnesses. That, Kavanaugh made ringingly clear in his opening statement, would not be enough to achieve the goal of annihilating him. That speech was momentous. It was magnificent.