Law & the Courts

Do the Right Thing, Jeff Flake

Senator Jeff Flake (R, Ariz.) (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The senator who has been most obviously agonized by the Kavanaugh controversy is retiring Arizona senator Jeff Flake.

He announced last week that he would support Kavanaugh and then reversed field, demanding a renewed FBI background investigation. We didn’t support that move, but at least the new FBI interviews have emphasized, once again, that there is no corroborating evidence for Christine Blasey Ford’s charge that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her.

Flake said last week that he planned to support Kavanaugh if the FBI didn’t turn up anything new. Now that the bureau hasn’t turned up anything new, Flake should indeed support Kavanaugh.

Democrats are, predictably, complaining that the FBI investigation was too limited in duration and scope. But since there is no evidence for Ford’s account beyond her own memory — and she herself testified before the Senate last week under oath — there wasn’t much for the FBI to probe. Flake specifically said he wanted the FBI to talk to Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, and it did. Flake today said he considers the probe thorough. Despite what Democrats say now, Flake’s idea last week wasn’t to undertake a weeks-long investigation into whatever is the latest Democratic assault on Kavanaugh, from college drinking to the meaning of slang terms.

Flake’s own convictions should move him to vote for Kavanaugh — not just his constitutionalism (as Flake has said repeatedly, he’s a conservative inclined to support the conservative Kavanaugh) but his concern about our political norms. If he votes against Kavanaugh, he will reward a disgraceful campaign of character assassination that is a low point in our recent politics and in the history of the U.S. Senate. If Flake wants our political debate to be more elevated, he can’t join the lynch mob that has accused Kavanaugh of everything from lying about the term “boofing” to helping run a gang-rape ring as a teenager.

We know Flake doesn’t like Trump and was repelled by Trump’s mockery of Christine Blasey Ford’s account at a rally the other night. But this vote is fundamentally about Brett Kavanaugh, not Donald Trump. If Kavanaugh goes down, it will forever be taken as a statement of his guilt, even though there is no evidence of the charges against him, and in fact the evidence tends to support his innocence. Flake shouldn’t be comfortable destroying a man’s reputation on this basis.

We know Flake thought Kavanaugh was too hot at the hearings last week. But there is ample evidence from Kavanaugh’s time on the D.C. Circuit of his judicial care and restraint. Last week, Kavanaugh himself was the defendant in a highly politicized process where he was falsely accused of hideous things. Flake should understand why Kavanaugh would passionately defend himself under those circumstances.

Flake will be a target of the media and the Left in the coming hours and days. They will woo him and try to intimidate him. They will urge him to do the right thing. We agree — and that can only be to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.

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

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