The Corner

Law & the Courts

After Kavanaugh’s Stand, Republicans Abandon Him at Their Peril

Brett Kavanaugh arrives to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, September 27, 2018. (Andrew Harnik/Pool via Reuters)

Let’s first begin with obvious points, points I’ve made time and time again. Emotion isn’t evidence. But emotion has power. When you combine emotion with evidence, there is greater power still. And, make no mistake, when Brett Kavanaugh spoke with great emotion not just about the sexual-assault allegations against him but also the broader character attacks made against him by Democrats, he voiced the emotion of honorable conservatives across the nation.

Progressives like to discount this reality, and they can rightfully point to Donald Trump as a bully in his own right, but it is a simple fact that time and again good conservative men and women have been subjected to horrific smears for the sin of disagreement, for in good faith believing in different policies, or in good faith holding different religious beliefs. They (we) have been called bigots, racists, and — yes — evil. Even our noblest politicians have been subject to the most hateful of smears.

This was the moment when a member of the “establishment,” the person who is supposed to sit quietly, respond mildly, and understand the pain of their opponents without voicing their own anguish, to absorb anger without showing anger, finally said “enough.” And he did so with great passion in his own defense, and no rancor against Christine Blasey Ford.

It was all the more powerful because it came from a person of known restraint. And his passion was magnified by another person known for his desire to reach across the aisle — the “RINO” most loathed by the populist Right — Lindsey Graham. This, incidentally, is why you default to restraint. This is why you don’t live a life of rage but instead strive for proportionality — because when you do express your anger, people listen.

But even when you express your anger, it must be expressed with reason, and in a hearing that reason has to be laden with evidence. That’s what Kavanaugh did. He countered Ford’s accusation with his own denial, but he went well beyond he said/she said. He constantly reminded the committee that Dr. Ford’s named witnesses could not place him at the party. He went through calendars showing that it was improbable that he would have been at the party that Dr. Ford described. He showed time and again that there was no corroborating evidence supporting Dr. Ford’s allegations. This was powerful. This was true.

Moreover, though he expressed righteous rage at the people who’d treated him without good faith, he also demonstrated compassion. Perhaps the most powerful moment of his testimony came when told the committee that his daughter had prayed for Dr. Ford. This was an emotional moment for countless conservatives. This was the kind of response they aspire to in their own challenges, expressing the heart of the scripture that admonishes God’s people to “be angry, and yet do not sin.”

I have the deepest sympathy for Dr. Ford. She was forced forward through leaks — leaks likely motivated more by concern for the political balance of the Supreme Court than regard for Dr. Ford — and she also spoke with great emotion. Her emotion resonated across the nation as well. She should be treated with dignity and respect, but there is still no evidence aside from her own testimony supporting her claim. There is abundant evidence casting doubt on her account. Those are the facts.

And it is also a fact that Kavanaugh has been subjected to a series of abhorrent, unsubstantiated allegations culminating in a fantastical and grotesque allegation of gang rape that all too many Serious People took all too seriously. In these circumstances, there was a need — a crying need — for a person to echo the immortal words, “Have you no decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency.” Today, was that moment. Today, there were conservatives across the nation who choked up — some openly wept — during his testimony. Not because they disrespect women. Not because they excuse sexual assault. But because they also love their sons. Because they are tired of being painted as evil when they are seeking to do what’s right. Because they want to see a man fight with honor.

That’s what Brett Kavanaugh did today. He fought with passion, evidence, and compassion. And absent any new, substantiated revelations, he united the conservative movement. Any Republican who abandons him now will abandon the electorate that put them in power.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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