The Corner

Politics & Policy

On Fox, Brett Kavanaugh Mounts an Aggressive, Specific Defense

Brett Kavanaugh on Fox News, September 24, 2018. (Screengrab via Fox News)

In tonight’s interview with Martha MacCallum, it would have been easy for Brett Kavanaugh to play the legal equivalent of a prevent defense. He’s a smart enough lawyer to understand the state of the evidence. None of his accusers have been able to come forward with a single witness who can offer first-hand corroboration of their stories. Indeed, they can’t even come forward with a single witness placing him at the scene of either alleged crime. In circumstances like that, the safest course is to simply repeat a blanket denial and repeat all the different ways the accusers’ cases are deficient — to vary some version of “Martha, I didn’t do this, not a single witness can put me at any of these parties, and even Dr. Ford’s friend says she doesn’t know me” throughout the interview.

Like I said, that’s safe. It doesn’t put a single additional fact in the record, and — done correctly — it can imprint in the viewer’s brain that there is zero corroborating evidence substantiating the accusers’ claims.

But, instead, with his opponent facing the evidentiary equivalent of 4th and 20, he blitzed. He extended his denials into three very specific areas that were specifically designed to counter the elitist party-bro narrative that’s dominating the left side of Twitter. Each of these specific denials is subject to fact-checking (though it could get quite personal), and if any of these denials fails that fact check, he may face real issues with wavering Republicans.

First — in the claim that’s rocketing around Twitter — he asserted that he was a virgin throughout high school and for many years afterward. In a vacuum, the claim is hardly notable. After all, it’s common for believing Christians to either wait for sex until marriage or to postpone sexual activity much longer than their peers. But in context, it strongly contradicts the image of a lecherous, wannabe rapist.

Second — he denied ever drinking to the point of memory loss. He was never blackout drunk. This is a crucial claim. If he had been blackout drunk, it’s entirely possible that he could have engaged in sexual misconduct that the couldn’t recall. In other words, Ford could tell the truth and Kavanaugh could be too wasted to remember his own misdeeds. But Kavanaugh forecloses this possibility. He claims no memory gaps.

Third — he denied going to any parties in the area where Ford claimed the party took place. Again, this is a highly specific denial. He didn’t just deny attending the party with Ford, he denied attending any party in the general area.

As the New York Times reported, the calendars Kavanaugh plans to produce to the judiciary committee show him out of town for much of the summer and don’t show a party at the relevant location. Obviously the calendars don’t disprove Ford’s claims, but they do show a man who kept meticulous records, even then, and contemporaneous documentary evidence can help substantiate specific memories.

It’s to Kavanaugh’s credit that he’s not just trying to run out the clock. It’s obvious that he’s aggressively trying to clear his name — at least with anyone who still has an open mind. The next few days will be critical. Kavanaugh is a smart man. He’s smart enough to know that he’s created three immense targets for investigative reporters and hostile witnesses. But he’s also smart enough to know that when juries, judges, senators, and the public are determining a witness’s credibility, they don’t just look to demeanor and apparent sincerity, they also look for specifics. And Kavanaugh is getting very specific indeed.

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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