The Corner

Politics & Policy

Kavanaugh’s Testimony Was His Joseph N. Welch Moment

Joseph N. Welch (seated left) and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (standing right) during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings (United States Senate Historical Office)

Christina Ford’s testimony did not alter, positively or negatively, the facts of her allegations. She still cannot adduce where or when the alleged assault of 36 years prior occurred, or how she arrived at, or departed from, the alleged, but unnamed, location of the assault, or how many people and of which gender were present at the alleged assault. Nor did she name a single witness that could corroborate her narrative. Nor could she refute any of the named witnesses who contradicted her accounts.

The entire purpose of today’s hearing was for the Democrats to call for a lengthy “FBI investigation,” and thereby delay the hearings until after the midterms, excusing Trump-state senators up for reelection from having to vote No on Kavanaugh, while giving time for a likely fifth, sixth, and seventh psychodramatic accuser to step forward, whose lurid falsified allegations take days to refute, but insidiously bleed Kavanaugh by a thousand lies.

It is true that Ford was an empathetic witness in recounting what she seems to believe happened. And the argument of her supporters is that, because she sincerely believes that she was assaulted and that on some occasions 30 or more years after the alleged incident mentioned it to others, therefore her allegations are proven — when in fact raising the allegations 30 years and more later confirms only that she believes her own allegations, not that her allegations as they concerned Judge Kavanaugh are valid.

There was almost no attention paid to the Ramirez and Swetnick accusations — apparently because Democrats concluded that the advantages of trying to prove a Kavanaugh pattern of illegal or improper behavior was far outweighed by the utter lack of credibility by subsequent accusers, who, if they were to appear, would make that embarrassing fact quite clear. There was still no adequate explanation of why Democrats forced Ford to lose her anonymity or why they did not prompt an “FBI Investigation” immediately upon receipt of the allegation by Senator Feinstein.

The designated Republican questioner of Ford, Rachel Mitchell, succeeded in sounding sober, judicious, and conciliatory, and was able on numerous occasions gently to draw out inconsistencies in Ford’s testimony.

Ford, for example, seems to have had no problem with flying after all, both for work and leisure — until summoned to follow up her accusations with evidence and potentially to face cross examination. Ford also seemed to suggest that her entire process of pressing accusations against Kavanaugh, her meetings with politicos, her use of counsel, or her lie-detector test came about mostly incidentally and of her own direction and volition — despite references to an array of enablers and handlers.

She had no real explanation of why her various testimonies to her therapist, to the media, and in her initial letter and subsequent statement are in conflict on important details of who exactly was present and where at the alleged attack.

Still, Mitchell’s problem was that she never collated her questions into a coherent narrative leading to conclusions, and thus there was de facto no cross-examination of Ford’s assertions. Inferences were not enough. True, the Republicans succeeded in not appearing bullying, but went to the opposite extreme of seeming ineffectual and impotent. That was the morning’s grievous error, given that many of the Republican senators, as evidenced by the later questioning of Kavanaugh, are skilled interrogators and superb attorneys and yet sidelined themselves.

Just when pundits were declaring Kavanaugh’s obituary, he appeared resolute, fiery, and presented an outraged denial that essentially put the entire Democratic effort at destroying him on trial.

He became the proverbial Joseph N. Welch; the Democrats became a collective Joseph McCarthy.

His effort galvanized heretofore somnolent Republican senators into stepping up and decrying the current farce. Lindsey Graham gave the greatest speech of his life, and the most remarkable from any Republican in years. He threw down the gauntlet to remind that any Republican who joined the witch hunt should be ashamed. That moment likely did a great deal to provide cover for a few wavering senators who might have been thinking of abandoning Kavanaugh, and, indeed, seemed to render obsolete some of the old Republican divides over Trump — given a new shared conservative outrage at the progressive efforts at character assassination.

Not one Democrat senator could find any inconsistency in Kavanaugh’s testimony, and their feeble attempts to do so had the effect of appearing bullying and crudity — ironically in the manner that the Republicans had feared they might appear if too aggressive in questioning Ford.

Where are we, then, as the hearings wind down?

A paradox.

The Democrats were eager to see Republicans come off as crude and then ensured that they acted so themselves. They had no new argument either in supporting Ford or opposing Kavanaugh — other than the old saw of serially calling for a delaying “FBI investigation.”

Kavanaugh in the end himself proved the most reliable, factual, and transparent witness, and Republican Senators belatedly discovered that they were far better questioners than any expert prosecutor.

Politically, the result is twofold. It is not certain that Kavanaugh will be confirmed, but any Republican who believes that he is a sexual assaulter and unfit for the Supreme Court will likely face ostracism. Second, should he be confirmed, Kavanaugh will not just be a knowledgeable conservative jurist, but a skilled and unafraid advocate in the tradition of Antonin Scalia.


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