The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Brett Kavanaugh Doppelgänger Theory

Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, speaks as he meets with Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on Capitol Hill, July 25, 2018. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: An effort to defend Brett Kavanaugh’s reputation goes terribly awry, the legal team for Christine Blasey Ford lists their demands, Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke get ready to square off, and I vent my spleen about a perpetually disappointing football team.

Don’t Let Out Your Inner Feinstein

That was . . .  odd. Last night, Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and longtime friend of NRO, laid out a theory in a series of tweets that suggested that someone else attacked Christine Blasey Ford back in 1982. He contended that one of the four boys was the likely host of the party, pointed to a particular house that matched Ford’s description, and named a former classmate of Brett Kavanaugh’s who resembles him, both then and now, as a potential alternative suspect.

The problem is, if we don’t like Ford making this accusation against Kavanaugh with such a dearth of evidence . . . how fair is it to make this accusation against a former classmate with such circumstantial evidence? In the series of tweets, Ed acknowledged that he doesn’t know what happened in 1982 and says at one point in his series of tweets that he doesn’t want to “state, imply or insinuate that [the classmate] or anyone else committed the sexual assault.” Except . . . the series of tweets do just that, don’t they? How else are we supposed to interpret this information?

At another point, Ed says, “It is regrettable that private citizens are being drawn into this. But that is the product of Senator Feinstein’s shockingly shoddy handling of the whole matter.” No doubt Feinstein handled this matter about as badly as possible from the start, but the question is, how do we on the right respond to that? Do we emulate what she does? Or do we demonstrate a different, better standard — that clear and indisputable evidence matters for accusations against Kavanaugh, it matters for accusations against this classmate, and it matters for accusations against everybody?

This morning, Ed recognized the bad judgment he had demonstrated. He tweeted, “I made an appalling and inexcusable mistake of judgment in posting the tweet thread in a way that identified Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate. I take full responsibility for that mistake, and I deeply apologize for it. I realize that does not undo the mistake.”

For what it’s worth, Ford denies that this classmate is the one who attacked her.

It’s common on the right to point out that President Trump’s brash methods are bringing out the worst in the Democrats. The question is, do we want the worst in the Democrats to bring out the worst in us?

Either Testify, or Don’t — This Is Not a Contract Negotiation

Meanwhile, Ford’s lawyers laid out a litany of demands for her testimony:

  • Ford will not appear any sooner than next Thursday;
  • No questions to be asked at hearing by any outside counsel — only senators;
  • Mark Judge must be subpoenaed;
  • Kavanaugh would testify first, then Ford would testify, and Kavanaugh would have no opportunity to respond or rebut;
  • Deadline for her to provide written statement before the hearing would be waived;
  • Provide adequate security;
  • Only one pool camera in hearing room;
  • Ford and Kavanaugh allotted the same amount of time to talk

Either she wants to testify or she doesn’t. Her lawyers said she was ready Monday night.

If it were up to me, I’d declare the hearing will be held this coming Monday. Security will be airtight with a recommendation that the hearing be closed to the public and no television cameras at all. (If either Ford or Kavanaugh wish to separately address the press and repeat the arguments from their testimony on camera, they’re free to do so elsewhere.) The public would be granted access to an audio recording and transcript. This arrangement would balance the public’s right to know with Ford’s desire to protect her privacy, and hopefully minimize senatorial grandstanding.

There would be no requirement for a written statement, each side would be free to have either senators or counsel ask questions, and in keeping with tradition, the accused will have the chance to respond to the accuser after her testimony. There would be no time limits on witness testimony; when they’re done, they’re done.

Ford is comfortable detailing her accusation on the record to reporters from the national news media. I don’t see why she would not be comfortable detailing her accusation under oath under penalty of perjury. Kavanaugh has already submitted testimony on this matter to the Judiciary Committee under penalty of perjury.

A cynic would suggest that the strategy of her legal team is not merely to drag out negotiations, but to avoid coming to an agreement — so that her accusation remains out there and that she is never subjected to anything resembling cross-examination or questioning about the portions of her account that are missing or vague. Foes of Kavanaugh would love to establish the narrative, “Ford was willing to testify but the Judiciary Committee silenced her!”– which is why we’ve got the likes of Senator Gillibrand insisting that the invitation to testify amounted to silencing her.

Because of how thoroughly she’s left no social-media footprint — no videos of her teaching or speaking at conferences, no Facebook page, no Twitter or Instagram account, very few recent photos — we have little sense of how she comes across to an audience. Perhaps Ford comes across as exceptionally compelling, authentic, and honest, and the kind of perfect witness that a defense attorney would fear. Or perhaps she doesn’t, and her legal advisers want to keep her away from television cameras, for fear that much of the public simply wouldn’t find her credible.

When Beto Met Ted . . . er, When Robert Met Rafael

Tonight is the first of three debates between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke. Democrats are dancing a jig over the Cook Political Report changing its assessment of the race from “Leans Republican” to “Toss Up.”

Make no mistake, O’Rourke is going to give Cruz the toughest race that any Texas Republican has faced in the past 30 years. He’s got buckets of charisma, the biggest fundraising haul of any Senate challenger, messianic-media coverage on par with early Barack Obama, and he’s going to get presidential buzz, no matter how this race turns out.

(One note on O’Rourke’s fundraising: He takes positions that are not necessarily popular in Texas but are very popular among Democratic donors nationwide, such as support for kneeling NFL players, openness to abolishing ICE, banning AR-15s, and impeaching President Trump. Every time he does this, national donors large and small open up their wallets. Lots of Democrats candidates have these positions, but O’Rourke stands out because he’s a Texan who takes these positions.)

If Cruz were sleepwalking through this general election, there would be good reason to worry. But Cruz has a big structural advantage — perhaps as many as 850,000 more GOP-leaning Texans than Democratic-leaning ones — and it’s very hard to imagine O’Rourke winning if the Texas Republican party get-out-the-vote operation does its job. Cruz isn’t taking this lightly.

ADDENDA: Since everyone will ask . . .

All credit to the Cleveland Browns; after this win, almost beating the Saints on the road and tying the Steelers, they’re clearly nothing like last year’s team. Maybe they need to catch a possum in the stadium every week.

I try not to be the kind of fan who screams “Fire the coach!” after every defeat. New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles undoubtedly has some strengths, and there have been times where he’s gotten players to exceed the limitations of their talent. Lord knows I want to see him succeed. But in his fourth season, with the Monday night excitement fading into the rear-view mirror, it looks like adding an exciting and young quarterback isn’t enough to change the flaws of a team that rarely figures out how to string together back-to-back wins. Whatever new talent gets added, it gets offset by some breakdowns in some other part of the team. Sam Darnold looks good, but his receivers drop passes, or the line gives him almost no time to throw, or the running game stalls. Jamal Adams is a ball-hawk but the pressure disappears and pass coverage breaks down in the clutch.

Last night, Bowles said, “The whole ballgame is on me.” Okay, then. This is the fourth year of the Bowles era, with a record of 21 wins and 30 losses so far. The team is dealing with the same problems that bedeviled them for the entirety of his tenure — slow starts to games, dumb penalties and a general lack of discipline, an offense that sputters and stumbles when a big drive is needed most, and a defense that will look great on one drive and suddenly can’t stop anybody when the game is on the line. No matter the coordinators, the team always looks like it’s playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.

Good franchises don’t change coaches every few years, bringing in their own offensive systems and playbooks and slowing the development of young players. The year is still young. But if we get another year of more of the same . . . why would year five under Bowles be a dramatic improvement over year four?

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