Who Won [Updated]

I caught only bits and pieces of Christine Ford’s testimony, and have seen some of the commentary on it. I watched Judge Kavanaugh’s opening statement and portions of the questioning, including Lindsay Graham’s epic denunciation of the Democrats. That was enough, I think, to make an educated guess as to the hearing’s consequences.

The consensus of the commentariat is that Ford was “credible.” That isn’t surprising. Most witnesses are credible under friendly questioning, direct examination in a trial context. It usually takes cross-examination to expose a witness’s weaknesses. Today, the Republicans decided for political reasons not to go after Ford, which may well have been a good decision. But it virtually assured that she would be pronounced “credible.”

The more important question is whether her story is credible. To anyone who has paid attention, it isn’t. She cannot render a coherent account of the events that comprise her testimony. Most important, every one of the people she identifies as being present refutes her claims. And Ford’s position on some matters is indefensible; e.g., her claim not to know who paid for her polygraph exam (does she know who is paying her lawyers?), her alleged fear of flying, and so on.

Brett Kavanaugh was also credible. His anger was obviously genuine, and his lengthy reminder of his long and honorable career was, I thought, persuasive. The Democrats had nothing on him; their harping on his high school yearbook was pathetic, and Amy Klobuchar’s attempt to insinuate that Kavanaugh has a drinking problem was reprehensible. Graham’s denunciation of the Democrats–it was bracing to hear so much truth in a single dose–will reverberate for some time.

So who won the day? I think it is important to keep in mind the audiences for whom today’s performance was enacted. There were two. The first is the public, or that portion of it that watched some of the hearing or will read and hear about it. The Democrats seem to think that “believe women” is a majority sentiment–regardless, apparently, of what the woman says, and subject to such exceptions as may be convenient. I doubt that is correct. I think a great many Americans have had it with #MeToo and associated abuses and can sympathize with a wrongly accused public figure. We may or may not ever know who won the public battle.

The second and more important audience for today’s hearing was Republican senators who could possibly vote No on Kavanaugh’s nomination. (The Democratic senators are irrelevant; nothing that happened today could affect their votes, and they are a minority.) Conventional wisdom says there are four potential No votes among GOP senators: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake. No one who intends to run again as a Republican can vote No; I believe Collins and Murkowski are both in that category. That leaves the two retiring senators, Corker and Flake.

At one point, Corker voiced doubt about voting to confirm in the wake of Ford’s allegation. But I don’t think he is a turncoat, and Kavanaugh gave him and any other wavering senators plenty of justification for voting Yes. That leaves Flake, who has become obsessed by Trump hatred and could vote No as a final spiteful act on his way out the door. I hope he won’t do that, and he was a genuine conservative at one time, so he might actually care about the Court. In any event, the Republicans can withstand one defection.

So I think Kavanaugh will be confirmed. Will the Democrats be disappointed? It is hard to say. If Kavanaugh isn’t confirmed, the next Justice will be the younger and more conservative Amy Barrett. The fact is that Kavanaugh is as moderate a nominee as the Democrats are going to see. So they may be content with the pleasure of slandering an innocent man, the damage they have done to the Supreme Court as an institution, the fundraising they are feverishly doing at this moment, and another bogus issue to fire up their low-information base in November. The damage they are doing to our republic? They don’t care.

UPDATE: Minutes ago, it was reported that Corker says he will vote Yes, while Flake declined to commit, saying it is a “tough call.”

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