Kavanaugh digs in amid new accusations
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh denied new allegations of sexual misconduct this week as the Senate prepared to hear testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, a California psychologist who said the judge assaulted her in high school. Julie Swetnick, a 55-year-old technologist from Washington, D.C., who has had security clearances from several government agencies, said that she was gang-raped in 1982 at a high school party attended by Kavanaugh. Swetnick did not accuse Kavanaugh of raping her. But in a sworn declaration released by her attorney, Michael Avenatti, who also represents adult film star Stormy Daniels against President Trump, Swetnick said that she attended at least 10 house parties with Kavanaugh in the Washington suburbs from 1981 to 1983, and that the teenaged Kavanaugh was “a mean drunk” who became “abusive toward girls,” touching and grinding against them without their consent. She said she remembers seeing Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge “spike” punch with alcohol and drugs while targeting women for “train” rapes, and seeing the two lined up with other boys outside a room at a party waiting for their “turn” with an inebriated girl. Kavanaugh adamantly denied the accusations, calling them “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone.”
Swetnick’s accusation came just days after another woman, Deborah Ramirez, told The New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken dorm party at Yale. Kavanaugh denied that story as well, calling it “a smear, plain and simple.” Appearing with his wife on Fox News—the first time a Supreme Court nominee has given a pre-confirmation television interview—Kavanaugh reiterated that he has never assaulted anyone. “I’ve always treated women with dignity and respect,” Kavanaugh said, adding that he didn’t lose his virginity until “many years” after high school.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was slated to hear testimony from both Kavanaugh and Blasey after The Week went to press. The 10 Democrats on the committee called for Kavanaugh to withdraw after the three women made their allegations, but the 11 Republicans on the committee said they would press on with a vote over whether to send Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the full Senate.
What the editorials said
Republicans should fight tooth and nail for Kavanaugh, said the National Review. The new allegations have all the hallmarks of a partisan hit job. Ramirez “admits that she hesitated to come forward because there were such large gaps in her memory,” and her story hasn’t been corroborated by eyewitnesses, only people who heard about the event after the fact. Blasey’s story is also uncorroborated and suspiciously vague. If Democrats succeed in taking down Kavanaugh with these flimsy charges, it will be “a smashing victory for garbage-pail politics.”
If you want to prove Kavanaugh’s innocence, call in the FBI, said The Washington Post. A full investigation of all these allegations would reassure the public that senators are doing their “due diligence.” Nevertheless, Republicans have refused an FBI inquiry “in their effort to rush Kavanaugh onto the court.” Why the rush?
What the columnists said
The smear campaign against Kavanaugh is “truly evil,” said Mollie Hemingway in TheFederalist.com. Democrats will stop at nothing to keep conservatives from gaining a solid majority on the Supreme Court, even it means assassinating the character of a man who has spent his entire life in public service. “The idea that the country should convict him and destroy his life with no evidence other than recovered and uncorroborated memories and creepy porn lawyer Michael Avenatti’s say-so is quite insane.”
Sorry, but how can we trust anything Kavanaugh says? asked Lili Loofbourow in Slate.com. The judge’s depiction of himself as a virginal, pious choirboy who occasionally had a few too many beers doesn’t square with what we’ve heard from several high school and college classmates, who describe him as a hard and belligerent drinker. His yearbook contains references to binge drinking, as well as crude jokes about a woman named Renate Schroeder Dolphin, with Kavanaugh and his buddies referring to themselves as “Renate Alumni.” To put it bluntly, Kavanaugh is a phony and a liar—which is disqualifying in itself. “He has acted like a guilty man trying to hide something,” said Andrew Cohen in NewRepublic.com. The judge has been huddling with the Trump administration for strategy sessions all week, being coached on how to deny the allegations without alienating Republican women before the midterms. Given that Kavanaugh could be hearing vital cases concerning this White House within weeks, “that’s a conflict of interest,” and proof that he’s “unworthy of the job for which he is nominated.”
The ugly fight over Kavanaugh proves once again our system is broken, said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. In America’s stark partisan binary, “Kavanaugh is either a perfect exemplar of judicial expertise and impeccable moral conduct, or he is a lying rapist determined to destroy and control the lives of all women.” Our institutions can’t survive this anything-goes tribalism for long. “In such a civil war, the idea that the Supreme Court could ever perform the role it was designed to—interpret the law in a nontribal way—is laughable.”
The Senate’s red-state Democrats are facing a tough vote, said Burgess Everett and Elana Schor in Politico.com. “Democratic insiders are feeling more bullish than ever that the party’s 49 caucus members ultimately will oppose Kavanaugh.” But half a dozen Democratic senators still haven’t come out publicly against President Trump’s nominee. That includes Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who’ve both made their political independence from fellow Democrats a key part of their re-election strategy. Republican senators also have a dilemma, said Sahil Kapur in Bloomberg.com. Kavanaugh is increasingly toxic among women voters, “who’ll be pivotal to deciding control of Congress in November.” If Republicans confirm Kavanaugh, they’ll alienate suburban women; if they don’t, they’ll infuriate the party base of evangelicals and hard-core Trump supporters.
Cover illustration by Fred Harper.
On the cover: Ashley Judd, Patti Davis, Alyssa Milano.
Cover photos from Newscom (3) ■