The FBI’s renewed investigation into multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh is not good news for him, or for Donald Trump.
The foremost danger for them, of course, is that FBI agents will quickly and easily find evidence that supports the allegations — or that confirms Kavanaugh’s alter ego as a lying, abusive drunk, hints of which we saw when he lost control in front of a Senate panel on Thursday.
But even if the investigation has been so neutered by the White House counsel as to foreordain a coverup, it gives those who see Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court as an affront to core American values a great gift: Time.
Looking at the multitude of ways in which the Trump presidency is profoundly not normal, a consistent factor is how quickly we lurch from drama to drama, without a moment’s peace. The public and the press can barely keep track of the crises, not to mention process them, react to them, prevent them, or think about how to repair them.
That’s the pace we were going at again on Friday — until Senator Jeff Flake was finally persuaded to call for a few days’ delay.
If Trump is effectively programming the ultimate reality TV series, Thursday’s cliffhanger was supposed to resolve over the weekend, allowing for a new arc to start today.
Instead, the focus is staying on Kavanaugh, utterly overwhelming any interest in Trump’s actually quite startling trade announcement, and turning the ensuing question-and-answer session into yet another occasion for Trump to free-associate, smirkily mocking Democratic senators, falsely asserting that Kavanaugh acknowledges ever had a drinking problem, and offhandedly calling the press corps of being “a part of the Democrat party.”
E.J. Dionne, Jr. noted the upside of the delay in his Washington Post opinion column:
The good news is that the investigation offers time for one important reality to sink in: It is simply not true, as was so often claimed, that both witnesses were equally “believable.”
I strongly endorse his suggested reading, by the way:
Every undecided senator should read Philip Bump’s extensive fact checkin The Post flagging answers Kavanaugh gave that “stretched or misrepresented the truth.” Then, the senators should turn to the New York Times’ equally comprehensive analysis describing responses Kavanaugh gave that were “misleading, disputed or off point.”
And they can examine a very helpful graph created by Alvin Chang at Vox. It uses bright colors to chart the comparative responsiveness of the two witnesses. Where they answered directly, the graph showed blue; where they dodged a question or refused to answer, it showed magenta. Ford’s chart is a sea of blue; Kavanaugh’s is replete with evasive magenta.
But there’s another, maybe even more important reality that should and could sink in with a little more time: how Kavanaugh’s red-faced, venomous partisan outburst on Thursday – calling the allegations “a calculated and orchestrated political hit… on behalf of the Clintons” – renders him unfit for a leading role in a judicial branch that is supposed to be beyond partisan politics.
Now, obviously the Supreme Court is riven with politics, with four of its members already representing extremist right-wing views of the Constitution and social justice. But its members collegially avoid declaring their party loyalties, rather than get spitting mad about them. The appearance of a judicial system that is blind to bias is imperative for our democracy, even if the reality falls a bit short.
And don’t underestimate the value of a blistering, hysterically funny Saturday Night Live sketch (11 million views and counting on YouTube alone) in affecting popular discourse. Normally, Trump outrages have come and gone before SNL is able to mock them.
Finally, although the Kavanaugh nomination initially brought together almost everyone under the conservative tent including the never-Trumpers, the next few days will give that coalition more time to fray, and might give the tiny handful of allegedly non-Trump-lickspittle Republican senators a chance to find some way to vote no.
Because it’s no longer just a matter of Trump putting a lasting conservative imprint on the Supreme Court.
It’s now a matter of putting a Trump imprint on the Supreme Court – the imprint of misogyny, rage, white-male victimization, loss of control, and manifest unfitness for the job. And that imprint, placed by the Republican Party that has many elections in its future, would last a lifetime.