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Column: The resistance goes nuclear

October 3, 2018

It was presidential candidate Bill Clinton who in early 1992 coined the phrase “politics of personal destruction”. Curiously (in retrospect) he was against it.

But he was on to something. Character assassination is today being deployed with frightening effect in the Democrats’ campaign to keep Judge Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court. It’s working just fine, a near perfect tactic – were it not for the human carnage in its wake.

Kavanaugh is a legal superstar. He has served for 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the nation’s second highest court, amassing over 300 rulings, 13 of which have been used as a basis for Supreme Court decisions. By all accounts, he is a brilliant, reasonable and hard-working jurist.

Democrats had already vowed fierce opposition to whomever Trump nominated to replace retiring Justice Kennedy – the protest lines were manned and ready the night of his announcement – so it was a foregone conclusion that the nominee would be in for a bruising confirmation battle. But no one had any idea just how bruising and how personal it would become.

In two short months, Democratic senators, with help from the media, managed to paint Kavanaugh as a primal threat to our democracy, one who would protect Trump from impeachment and along the way single-handedly reverse Roe v. Wade. Then, just days before the scheduled committee vote, they rolled out their big gun – an allegation of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, 36 years ago, when he was in high school. Ka-boom.

Since then, a Supreme Court nomination debate has morphed into a national catharsis on whether to believe Kavanaugh or his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Her testimony last week was emotionally compelling but provides little evidence – she cannot recall the time or place of the assault. Judge Kavanaugh’s unequivocal and impassioned denial was equally compelling.

The Democrats’ position is no secret: Kavanaugh is guilty. But let’s be clear. Their battle in the senate is not about women’s rights or protection of sexual assault victims; it is about blocking the nomination. Each Democratic senator is wrestling with the wholly political calculation of how to justify his or her predetermined vote against Kavanaugh, and how it will play out in the voting booths. The Ford allegation is simply a means to that end.

We don’t know yet if they will succeed. What we do know is that Judge Kavanaugh and his family have been horribly damaged. His reputation is forever tarnished. Polls indicate that roughly half of Americans now believe that this man – virtually unknown three months ago – is a vicious sexual predator.

That’s a tragedy; and I say that with no disrespect to Dr. Ford or her allegations. The #MeToo movement, constantly invoked as impetus for opposition to Kavanaugh, is a call for belief, respect and support of sexual abuse victims. That’s all good and it’s long overdue, but it is not – and cannot be – a basis for substituting blind belief for the innate fairness and due process that are the hallmarks of our democracy.

It is simply not possible to prove, without direct corroborating evidence, what did or did not happen 36 years ago. Therefore, there is no basis to presume that Brett Kavanaugh is guilty of the alleged offense. It is that simple, regardless of politics or popular opinion.

Meanwhile, the personal attacks continue. The new buzz is that Kavanaugh’s angry denials reveal a temperament not suited for the Supreme Court. Baloney. A much better gauge of his judicial temperament is that which he’s displayed day in and day out in a dozen years on the nation’s second highest court. And anyone with a pulse would be outraged at being slandered and slimed in front of the entire nation.

Judge Kavanaugh is not the only one who’s angry. On Thursday, we saw Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in full fury–his emotional reaction to the behavior of his Democratic colleagues was obviously authentic; and it was particularly impactful because he is by nature steady and mild-mannered, often hammered by Republicans for being too conciliatory and too willing to work across the aisle.

Sen. Graham’s outburst was soundly criticized by the left and even lampooned by Saturday Night Live. That’s a good indicator that he struck home. He spoke from the heart, and it showed.

Senate confirmation of a president’s Supreme Court nomination is important. Rigorous challenge is expected. But baseless destruction of the nominee’s good name, and with it public respect and trust, is shameful. This is not the first time. It must stop.

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