I have to admit that when Chuck Grassley extended the nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh by a week last Friday, I was more than a little unsure of his fate. In the #MeToo environment, Christine Ford’s sometimes bizarre and often unbelievable claims were treated as though the were Holy Writ. Then there was Ronan Farrow and his “wagging peepee” story. And Michael Avenatti and the gang rapes. And the rub-a-dub-dub boys over at the Weekly Standard began to knowingly whisper that, yes, Kavanaugh was amazingly qualified for the position and he was probably innocent but he should step aside for the good of the nation. And, of course, the Democrats would treat the next nominee much better.
In fact, by last Sunday, some conservatives who should have known a lot better were buying into the defeatism. And, of course, you had douchenozzles like this claiming that Kavanaugh defending himself from allegations of being leader of a rape gang were actually worse than claiming he led the rape gang:
He disqualified himself. What the Dems did was awful. What he did was worse. https://t.co/f32YJOzjPO
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 5, 2018
Today, barring some overnight deus ex machina, Brett Kavnaugh locked in votes to confirm him as Associate Justice on the Supreme Court. This is Politico’s take:
Fox News anchors said Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was compelling. Republican strategists sent panicked text messages anticipating an electoral disaster. And even some Brett Kavanaugh supporters questioned whether he could rescue his nomination.
But as Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court appeared to be crumbling under the weight of sexual assault accusations, President Donald Trump had already become convinced that abandoning the judge would come at too great a cost to his administration and his party’s chances in the midterm elections.
The president, according to half a dozen officials and people working on the confirmation, came to the determination that with the midterms rapidly approaching, he needed the Senate to confirm the conservative justice to avoid depressing GOP turnout come November.
White House aides and allies conceded that throughout the touch-and-go confirmation battle, they weren’t sure whether Kavanaugh would hold on in the face of the sexual assault allegations and the prevailing #MeToo movement that has swept the country for more than a year. But with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) coming out in support of Kavanaugh Friday afternoon — giving the judge enough votes to get through — Trump’s gamble to stand with him has conservatives feeling like they narrowly escaped catastrophe.
“Abandoning Kavanaugh under the existing circumstances would have demoralized the base,” said Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. “One can second-guess individual tactics, but the Kavanaugh confirmation process, win or lose, has been helpful in waking up a lethargic Republican Party.”
Republican strategists said the bruising fight is resonating with their voters — a far cry from the feeling early on, when some worried the judge’s confirmation would slide through so seamlessly that few on the right would even remember. Now, they say, even some voters less favorable to the president are being jolted.
I think this is correct. I would contend that it is a little more complicated. Kavanaugh was his choice and he was going to be held responsible for the loss. By hanging tough he made McConnell invest some of his political capital to make it work. As Brett Stephens, of all people, wrote in the New York Times a couple of days ago:
For the first time since Donald Trump entered the political fray, I find myself grateful that he’s in it. I’m reluctant to admit it and astonished to say it, especially since the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford in his ugly and gratuitous way at a rally on Tuesday. Perhaps it’s worth unpacking this admission for those who might be equally astonished to read it.
I’m grateful because Trump has not backed down in the face of the slipperiness, hypocrisy and dangerous standard-setting deployed by opponents of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m grateful because ferocious and even crass obstinacy has its uses in life, and never more so than in the face of sly moral bullying. I’m grateful because he’s a big fat hammer fending off a razor-sharp dagger.
By hanging tough, whatever his reason, Trump proved that he has the stones to face down the Democrat mob, he’s not afraid to get in their face, and he likes to win. And that is exactly what the 2016 electorate voted for.
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