Everything is so surreal in the U.S. today that I feel as if I’m living in a Salvador Dali painting. I don’t even know how to begin to write about what’s happening right now. If you watched Rachel last night, you know that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s attorney responded to 85-year-old dotard Chuck Grassley’s nasty message threatening to hold a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination until Ford agreed to testify before his committee on Wednesday–a day before she said it was possible to do so.
The Senate Judiciary Committee tried to initiate a Friday night game of chicken with attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. The committee had issued a 10 p.m. ultimatum for Ford to agree to testify by Wednesday, stating that the vote to confirm Kavanaugh would proceed on Monday without her agreement. Ford’s lawyers did not bite.
Ford’s attorney Debra S. Katz responded to the ultimatum with a strongly-worded letter decrying the “aggressive and artificial deadlines” as an attempt “to bully Dr. Ford.” Katz explains that Ford had “traveled to meet with the FBI for several hours about the death threats she had been receiving,” and that her legal team requested time “to be able to provide you with a well-considered response.”
“Your cavalier treatment of a sexual assault survivor,” Katz writes, “is completely inappropriate.”
Read the entire letter and read about Grassley’s threats at the link. Hours later Grassley sent a tweet that read as if it were intended to be an email or text message:
Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 22, 2018
Followed by this one:
With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I’m playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and Schumer is the conductor
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 22, 2018
Historian Michael Cohen posted this in response to the first one:
Does Chuck Grassley know we can read his tweets? https://t.co/m2Vpt85kya
— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) September 22, 2018
Followed by this from Frank Rich:
This is an important catch. Seriously. It seems that the doddering Grassley thought he was sending an obsequious email or text to Kabanaugh, not tweeting this to the world. https://t.co/enKVlvcCRl
— Frank Rich (@frankrichny) September 22, 2018
Seriously, why is an 85-year-old man still in the Senate? We need age limits.
I think this piece at Deadspin provides a very good explanation for the behavior of all the right wing white men who are having tantrums over Kavanaugh when they could easily withdraw his name and have Trump appoint someone who didn’t try to rape a 15 year-old-girl when he was in high school–maybe someone who didn’t work in the Bush White House on torture and who wasn’t involved in stealing Democratic emails, and who hasn’t lied repeatedly to Congress.
Shit’s real weird now.
A thing it took, like, the New York Times and Washington Post and CNN and so forth maybe a little too long to figure out, back during the 2016 campaigns, a lapse that has launched innumerable blinkered Cletus Safaris in search of some other, less chillingly sociopathic answer in the aftermath of that hell-moment, is this: What the American right wants, what it’s after, isn’t some abstract pluralist success, like the smooth functioning of government and/or the material improvement of American life. It wants, only and entirely, to defeat its opponents. Those aren’t quite the same thing. The Republican party would not choose the former if it could be accomplished without the latter.
An example: Any number of grub-like Yale jurist-ghouls with diamond-edged ‘80s-dad hair and uniformly right-wing ideas about constitutional law could get confirmed to fill the Supreme Court’s vacant ninth seat, and once in that seat could be counted upon to plagiarize Anton Chigurh dialog into incumbent legal precedence for the next three decades. The earth contains no shortage of these. And so, in the aftermath of the discovery that Brett Kavanaugh, the one Donald Trump happened to nominate for the gig, quite likely attempted to rape a 15-year-old girl in the summer of 1982 (and, perhaps less important though no less relevant, almost certainly lied to the Senate about the use of stolen materials to aid George W. Bush’s judicial nominees) and has been living comfortably with this fact about himself for the ensuing 36 years, it should be easy enough to withdraw his nomination and move along to the next crypto-Nazi cottage cheese sculpture in the pipeline. He’d breeze through confirmation, whoever he was: You could pretty much count on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s terminally third-brained centrist Democrats lining up to play themselves. And that would be a success, theoretically: A new, arch-conservative Supreme Court justice, possibly even one not tainted by a credible accusation that he once tried to rape a child.
But that would not be enough. It has to be this guy. It has to be this guy now more than ever. It has to be this guy, now, because he has been accused, credibly, of attempting to rape a 15-year-old girl in 1982—moreover because people believe this should be considered a disqualifying blight on his record. The thing that must happen is that those people must be defeated. That is the whole point. What must be shown to the whole world is that this, even this, cannot stop him. The bigger the outrage that can be brushed aside, the more thorough the defeat for the people who thought something, anything, might take precedence over this white man being the pick of another white man.
A bit more:
It’s a bit late for anyone not to have figured this out yet, but the skeleton key to understanding American conservatism is this: At bottom, it lacks absolutely any moral or ideological underpinning beyond the reactionary protection of moneyed white men—of their station, their wealth and power, and their egos. Its supposed ideas and abstractions are just a framework for spasmodic lashing-out against anything that can be interpreted as a threat to rich white dudes. It likes supply-side economics because the supply side is made of rich white dudes. It likes tax cuts because the taxes are mostly cut for rich white dudes. It likes cops and soldiers because cops and soldiers uphold a social order with rich white dudes at the top. It likes “traditional family values” because social, economic, and sexual dominion over women are the most traditional family values of all. It likes “Make America Great Again” because rich white dudes used to roll through society and over everyone else with even greater impunity than they do now. All of these things are just proxies for reiterating, over and over and over, forever, the power and security and primacy of rich white dudes.
There’s much more at the link. I hope you read all of it.
As we all know, there actually was a witness to the rape attempt, Kavanaugh’s high school buddy Mark Judge; but the Judiciary Committee dotards are determined that he will not testify. And here’s why:
A review of books, articles and blog posts by Judge — a freelance writer who has shifted among jobs at a record store, substitute teaching, housesitting and most recently at a liquor store — describes an ’80s private-school party scene in which heavy drinking and sexual encounters were standard fare.
Judge wrote about the pledge he and his friends at the all-male school on Rockville Pike in North Bethesda, Md., made to drink 100 kegs of beer before graduation. On their way to that goal, there was a “disastrous” party “at my house where the place was trashed,” Judge wrote in his book “God and Man at Georgetown Prep.” Kavanaugh listed himself in the class yearbook as treasurer of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club.
“I’ll be the first one to defend guys being guys,” Judge wrote in a 2015 article on the website Acculturated. He described a party culture of “drinking and smoking and hooking up.” During senior year, Judge said he and his pals hired a stripper and bought a keg for a bachelor party they threw to honor their school’s music teacher.
“I drank too much and did stupid things,” he said in his memoir.
“Most of the time everyone, including the girls, was drunk,” Judge wrote in “Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk,” a memoir of his alcoholism and recovery. “If you could breathe and walk at the same time, you could hook up with someone. This did not mean going all the way . . . but after a year spent in school without girls, heavy petting was basically an orgy.”
While many of his classmates moved on to careers in law, politics, business and education, Judge seemed to some friends to stay fixed in the experiences of his adolescence. Over time, his politics shifted from left to right, and his writing often focused on his view of masculinity (“the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion”) and his concern that gay culture was corroding traditional values.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Another take from The Intercept’s Peter Maas: Mark Judge’s Memoir about Kavanaugh’s High School Portrays a Culture of Aggression and Excessive Drinking. I won’t quote from it, but there are lots of excerpts from the book that are relevant to why Grassley wants to keep Judge very far away from his Committee hearing.
And then there’s another of Kavanaugh’s close friends, Ed Whelan–the man behind the swiftboating of John Kerry–and his doppleganger theory.
It turns out that the Keystone Cops detective work by conservative legal activist Ed Whelan — which set Washington abuzz with the promise of exonerating Brett Kavanaugh, only to be met by mockery and then partially retracted — was not his handiwork alone.
CRC Public Relations, the prominent Alexandria, Virginia-based P.R. firm, guided Whelan through his roller-coaster week of Twitter pronouncements that ended in embarrassment and a potential setback for Kavanaugh’s hopes of landing on the high court, according to three sources familiar with their dealings.
After suggesting on Twitter on Tuesday that he had obtained information that would exculpate Kavanaugh from the sexual assault allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford, Whelan worked over the next 48 hours with CRC and its president, Greg Mueller, to stoke the anticipation. A longtime friend of Kavanaugh’s, Whelan teased his reveal — even as he refused to discuss it with other colleagues and close friends, a half dozen of them said. At the same time, he told them he was absolutely confident the information he had obtained would exculpate the judge.
The hype ping-ponged from Republicans on Capitol Hill to Kavanaugh’s team in the White House, evidence of an extraordinarily successful public relations campaign that ultimately backfired when Whelan’s theory — complete with architectural drawings and an alleged Kavanaugh doppelgänger — landed with a thud on Twitter Thursday evening.
Read the tick tock at the link. Politico claims the White House wasn’t involved in this insanity, but I don’t believe that for one minute. Kavanaugh has spent days at the White House figuring out how to deal with this scandal, and I have no doubt Kavanaugh was the source of the theory that someone else did it. He even told Oren Hatch that it could be a case of mistaken identity.
One more from Politico: Ed Whelan’s Troubles Might Be Just Beginning. He’s playing a dangerous game with the law, by John Culhane.
Ed Whelan may have just crossed a line he can’t jump back over.
Yesterday, Whelan, the president of the Ethics and & Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank, and an assertive supporter of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, took to Twitter to lay out a Hardy Boys-inspired scenario, suggesting that Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Kavanaugh of attempted rape in high school, might have been mistaken about the identity of her alleged sexual assaulter. Using a mash-up of yearbook photos, Zillow information, Google Maps and Facebook, Whelan laid out a “case” that another man, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Prep—whom he named and provided a current photograph of—might have been the person Ford has in mind. After his wild theory received widespread criticism, Whelan deleted the tweets, and tried to walk back the accusation this morning.
The common law of defamation isn’t that complicated. To be liable, the defendant must make an intentionally or negligently false statement about the plaintiff that tends to cause reputational harm, and harm must actually ensue.
The man Whelan accused has already been harassed by the media. Read more about libel law at Politico.
I’m out of space, and I haven’t even written about the New York Times’s irresponsible article about Rod Rosenstein. Links to Emptywheel’s takes on that:
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?