Why you should care
Because this spectacle has only hardened Trump.
On October 7, 2016, after The Washington Post made public a tape in which Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women by the genitals, he gathered top advisers in Trump Tower and went around the room asking for advice. Republicans, already wary of him, were jumping ship in droves. Then-Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus gave a grim account: “You have two choices. You either drop out right now, or you lose by the biggest landslide in American political history.” A ticket of Mike Pence and Condoleezza Rice was floated. Trump issued a rare apology, but plowed forward saying it was mere “locker room talk.” When several women came forward to say that he had acted out those words and sexually assaulted them, Trump denounced the “false smears” and suggested that one of them was not attractive enough to earn his interest anyway.
It worked. He won. And from then on, those who didn’t abandon Trump at his Access Hollywood low point earned a special credibility in Trumpland.
That’s why when Christine Blasey Ford went public — again in the Post — with her accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, Trump didn’t back down. And when Deborah Ramirez told The New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while he was a freshman at Yale, Trump remained. And with other rumors and allegations growing more bizarre by the day — hyped by attorney Michael Avenatti, who also represents Trump hush money recipient Stormy Daniels — the president got mad. He saw the same thing happening to Kavanaugh as did to him. He could have saved his party political pain by backing down, yanking Kavanaugh’s nomination and putting up, say, Amy Coney Barrett. But that’s not how he got here.
“People want fame. They want money. When I see it, I view it differently,” Trump told reporters in a freewheeling news conference on Wednesday. “It’s happened to me many times. I’ve had many false charges.”
So in the highest stakes moment of his ugly confirmation fight Thursday, the judge was angry, defiant, in many ways Trumpian. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee their confirmation process had become “a national disgrace” and said the allegations were “revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” as Kavanaugh was a key cog in the special counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton. He tried to rattle Democratic senators by asking about their own drinking habits in response to questions about his high school keg-tapping days. He used “Twilight Zone” instead of “witch hunt.” And he denied, denied, denied.
In other ways, Kavanaugh was the president’s antithesis. He sobbed when describing how his family was coping with this circus, and how he feared he’d never get to coach girls’ basketball again — the activity he loves most. It was raw, unlike anything you’d expect from a Supreme Court justice. But it was human.
So was Ford, an accomplished professor who described the attempted rape in haunting detail. She was “100 percent” sure it was Kavanaugh on top of her, covering her mouth. She described “the uproarious laughter between” Kavanaugh and his pal Mark Judge, how they were “having fun at my expense,” as permanently seared into her brain. Recently she insisted on adding a second front door to her home for an extra escape route, because of claustrophobia she attributes to the assault.
Absent any additional corroborating testimony, the conflicting accounts amounted to a political Rorschach test. As if there were any doubt which side Trump would take, he told us with a tweet.
Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2018
He sees himself in his chosen justice, and his accusers in Ford. It’s more than enough to press on.