Archive for the ‘USA: politics’ Category

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]

This will be a brief one, as everyone has read countless analyses and commentaries by this point (6pm EST)—and Trump, seeking to change the subject, has, in firing Jeff Sessions—to whom one says ‘good riddance!’—already pushed the election results off the headlines. I had mixed feelings about the outcome last night and much of today. Though I was naturally relieved that the Democrats won the House, as was expected, I was hoping for a little more of a blue wave. A pick up of 34 seats, or whatever it will be, is un peu ric-rac (cf. the Republican blowouts of 1994 and 2010). And while I know how to read polls and am not Pollyannaish, I did have hopes/fantasies that the Dems could maybe win the Senate. Losing a net of two seats—and maybe three once the AZ and FL races are called—does not alter the status quo but will make winning a majority in 2020 that much steeper of a climb. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill—all in deep red states—were not favored to win but still. Andrew Gillum’s unexpected loss was a big disappointment—and particularly to the Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis—as well as Stacey Abrams’s apparent one to the fascistic Brian Kemp, and it’s a pity that Beto O’Rourke didn’t stun the insidious Ted Cruz. But the mere fact that all three—who are progressives and two of them persons of color—came within a hair of winning—and the latter two in states where Democrats simply no longer win statewide races—is, objectively speaking, a feat in itself. And the defeats of the loathsome Scott Walker and even more awful Kris Kobach, entre autres, were particularly gratifying (in September of last year I predicted that Kobach would be the GOP’s post-Trump presidential nominee, but it now looks like I will be happily wrong on that).

So after the early disappointment, I’m feeling a little bit better about the Dems’ performance, and generally subscribe to the instant takes of EJ Dionne Jr, Ezra Klein, Kevin Drum, Nate Cohn, and Jim Newell, who see the outcome as a Democratic victory and a major setback for Trump. Given the state of the economy—the growth and unemployment rates being what they are—and with American soldiers not dying in a futile war that has nothing to do with the security of the homeland, it is quite exceptional that the opposition party would nonetheless win the popular by seven or eight points. Trump may be able to whip his deplorable base into a frenzy but he cannot expand it. It is a minority of the electorate and will remain as such. It only wins because of the structural distortions of representation (in the House and, above all, the Senate), gerrymandering, and voter suppression by GOP state governments.

While the Dems may finally feel okay about the outcome and with this manifestly representing a repudiation of Trump, that does not necessarily mean the latter is unhappy about it. Matthew Yglesias, in his instant analysis, sees Trump as one of yesterday’s winners, and he’s not wrong. The House may now be able to thwart Trump’s legislative agenda, except that Trump does not have such an agenda. He doesn’t care about legislation, particularly now that the Republicans have their tax cut for the 1%. Trump’s main interest is his judicial, cabinet, and other nominees, for which he needs the Senate. And that he has in his pocket—and all the more so as he pulled out the stops in the home stretch to campaign for GOP Senate candidates in close races. As for House investigations and subpoenas, Trump will stonewall, obstruct, and generally tell Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues to go to hell. A prediction: if a House committee subpoenas Trump’s tax returns, he will refuse to turn them over, even if the Supreme Court rules that he must (which it may or may not do). The only recourse for the House will be impeachment, with the full knowledge that the Senate will not convict. And in the meantime, Trump will spend the next two years on the campaign trail, feeding his frenzied deplorables and bashing the House Democrats nonstop. And he’ll love every minute of it, as will his deplorables. That is what awaits us.

Certain pundits last night on Twitter, including the most serious among them, were mentioning Beto O’Rourke as a prospect for the Democrats in 2020. Pourquoi pas?

UPDATE: The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer has a spot-on post-election piece—in which he says what I’ve been for some time—”America’s problem isn’t tribalism—it’s racism.” The lede: “Only one of America’s major political parties relies on stoking hatred and fear against those outside its coalition.”

2nd UPDATE: The Democrats on Tuesday made major gains at the state level, as one may read here and here. As the second link, by Bryce Covert, tells us, “[f]orget Congress. State legislatures are where real progressive action is most likely to happen.”

3rd UPDATE: The always interesting Thomas B. Edsall’s latest in the NYT opinion page is entitled, “The polarizer-in-chief meets the midterms.” The lede: “Democrats and Republicans continue to move farther apart. Trump wouldn’t have it any other way.”

4th UPDATE: Never Trumper ex-Republican Rick Wilson, whose writing style I love, had a typically terrific opinion piece in The Daily Beast, dated October 24th, which I just came across, on Trump’s rally in Houston two days earlier. It begins:

On Monday night, Donald Trump shoved the nationalist needle into the veins of millions of his followers, and slammed the plunger home. He finally said what we’ve known all along: He’s a nationalist.

He sent a signal to his alt-right allies that it’s time to rally to his side once again, just ahead of the midterm elections. It was one more knife into the moldering corpse of the GOP, which with every Trump rally has looked more and more like some clapped-out third-world claque of the Glorious Leader’s sycophants, and less like a modern political institution.

By the time the rally was over, David Duke was praising Donald Trump, delighted to hear the sound of a whistle that deafened every dog within a thousand miles. For the Tiki-Torch-and-Polo-Shirt Mafia, it was like finally having sex with a live, uncompensated human female.

If only I could write with such flair. Read the whole thing here.

5th UPDATE: Slate’s William Saletan has “Ten takeaways from Tuesday’s results,” one being that the Brett Kavanaugh hearings—with Christine Blasey Ford and all—hurt the Republicans (not the Democrats).

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This is a follow-up to my post of last night. I am taking the liberty of copying-and-pasting part of an email news bulletin sent yesterday, via The Action Network, by Michael Podhorzer, the (quite brilliant) political director of the AFL-CIO, which naturally concerns the midterms:

Normalizing Threats to Democracy

We cannot let a House win create the illusion that democracy worked. So, it’s worth recapping some of the most egregious threats to democracy:

  • Gerrymandering – This morning, 538 gives Democrats an 85.6 percent chance of winning the House. It’s left completely without comment that there’s virtually no chance that the Democrats will lose the national House vote. And, while there’s a very good chance that House Democrats will win their highest share of the midterm vote in 32 years, there’s no chance that their number of seats will reflect that. The same thing will be true in dozen of state legislative chambers.
  • The Senate – This morning, 538 gives Democrats only a 14.4 percent chance of winning control of the Senate, and projects that it’s just as likely that they will lose two seats. Yet, no matter what the outcome, it will be true that the 100 senators seated next January will have received more Democratic than Republican votes.
  • Rigging the rules – Georgia is certainly the most egregious case. Brian Kemp has run the table – seeing nothing wrong with supervising his own election, he’s done everything he could to disenfranchise African American voters, and even warned his supporters of the dangers of them “exercising their voting rights.” And yesterday, without any evidence, he accused the Georgia Democratic Party of attempting to hack the voter registration data base – something he had erroneously accused Obama of doing before. Here’s the post-election problem: If Abrams wins, that will be used to argue that voter suppression didn’t matter. If Abrams loses, the country will move on. (See Bush v. Gore.) This report by the Brennan Center provides a very comprehensive review of recent voter suppression efforts.

In his newsletter, Podhorzer highly recommends the new book by A-list political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler & Lynn Vavreck, Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America, which is the subject of a piece in Vox yesterday by Ezra Klein, “How identity politics elected Donald Trump: And how it explains the Republican Party’s 2018 strategy.”

John Sides et al also had an op-ed in yesterday’s NYT, “It’s not easy to predict how immigration will affect the midterms.” The lede: “Trump’s unrelenting focus on migrants may prove ineffective because voters have already sorted themselves out along partisan lines.”

Regardless of what happens today, this is, as The New Republic’s Alex Shephard informs us, “[a] hopeless election: No matter the outcome…American politics will only get worse.”

Shephard concludes his depressing commentary with this: “What happens in 2020 is anyone’s guess, but the final scene of Reservoir Dogs comes to mind.” Here is that final scene.

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All I know is what I read in the papers and at FiveThirtyEight.com, which is that the Democrats should win the House (87.6% probability, dixit Nate Silver & Co) but not the Senate (a mere 19% chance for the Dems, d’après 538; though I will personally not be surprised if Beto O’Rourke pulls off a stunning upset against the unspeakable Ted Cruz). I’ve been optimistic all along for the Democrats: given Trump’s unpopularity, the succession of special election victories—or narrow losses in heavily red CDs—since the wanker was inaugurated and with impressive candidates, the unprecedented mobilization of the resistance, and the simple fact that there are more of “us” then there are of “them,” it has stood to reason that the Dems would make substantial gains this November 6th. Also, the consequences of Trump keeping his congressional majority for another two years have simply been too hideous to contemplate—not to mention what lessons he and the Republicans would draw from a Democratic Party midterm failure, and how this would impact their future action. The disaster of another two years of what we’ve been living through these past two necessitates no elaboration.

But like just about everyone, I’m nervous, if not anxious, about tomorrow. Though it is unlikely that we’ll lose, it is not totally out of the question. These are midterm elections, after all, so turnout is a big question mark (and despite the impressive early voting numbers). And even if Dem voters—including younger ones—turn out in unprecedented numbers, gerrymandering and other distortions in representation, could dilute the surge, e.g. the Dems rolling up majorities à la soviétique in CDs like the NY 14th but falling short in, say, the IL 6th and other toss-ups. To this, one may add egregious voter suppression in states with critical races (e.g. GA, ND, TNTX, WI)

Then there’s Trump’s barnstorming across the heartland, whipping up his deplorable cult voters—a granite-solid quarter to a third of the electorate, plus fellow travelers—with a level of demagoguery and rank racism the likes of which we have never witnessed from an American president. Trump is going the full fascist, and his base loves it. In an (uninteresting, uninsightful) op-ed in today’s NYT, contributing opinion writer Christopher Buskirk—who is editor and publisher of the pro-Trump journal American Greatness, and thus what passes for a Trumpian intellectual, which has to be the sole reason the NYT has engaged him, as it’s not clear what else he brings to the table—argued that the Democrats—whom he unsurprisingly predicts will be sorely disappointed by tomorrow’s outcome—committed a strategic error with their “failed character assassination” of Brett Kavanaugh, as this, among other things, both enraged and energized Republican Party voters.

I’ve heard this from progressive friends as well, who think the Dems blew it during the Kavanaugh hearings. Now it is incontestable that at least some pro-Trump voters were roused from their torpor by Kavanaugh’s counter-attack against Christine Blasey Ford. And there is no doubt that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee did not handle the situation well, as they could have gone after Kavanaugh much more forcefully than they did. But when Blasey Ford’s account inevitably came to light in the course of the summer, it was inevitable that she would testify before the committee once she agreed to do so. And so she did—and many, myself included, found her convincing, though others did not—and which enabled Kavanaugh—who, one may surmise, received free advice from the Republican Party’s top political professionals—to go on the offensive and whip up the Trump base. His strategy could not have been anticipated—and, in any case, it was not—the thing took the course that it did, and it is not apparent what the Democrats could have done otherwise.

Some recommended articles I’ve read over the past few days:

Jonathan Chait in New York magazine, “However the midterms go, the Republican Party is going to get more extreme.”

Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast, “This Republican campaign is the most racist, dishonest ever.” The lede: “Republicans used to be able to pretend that racism was tangential to their electoral success. With this campaign, those days are long gone.”

David Roberts in Vox, “The caravan ‘invasion’ and America’s epistemic crisis: The far right’s xenophobic fantasies now involve the actual US military.”

Joshua Zeitz in Politico Magazine, “Democrats aren’t moving left. They’re returning to their roots.” The lede: “Many on both sides are worried about the party’s leftward swing. They say it’s a deviation from the mainstream. It’s not.”

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Credit: FT

Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil has won his expected landslide victory, Trump is ratcheting up the demagoguery to levels unseen in history by an American president, hard Brexiteers are determined to take the UK over the cliff, Matteo Salvini is topping the polls in Italy, Emmanuel Macron in France is blowing it big time but with no alternative on the horizon who would not be much worse than he, Angela Merkel is on her way out and who knows what will follow, Viktor Orbán and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will rule their respective countries for the rest of their natural lives if they so wish, et j’en passe. Ça va de mal en pis. We are not living in good times.

In this vein, I cannot recommend highly enough Anne Applebaum’s sobering essay in the October issue of The Atlantic (which went online in mid-September), “A warning from Europe: the worst is yet to come.” The lede: “Polarization. Conspiracy theories. Attacks on the free press. An obsession with loyalty. Recent events in the United States follow a pattern Europeans know all too well.” This is one of the most important pieces I’ve read over the past several months. If you haven’t read it, please do so. Now.

To this must be added the essay by Christopher Browning—the Frank Porter Graham ­Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—in the October 25th issue of The New York Review of Books, “The suffocation of democracy.” Browning begins:

As a historian specializing in the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and Europe in the era of the world wars, I have been repeatedly asked about the degree to which the current situation in the United States resembles the interwar period and the rise of fascism in Europe. I would note several troubling similarities and one important but equally troubling difference.

And then there’s the reflection by Thomas Meaney—visiting fellow at the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna—in the New Statesman (September 12th), “The dark European stain: how the far right rose again.” The lede: “Faced with Trump and populist nationalism, liberals are quick to proclaim the return of fascism. But other disturbing historical echoes are going unnoticed.”

I have more but will leave it there for now. Bonne lecture 😦

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[update below]

Continuing from yesterday’s post, the question is what should Democrats do now, now that the far right-wing Republican Party has a lock on the SCOTUS for years to come, until one of the five majority justices drops dead—and assuming that happens when the Democrats control the White House and Senate (and that Trump hasn’t had the opportunity to add a sixth or even seventh hard-right justice in the meantime). An ultra-conservative SCOTUS majority has been a specter that all Democrats and progressives—myself included—have dreaded, and now it’s reality.

The principal focus has been on Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, of these being repealed, which would of course be terrible, though perhaps not as calamitous as one may fear, as abortions are already difficult-to-impossible to obtain in many red states but will remain legal in blue states (and maybe some red as well) in the absence of Roe. The real danger is in further gutting the Voting Rights Act, upholding extreme partisan gerrymandering, striking down remaining campaign finance laws, and, above all, turning the clock back to the Lochner era in economic legislation and collective bargaining—thus rendering unconstitutional legislation passed by a future Democratic congress and signed by a Democratic president. The specter of this is truly nightmarish.

But I am not in a state of despair or depressed. Not that I’m serene: Kavanaugh’s confirmation is indeed a dark day in American history, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not over for the Democrats—provided, of course, that they win elections, beginning next month and continuing in 2020. The Dems do have options. For starters, the Kavanaugh confirmation, so Matthew Yglesias submitted in Vox three days ago, “will delegitimize the Supreme Court — and that’s a good thing,” continuing that “it’s time America woke up to the radical right that’s run the Court for years.” In a similar vein, Paul Starr of The American Prospect wrote:

…Democrats should [certainly not] have ducked this fight. There’s no way to win in politics or in anything else if you give up in advance. And the Kavanaugh battle may bring about one good result, though it’s nothing to cheer about.

Many Americans have an out-of-date view of the Supreme Court as a bulwark of liberalism. In fact, Republican presidents have made 15 out of the last 19 Supreme Court appointments, and the rulings of the most recently appointed justices have increasingly followed partisan lines. The decisions about same-sex marriage and a few other highly publicized cases have even misled many liberals and progressives into thinking the Court is more liberal than it is. Now that Kavanaugh is replacing Anthony Kennedy, they should be disabused of that illusion.

John Judis drove the point home in a spot-on column today in TPM, “What needs to be done in the wake of Kavanaugh’s confirmation,” which begins:

In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation as a Supreme Court justice, several liberals have argued that if the Democrats win a majority again in the White House and Congress, they should consider packing the court and even limiting the tenure of court justices. I agree with these proposals by Paul Starr in The American Prospect and Barry Friedman in The New York Times. But the court’s role as a reactionary institution – one that desperately needs reform – began before Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The court became a reactionary institution – one that has subverted rather than protected American democracy – when it began in 1976 its series of campaign finance rulings. These rulings – from Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 through Citizens United v. FEC in 2010 – have removed any restraint first on candidate spending in campaigns and then on individual and corporate donations to candidates and parties. The result has been that the underlying premise of political democracy – that political equality would trump (sorry to use that word) economic inequality — no longer prevails. Instead, economic inequality subverts political equality by giving the wealthy and economically powerful a greater say in our elections.

And further down, Judis concludes:

There are two conclusions I’d draw from this. First, the problems with the court didn’t start with Kavanaugh this week or even Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. They started in 1976. Secondly, if liberals have any dreams of moving American beyond the New Deal toward a genuine social democracy, they need to find a way to overturn the spate of campaign finance rulings from the court and reinstitute a genuinely democratic reading of the first amendment in their place. If it takes packing (or threatening to pack the court, as Franklin Roosevelt did), that’s fine. It’s within the bounds of the Constitution.

Packing the Court. The idea is in vogue among Dems, as it needs to be. When they’re back in the saddle in 2021 inshallah, they should add two new SCOTUS justices—just do it—and then propose a deal with the Republicans, that they will not add any more if the Repubs agree to a constitutional amendment—though a simple law on this may constitutionally suffice—mandating fixed terms for SCOTUS and all other federal judges. A single 18-year term is being bandied about by most who’ve expressed a view on the question, though I would go for a 12-year renewable. On the matter of SCOTUS term limits, I wrote about this myself some seven years ago. It was not de l’actualité back then but sure is now. Its time has come.

Failing court packing, a Democratic president and Congress could simply decide to go nuclear and ignore SCOTUS rulings—just tell the Court to f*** off and proceed to implement legislation Kavanaugh & Co had ruled unconstitutional—as Slate’s excellent reporter on courts and the law, Mark Joseph Stern, has spelled out. The Democrats would be provoking a major constitutional crisis but with the Court acting as a brazen partisan body and thus illegitimate in the eyes of at least half the American population, what choice would the Dems have short of packing? Charles M. Blow’s NYT column yesterday was aptly entitled, “Liberals, this is war.” Indeed. It is a war launched by the Republicans. On this, there can be no dispute or doubt. And if war is what they want, then war is what they’ll get.

À suivre.

UPDATE: On lifetime terms for SCOTUS and federal judges, author/writer Lawrence Goldstone says in TNR (October 9th) that “The text of the Constitution says no such thing.” A simple law passed by Congress would suffice to set fixed terms.

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[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below] [6th update below]

It’s been a foregone conclusion for days. I had some hope when Jeff Flake pulled his Friday the 28th delaying act that the FBI investigation would turn up something to give him and Susan Collins cover to vote no on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. How naïve of me. Given the white-hot rage of the Republican Party base—which hardly needs Trump to channel that rage—there was not a snowball’s chance in hell that Kavanaugh would be rejected, even if the FBI investigation had not been the farce that it was.

On Kavanaugh’s unfitness for the SCOTUS, James Fallows summed it up well:

previously argued that, entirely apart from the allegations of sexual  misbehavior, Kavanaugh had proved himself the wrong person, in three ways:

  • His explosive, angry, non-judicious temperament;
  • His openly embraced partisan outlook;
  • His record of demonstrable equivocations, evasions, and outright lies under oath. (Again, beyond discussions of Deborah Ramirez or Christine Blasey Ford.)

That I, personally, think this doesn’t matter. But it is significant that:

  • 2,400 law professors do;
  • As does a former dean of Kavanaugh’s oft-mentioned alma mater, the Yale Law School (“For as long as Kavanaugh sits on the court, he will remain a symbol of partisan anger, a haunting reminder that behind the smiling face of judicial benevolence lies the force of an urgent will to power”);
  • As does a former Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens;
  • As does The Washington Post’s editorial page, which had supported every Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork, including Clarence Thomas;
  • As does Ben Wittes, a close friend of Kavanaugh’s, who had supported him before the hearings;
  • As, implicitly, does Kavanaugh’s champion, current White House counsel Don McGahn, who according to The New York Times said that an extended investigation of Kavanaugh could be “potentially disastrous” for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
  • And as do many people who have known him through his life.

A sample from the Post’s editorial:

Finally, Mr. Kavanaugh raised questions about his candor that, while each on its own is not disqualifying, are worrying in the context of his demand that Ms. Ford and his other accusers be dismissed and disbelieved. These include his role in the nomination of controversial judge Charles Pickering while working for Mr. Bush, his knowledge of the origin of materials stolen from Democratic Senate staff between 2001 and 2003, and his lawyerly obfuscations about his high school and college years….

And what of Mr. Kavanaugh’s political philosophy?… We would not have opposed Mr. Kavanaugh on that basis, just as we did not think GOP senators should have voted against Sonia Sotomayor because they did not like her views. Rather, the reason not to vote for Mr. Kavanaugh is that senators have not been given sufficient information to consider him — and that he has given them ample evidence to believe he is unsuited for the job. The country deserves better.

And from the Politico essay by Robert Post, former dean of Yale Law School:

Each and every Republican who votes for Kavanaugh, therefore, effectively announces that they care more about controlling the Supreme Court than they do about the legitimacy of the court itself. There will be hell to pay …

Judge Kavanaugh cannot have it both ways. He cannot gain confirmation by unleashing partisan fury while simultaneously claiming that he possesses a judicial and impartial temperament.

I watched today on YouTube the complete September 27th questioning, sans interruptions, of Christine Blasey Ford by prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, whose skirt the GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee hid behind. I found Dr. Blasey Ford to be composed and entirely convincing in her replies to Mitchell’s questions, as I did with her testimony on the 27th. The woman is highly intelligent, professionally accomplished, happily married and with a normal life—until proof to the contrary—and sans histoires; she has no reason whatever to be making things up. But the conservative pundit Michael Brendan Dougherty—whom I have found interesting and worth reading in the past—thought the uninterrupted video to be “pretty devastating”—toward Dr. Blasey Ford—as he submitted on Twitter, where he has asserted that he doesn’t believe her testimony, though without explaining why. This is crazy to me, as I simply cannot comprehend how one could think her befuddled, delusional, or an outright liar. But then, a conservative-leaning Never Trumper friend—and who happened to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination—nonetheless told me the other day that not only was she not convinced by Blasey Ford’s testimony but opined that the good doctor may be “mentally ill”… Huh? WTF? Ça va pas, non?

Maybe there is something to the hypothesis that conservative and liberal brains may be wired differently

Timothy Don, an art editor at Lapham’s Quarterly, writes in The Nation (October 5th) that “I went to Georgetown Prep and knew Mark Judge—and I believe Christine Blasey Ford: There’s no question in my mind that she’s telling the truth.”

If one missed it, psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman—who is also a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College—had an NYT op-ed on September 19th on “Why sexual assault memories stick.” The lede: “Christine Blasey Ford says she has a vivid memory of an attack that took place when she was 15. That makes sense.”

To this, one may add the piece (October 5th) by The Cut’s senior health writer Katie Heaney, “Almost no one is falsely accused of rape.”

One perhaps salutary effect of the Senate vote was to definitively put paid to lingering Democratic illusions about Susan Collins, whose bad faith speech in support of Kavanaugh was, so Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern writes (October 5th), “an insult to Americans’ intelligence.”

To Collins’s action, one may contrast North Dakota Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp’s ‘no’ vote, which was an admirable act of political courage in view of her tough reelection fight in that deep red state. Also worth reading is the statement by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

One thing is for sure, though, which is that the “Democrats could’ve exposed Kavanaugh’s dodges and deceptions” when he appeared before the Judiciary Committee, but “they blew it,” as Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley and Mark Joseph Stern explained at the time. The next time around, the Senate Dems will be well advised not to recidivate.

I have more to say on the subject. À demain.

UPDATE: Following up on Christine Blasey Ford having no reason to recount falsehoods or delusions to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Newsweek reports (October 8th) that she and her family cannot return to their home in California

due to the “unending” death threats she is receiving, according to her lawyer Debra Katz. Ford and her family are getting a continuous stream of death threats, and it may be “quite some time” before they are able to return home, said Katz.

Brett Kavanaugh said during his lachrymose Senate testimony that he had likewise received death threats, but there have been no reports that he and his family have had to relocate and cannot return to their home in Chevy Chase, or wherever they live.

There are death threats, and then there are death threats.

Seriously, anyone who thinks that Dr. Blasey Ford, given what she and her family are going through, is making shit up and seeking to deceive the nation, needs to have his or her head examined.

2nd UPDATE: The very smart and insightful Jamie Mayerfeld, who teaches political science at the University of Washington, posted this comment on Facebook (October 8th), which is well worth the read:

What can memory research tell us about Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh? Below I post two articles that address this question. (1) Benedict Carey and Jan Hoffman, “They Say Sexual Assault, Kavanaugh Says It Never Happened: Sifting Truth From Memory,” New York Times, September 25, 2018. (2) Avi Selk, “The junk science Republicans used to undermine Ford and help save Kavanaugh,” Washington Post, October 7, 2018

A few points made in the articles: Research indicates that during traumatic experiences such as assault the brain releases chemicals (including norepinephrine) that accurately sear certain details into the memory. Research also shows that in other contexts human memory is malleable, and people can form false memories. (Which bears emphasis, because our memories insist on their own truth!) Memories about traumatic events are less reliable if they are formed years later, and sometimes people, especially children, can be coached into forming false memories by relatives, professionals, and others. Therapy sessions sometimes induce false memories. The Innocence Project has charted the ways in which witnesses, including rape victims, can be led by police and prosecutors to misidentify perpetrators who are not previously known to them. See this webpage, including the powerful video. Elizabeth Loftus’s book “Eyewitness Testimony” (which I have not read) is a much-cited source. During the “sex panics” of the 1980s and early 1990s, when recovered memories were in vogue, Loftus and others argued that recovered memories were often false. I agree with this. There were some terrible cases of people being convicted on the basis of recovered memories that proved not to be true.

Having spent some time thinking about Ford’s allegations (I watched her Senate testimony twice), I am convinced that they are true. It’s clear that Ford’s memories of having been assaulted by Kavanaugh were present from the start, not formed later. The key moments are remembered vividly, as scientific research on trauma and memory would lead us to expect. Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge were not strangers to Ford, but people she knew. What we know of their behavior at the time lends credibility to Ford’s charges. Kavanaugh lied under oath to create a less incriminating picture of his youthful behavior, and he resisted a genuine investigation into Ford’s allegations. I think it is outrageous for Susan Collins to say that she believes Ford was assaulted but that Ford has misidentified her attacker. The evidence simply doesn’t support this view.

3rd UPDATE: Patti Davis—daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan—has an open letter (October 8th) in The Washington Post, “Dear Christine Blasey Ford: What a difference you made.”

4th UPDATE: Writer-journalist Lionel Shriver (who’s a she, and identifies as a libertarian) has a comment (October 13th) in The Spectator, “Why Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony didn’t make me cry,” that is worth reading and discussing.

5th UPDATE: Lara Bazelon and Jennifer Thompson, writing in Slate (October 17th), put paid to the contention that Christine Blasely Ford erred in fingering Brett Kavanaugh as her aggressor on that summer day in 1982: “Christine Blasey Ford’s memory of her assault isn’t a case of mistaken identity.” The lede: “It’s a convenient theory that allows us to believe both the accused and the accuser, but it undermines everything we know about mistaken identity in cases of sexual assault.” This is an important piece. Do read it.

6th UPDATE: Judi Hershman, a strategic communications coach and lifelong Republican (who was close to Kenneth Starr), has a piece in Slate dated November 5th—which should have been published three or four weeks earlier—entitled “I’ll never forget Brett Kavanaugh’s anger.” The lede: “I saw a frightening side of him in 1998. I saw it again at the Christine Blasey Ford hearing 20 years later.” And it prompted her to go to North Dakota to work on Heidi Heitkamp’s reelection campaign. Well worth reading (even if it changes nothing at this point).

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[update below] [2nd update below]

I was riveted this afternoon (CEST), along with several tens of millions of Americans—probably more—to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her opening statement was, to put it mildly, powerful. Many millions—principally women but not only—were in tears. Several people I follow on Twitter had read the statement beforehand—as it was released yesterday and published on various websites—but said that hearing her deliver it was something else altogether—as with any public speech or debate, which should be listened to and viewed, not read in transcript. Dr. Blasey Ford was, needless to say, utterly convincing. There is no reason whatever not to believe her account of the encounter with Brett Kavanaugh.

On the subject, my friend Adria Zeldin—a retired attorney in the Washington DC area, whom I’ve known for some 42 years—has sent me a letter she wrote to Dr. Blasey Ford, dated September 24th, recounting her own experience with sexual assault. As Adria invited me to post it on AWAV, le voici:

Dear Dr. Blasey Ford,

I believe you and completely understand why you chose not to report the sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh. When I was in college, I was raped, in 1974, when I was 19 years old. A man raped me, a townie, who knew he could wander onto campus in a small town in Ohio, find his victim, and be fairly sure that nothing would ever happen to him.  I reported the assault to the police but got no justice. The rapist was never caught. There was no arrest and no trial. I was accused of lying by insensitive medical personnel at the hospital. The school administration did nothing to support or help me. So what good did it do for me to report the crime? I was basically left to deal with the trauma on my own as a 19-year-old. I completely understand why a woman would not report such a crime. Sadly, our society was and still is not set up to support or believe women who come forward.

The culture of women’s politics in the 1970s, when I was in college, was such that we did a lot of consciousness raising among ourselves and at the women’s center on campus, but had very little support or understanding from the college administration. This was before the passage of Title IX and the existence of Title IX or sexual harassment training on campuses. I was young and politically idealistic and felt I had my whole life ahead of me. I tried to forget about the trauma and go on with my life.

Over the many years, I experienced symptoms of PTSD whenever the subject of rape came up whether in conversation, in news stories, or with depictions of rape in movies and books. However, in 2016, I truly felt retraumatized and revictimized. First it was the stories of so many women who accused Bill Cosby of rape.  Then the trial of Brock Turner in California and Judge Persky’s shamefully lenient sentence. The moving statement of the rape survivor in that case, read to the courtroom and circulated online, brought so many tears to my eyes. I read her powerful statement over and over and cried so hard. Certainly, this would help me heal and be cathartic. But then the 2016 presidential campaign took an ugly turn with statements about women and their bodies, about women being abused and ridiculed by a male candidate. The revelation of his statements bragging about sexual assault made me angry but also traumatized me once again.

On November 9, 2016, I woke up to learn that this man, who bragged to the nation about sexual assault, was going to be our president, I cried on and off for days. How could this happen? I felt like I was in a nightmare and that I would soon wake up and it would all have been a bad dream.

I am an attorney and live in the Washington DC area. Like your attorneys, Ms. Katz and Ms. Banks, I practiced employment and labor law for many years.  I worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, for 18 years and was there during the time Clarence Thomas was the Chair and in 1991 when he was nominated to the Supreme Court. The hearings and testimony of Anita Hill divided the staff at the EEOC.  I and other staff attorneys at the EEOC put together a petition to support Anita Hill. In response, other women went to the Hill to testify in support of Thomas. I saw how Anita Hill was treated during her testimony by the all-male members of the Judiciary Committee. What a shameful display of misogyny that was! She was treated with hostility, was belittled, and was not believed. Today, in 2018, with the #MeToo movement, I certainly hope we will not see a repeat of that behavior with respect to your treatment during your testimony and the treatment of anyone else who comes forward with allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, or assault by Kavanaugh. You deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I certainly hope that the members of the Judiciary Committee know that their political futures will be in question if they exhibit a repeat performance of the treatment of Anita Hill during her testimony in 1991.

I would be downtown with all the women demonstrating their support for you, however, my chronic migraines make it very hard for me to even leave the house some days. At 63, I am now retired and try to spend my time practicing yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi. I try to engage in other activities that are good for my soul; being in nature and birding, as much as I can. And I go on living because I must for all the survivors and for those who have not survived as victims of sexual assault. I go on living for all the young women in college and older women who have survived. I go on living.

I want you to know that in 1991, I believed Anita Hill and I still believe her! I believe you and I applaud your strength in coming forward to testify! Thank you for your courage. You are an inspiration to all women!

In solidarity,

Adria S. Zeldin

After an hour of Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony, I was convinced that Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination was dead in the water, that he was toast. But in watching his riposte en différé, with his righteous indignation and choking up and all, I’m now less sure. The Republicans are determined to put him on the Supreme Court hell or high water, and he is utterly determined not to be deprived of it. And the GOP/Trump base will naturally swallow his larmoyant mise en scène hook, line, and sinker—which it surely already has as I write.

The decision in this grotesque farce of a confirmation process will all come down to three GOP senators: Collins, Flake, and Murkowski. I’m not confident, as the pressure on them will be intense (an understatement), with the specter of social ostracism, physical assault in the public square, death threats, and you name it if they defect. Whatever their personal convictions, I doubt they’ll do it.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the legitimacy of the SCOTUS will be fatally undermined, ça va de soi, leaving the Democrats with no choice, once they regain the White House and Senate, of adding at least two Supreme Court justices, a.k.a. packing the court. On n’en est pas là, mais on y sera tôt ou tard.

À suivre.

UPDATE: Jamie Mayerfeld, who teaches political theory at the University of Washington, has posted the following on his Facebook page, which he says is by a Facebook friend of his—manifestly well-informed—who does not wish to be identified. It is well worth reading:

Christine Blasey Ford told the truth about Donald’s Trump’s Supreme Court judge nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Everything was credible about her testimony. Everyone believed everything about her testimony, except the discredited notion that she ID’d the wrong guy. Which has been discredited if you keep reading.

Judge Kavanaugh lied and lied. Not only should he be defeated for the Supreme Court nomination, but he should be impeached from the bench. I have counted at least 30 lies. Her? Zero lies. Unlike her, almost everything he says strains credulity.

The American Bar Association, which strongly endorsed Kavanaugh, tonight called for a delay in the proceedings and a full investigation, effectively suspending its endorsement.

Here are some of the major lies that Kavanaugh has told:

1. He lied about Devil’s Triangle. A Devil’s Triangle is two different kinds of sexual acts, involving either a threesome, or three types of sexual intercourse with one woman in one night. It is not a drinking game. He lied about this several times and his classmates have called him out.

2. He lied about “bouf,” which refers to anal intercourse, and not flatulence. He doubled down on this lie several times during testimony.

3. He lied about “Renata Alumnius.” That referred to him going on a date with the purported class “slut.” It was not about being her friend (and she recently said she was horrified by his yearbook references.) His testimony directly contradicts a poem about Renata written by one of his close friends found in the same yearbook he refers to himself as a Renata Alumnius, portraying Renata as a cheap and sleazy date.

4. He lied that the “Beach Week Ralph Club,” which refers to vomiting from drinking at a traditional beach week (which all the schools around here have–we all know the expression). He lied and said it referred to his weak stomach.

5. He lied under oath about not watching Ford’s testimony. Today. Witnesses saw him watching it. The Wall Street Journal reported he was watching it with others in the Senate’s Dirksen Office Building. There are many press stories on this.

6. He lied about not knowing about stolen emails from the Democratic members of the judicial committee. He knew the emails were stolen and confirmed it in the emails the Judicial Committee republicans tried to suppress. The Washington Post gave him three pinocchios for this lie.

7. He lied that he did not work on Bush judicial nominations. The email record proves he did.

8. He lied that he did not work on controversial Bush policies, such as torture. His emails prove he did.

9. He lied about witnesses supporting his claims. They did not support his claims as he characterized their testimony. They generally supplied brief statements through lawyers about not remembering the party. This was no testimony. This was no independent investigation.

10. More specifically, Ford and Kavanaugh’s mutual friend Leland Kaiser says while she does not remember that party, but she believes everything her friend Ford said about it. She has stated this to the press and it came up in testimony today.

11. He lied again and again that his friends signed statements “under penalty of felony.” As a judge, he knows that “penalty of felony” does not exist as a legal concept. Perjury does, but he purposefully didn’t use the word many times because he knows that that is the true legal concept and standard and didn’t want to use a word to describe what they were actually doing, potentially perjuring themselves.

12. Kavanugh lied about his drinking. He drank a lot in the last year of high school and college (and several witnesses say he drank a lot for years afterwards). Several friends of mine who specialize in alcoholism said he exhibited signs of having drunk before this hearing. He was referred to by his college roommate as a sloppy and belligerent drunk. We saw glimpses of that belligerence today. Dozens of his contemporaries have confirmed how aggressive he becomes with drinking.

13. He lied that never drunk on weekdays in the summer of 1982. In his own calendar, he referred to “skis,” which he admitted refer to “brewskis,” with Mark and PJ on Thursday July 1 in a calendar entry that matches closely Ford’s account. Most of the people in that list were the same mentioned by Ford in her testimony. He drank. On that Thursday night. After working out.

14. He lied about Judge not remembering what happened. Six weeks after the incident, probably mid-August 1982, Ford reported seeing Judge at the Potomac Safeway in River Road near where we live. Local newspapers have confirmed that Judge worked there at the time Ford said. No one has refuted her testimony that Judge was “nervous” and had “turned white.” The committee is still refusing to interview or depose or subpoena Judge.

15. He lied that he and Ford did not “run in the same social circles.” They did, and many of their friends were mutual, including the person that introduce Kavanaugh’s best friend Judge to Ford.

16. He lied that “100 kegs or bust” did not indicate a lot of drinking in 1982-3. He was part of a group endeavoring to drink 100 kegs that year, and his best friend became a serious alcoholic and admitted to sexual assault resembling this assault during that period to his girlfriend. His girlfriend was also not deposed by the committee.

17. He lied about Trump in the first line of his first press conference as nominee. He lied about Trump doing more vetting than for any other Supreme Court nominee in modern history. In fact, Trump vetted much much less than other modern President’s, admittedly working from short lists provided by two conservative think tanks, which he announced in advance he would limit his choice to. Several books have confirmed that Trump spent little time on the vetting.

18. He lied that he is “open to any investigation.” He is not and is actively participating in blocking the testimony of eye witness Mark Judge, his girlfiend, and other participants. Judge is hiding out in a beach house on the eastern shore and Judge being interviewed by the FBI. Kavanaugh is actively involved in strategizing about evidence suppression, at all day strategy meetings with Trump’s lawyers.

19. He lied about the nature of Mark’s book. He said that both it was part of his therapy and coming clean as an alcoholic and drug addict, and called the book “fictional.” It can’t be both a testimonial of a recovering alcoholic and fictional at the same time.

20. He refuses to answer the question again and again about whether or not there should be an investigation and whether or not his friend Mark Judge should be questioned, further belying that he is “open to investigation.”

21. He is lying about whether he was the “Bart O’Kavanaugh” in Mark Judge’s book. He knows the drunken and vomiting “O’Kavanaugh” is him.

22. He is lying about never having forgot anything about the night after a night of drinking. There are several testimonials from classmates to this effect.

23. He is lying that there is a conspiracy against him and that Ford’s charges are trumped up and part of that conspiracy. The best evidence of no conspiracy is how his high school classmate Gorsuch–they were one year about apart at Georgetown Prep–was subject to no such conspiracy, in confirmation hearings just months ago. Gorsuch is honorable. Kavanaugh is lying.

24. Kavanaugh supporter Whelan helped concoct the story of other men taking credit for assaulting Ford. Whelan has deleted all of his tweets after being challenged on the completely bogus stories he was advancing by his colleagues. The dissembling tweets are gone.

Senator Blumenthal quoted the legal principle “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which is a legal principle that dictates jurors can rule a witness to be false in everything if he says one thing that is not true.”

If you believe any of the above is correct, you have to come to the conclusion that Kavanaugh is lying and should not be confirmed.

This is not “he said, she said.” This is “she said, he shouted and dissembled and prevented his friend from testifying.” Such testimony is the norm in American politics. Until now.

Kavanaugh has disqualified himself as a seeker of truth who honors the law and acts honorably. He should not be on the Supreme Court, judging the veracity of others. He should not be a judge. Maybe a partisan lawyer, as he has been in past administrations, but not a Supreme Court Justice.

I have posted numerous analyses and commentaries on Twitter of the affair, which may be seen on the sidebar.

2nd UPDATE: A very clever person has put together a brilliant one-minute mashup of Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the movie Pulp Fiction. Watch it here.

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