Swing State Pres

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

BTRTN: Hey, Republicans! Doing the Right Thing with Kavanaugh is Also the Politically Shrewd Thing

Over time, Steve has discovered that he cannot persuade Republicans to change their minds by using tired old conventional devices like facts and logic. Today, he cleverly appeals directly to their base Machiavellian souls, arguing that in the case of Brett Kavanaugh, doing the right thing may also be the most politically advantageous thing.

A pattern has crept into recent BTRTN columns that may well gall our loyal readers. 

We have -- on a number of occasions—been giving Republican leaders truly excellent advice on how to navigate a number of tricky situations. Perhaps we are willing to risk aiding and abetting the opposition because we are secure in the knowledge that most Republicans would never read a progressive blog, and those who did would be sure ignore the good advice they would find.

Today, however, our motivation is different. We want Republicans to take our advice. Because the current national Hindenburg is a situation in which the most advantageous course of action for Republicans happens to also be the most morally and ethically sound solution. We don’t care if they do the right thing for the wrong reason… we just want to give them a reason to do the right thing.

The topic today is the tenuous status of Brett Kavanaugh as Donald Trump’s nominee to the United States Supreme Court.

With the emergence of a second woman who claims to have been the victim of sexual assault at the hands of the would-be Supreme Court Justice, we have experienced that profound transition from “he said, she said,” to “he said, they said.” That’s different. Republicans can no longer justify breezily dismissing the original allegation as the flawed recollection of a single “confused” individual. With Cosby, Weinstein, Moonves, and even Trump, it was the existence of multiple accusers that forced supporters to rethink their skepticism.

Still, however, Republican voices – starting with the President of the United States – continue to insist that there is no need for any type of investigation, and no need to delay or change the planned day of hearings with the first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, this Thursday.  The Republican powers-that-be continue to give Kavanaugh unqualified support, and many have already announced that they will continue to back him no matter what Dr. Ford has to offer. Senate Majority leader McConnell promised donors that Cavanaugh would soon be a Supreme Court Justice, even using the particularly distasteful and aggressive idiom that he intends to “plow right through” with the confirmation process. 

You can practically hear the chatter on the Republican bridge: “Iceberg at 12:00, Captain!” “Roger that! Set our course for full speed ahead!”

Hey, Republicans, if I promised you that I am about to give you the best possible game plan for managing every single angle of this slow-moving category five shit storm, will you please give it a quick read? Spoiler alert: the best possible super-Machiavellian strategy to achieve all of your cruel and manipulative goals is to do the right thing. But, hey, there’s no need for you to worry about suddenly behaving ethically. You can justify this entire strategy by simply invoking your usual blend of self-interest, misogyny, and disregard for fact. Your choice.

First, let’s identify the sticky wickets that Republicans are trying to navigate in the next three months.

We begin with a simple observation: how you Republicans handle the allegations against Kavanaugh is going to have a significant impact on the mid-term elections. Millions of women are watching closely to see whether you attempt to victim-shame Dr. Ford with the same unfeeling brutality you directed at Anita Hill. Knowing it is a waste of time to seek better angels where none reside, let me rather appeal to your cold practical calculation. With both the House and Senate in play, Kavanaugh is the battle, but not the war.

Next: Trump really wants Kavanaugh to be confirmed, not really because of his conservative bona fides, but because he is a hard-liner on the issue of executive authority. Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is added insulation protecting Trump from needing to answer a subpoena from Mueller. Sure, there are plenty of other conservative judges you could nominate, but Kavanaugh is the one that the Big Stupid Orange needs to park in the ninth chair. 

Given these two realities, the smartest thing that the Republicans could do right now is stop the process cold in its tracks, cancel Thursday’s hearing, and gracefully accede to the chorus of requests that the FBI to open investigations into the two sexual misconduct allegations that have now been aired against Kavanaugh.

Indeed, it would be smart to announce now that the investigations are likely to require two months to complete. This would set expectations that an adequate inquiry would not be completed until after the elections, but still well within the current Congress’s “lame duck” period. Here’s why this approach makes the most sense.

The most important objective that this would accomplish for the Republicans is to take this incendiary issue off the table until the mid-terms are over. 

It does not take a brilliant prognosticator to predict that Thursday is going to be world-class ugly-fest for every single participant.  Dr. Ford clearly understands that she is putting herself in the line of sight of the seasoned character assassins at Fox News and other conservative media outlets who see patriotic labor (and dollar signs) in a no-holds-barred assault on her integrity, character, and resume.

Those Republican Senators (or the outsourced inquisitors they may hire for the role) who grill Dr. Ford about her memory, credibility, motive, and life experiences are certain to be viewed by the me-too sisterhood as just one more fly-me-to-the-Moonves moment in the long history of old white guys forcing their version of the truth on a non-consenting female. 

And then we will hear the testimony of Judge Kavanaugh, who will seek to continue to project an earnest, wholesome, heartland sensibility as he has done throughout the hearings, a sort of Father Knows Best of Constitutional Law.  His denial will be emphatic, soulful, and may even involve an oath invoking the great Christian God almighty. Once that predictable theatre is over, Kavanaugh will be dragged by the committee Democrats through the slime of his entitled, inebriated, feckless preppie upbringing. Questions about the reliability of his memory after tequila shots will be alternated with a parade of “did you evers…” that will leave no stoner unturned. His options are limited: he can deny any serious youthful indiscretion and appear utterly disingenuous, or he can acknowledge a certain amount of irresponsible teenage behavior and watch the Democrats use it to crush the reliability of his memory of periods when under the influence. Hobson offered a better choice. 

By Thursday evening we will all want to compulsively do the laundry, run the dishwasher, floss our teeth, take showers, Swiffer the tv room, and vacuum the den on the desperate hope that we can out the damned spot on our nation’s conscience. 

And then the cable news video loops will begin. Over, and over, and over… for six weeks, until midterm election day.

No, Republicans, you actually don’t want that. 

Continuing to try to ram Kavanaugh through just isn’t worth it. It is not worth watching the generic ballot slide inexorably further toward the Democrats while you stand by your preppie miscreant. 

I get that you don’t want to admit defeat and have him withdraw his name. That would only inflame the crazies in your base who can’t stand any show of weakness. We understand that you can’t afford to alienate a single one of those voters when your party is in peril of losing your grip on Congress. 

Moreover, we all know Trump really wants Kavanaugh. And if you tried to start the entire process all over with a new nominee, it is possible that the entire process of vetting, hearings, and confirmation would not happen until a new -- and possibly Democratic -- Senate convenes in 2019.

So explain your new strategy. Explain that you are stopping the process and asking for an FBI investigation because that is the only way that you can forever clear your fine boy’s reputation. Explain to them you expect that the FBI will find that young Brett was clean as a whistle. Explain to them that if the FBI does indeed exonerate him, you will confirm his appointment in the lame duck session of Congress that will take place from election day until the new Congress is sworn in... when you are certain to still hold your Senate majority. Explain that if the FBI finds no evidence of wrongdoing, it would be extremely hard for Murkowski, Flake, Collins, and even some Democrats to withhold support for Kavanaugh. You will have the votes you need. Donald Trump will get the Supreme Court Justice he wants. 

Admit it: it is a better game plan to get to your goal than the one you are pursuing right now.

And if the FBI finds a problem with Kavanaugh? You have to admit this, too: it’s better that you know that now rather than watch Ronan Farrow impale him on a Harvey Weinstein shish-kabob skewer six months after his appointment. Because if that happened, and Kavanaugh resigns under the threat of impeachment for lying during his testimony, the Democrats – who may control the Senate at that point – would certainly opt for your famous Merrick Garland rope-a-dope and refuse to let Trump appoint anyone until after the 2020 election. Ouch. Say good bye to your dreams of a century of conservative dominance of the Supreme Court .

Admit it, Republicans, where there’s smoke, sooner or later somebody gets fired. And it's time to see the forest fire for the trees.

The second accuser gives you your moment. Don’t squander it. Make the announcement on Wednesday: no hearings, no further testimony, no vote, no nothing until after election day. Put the mess back in the jar until it is no longer toxic to your election hopes.

But, hey, Republicans, my plan gets even better! 

Once you’ve made your big decision, you can market it.

You can go pimp this up and get all pompous and pretend that you are requesting an investigation because you sincerely want to find out the truth. I promise this to all of you old white men on the Senate Judiciary Committee: telling voters that you are actually interested in the truth will suddenly make you all burning hunks of octogenarian man-meat. How can I say this so that you will be motivated to heed my advice? How’s this: chicks will dig it, man. They will think you are really like totes smokin’ hot it if you actually appear to be interested in the truth. You don’t even have to honestly care about finding the truth … just tell yourself that you are just doing it to impress girls. Girls who vote. Does that make it more palatable to you?

Hey, Senate Republicans, listen to me. I don’t care if you do the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

Just do the right thing.

Get the White House to call the  FBI. 

Get the investigation going.

Perhaps we will all learn something.

Best of all, it will help ensure that we never confirm a Supreme Court Justice who we might later learn is as scummy, despicable, and misogynist as, uh… the President of the United States. 


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