Trump's Criticism of Ford's Testimony Made the Difference
Donald Trump can see over the horizon, and it made all the difference in the Kavanaugh nomination. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems the Kavanaugh nomination turned on two events. First, as I discussed here, Kavanaugh chose to fight. He wasn't going to quietly and gently absorb all of the false, outlandish accusations.
Trump's speech October 2 in Southaven, Mississippi, was the second event that drove Kavanaugh toward confirmation. Trump rehashed Christine Ford's testimony.
How did you get home? I don’t remember. How did you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don't know.
You'd hardly know it at the time how this helped Kavanaugh. Democrats and MSNBC pundits were outraged. NeverTrump Republicans were mortified. Even Republican senators critical to Kavanaugh's confirmation were critical of Trump.
The Washington Examiner's Robert Donachie adopted the language of the Democrats when he wrote — as many did — that Trump "mocked" Ford.
Trump wasn't mocking Ford, he was transcribing her.
It turns out Trump's transcription made the difference. He accomplished in 36 seconds what took Senator Susan Collins nearly an hour to do — shine a 100,000 megawatt spotlight on the failure of Ford to convince us that Brett Kavanaugh did anything to her.
The pearl clutching about Trump's speech among Republicans was misplaced. The Washington Post has a comprehensive examination of how Kavanaugh's confirmation was sealed, and Trump's 36 seconds made all the difference (emphasis added):
Establishment Republicans initially reacted with horror. But Trump’s 36-second off-script jeremiad proved a key turning point toward victory for the polarizing nominee, White House officials and Kavanaugh allies said, turbocharging momentum behind Kavanaugh just as his fate appeared most in doubt.
Tuesday evening in Southhaven, Miss., Trump laid into Ford with the ruthlessness of an attack dog and the pacing of a stand-up comedian. The crowd roared with laughter and applause. Aides privately crowed as footage of the performance was played and replayed many times over, shifting the national discussion from scrutiny of Kavanaugh’s honesty and drinking habits to doubts about Ford’s memory. And in Washington, Republican senators — though they condemned Trump’s mockery of Ford — felt emboldened to aggressively demand Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which became a near-certainty Friday and looks to become official with a vote Saturday.
Some will be slow to absorb this. The Woman is Always Right crowd probably never will. The ones in most need of schooling, however, are the establishment Republicans who are filled with animosity toward Trump and his tactics. Perhaps they should listen to Senator Richard Blumenthal, the hero of Helm's Deep. Again, the Washington Post.
The GOP’s hardball approach left Democrats shaken and defeated.
“They are succeeding because they have broken all the rules and norms,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “They adopted the strategy that the best defense is a good offense.”
Let me write that line again just because. The GOP's hardball approach left Democrats shaken and defeated. Hardball. Shaken. And most importantly, defeated.
This is also a lesson for those who have been uncomfortable with the new conservative media that doesn't publish thoughtful academic papers or 2,000-word ponderous pieces. Academic studies don't move the needle anymore. Hardball does. Andrew Breitbart understood this in 2011, and now we see why it matters.
If Kavanaugh had been nominated in an earlier time, he would have been jettisoned early in the fight. If not jettisoned early, he would have been jettisoned at any number of subsequent key moments. And we would never, ever, have seen a prior president go after the holes in Ford's testimony.
That's why Blumenthal and other Democrats are so shaken. The brawlers are replacing the scholars on the GOP side — fifty years after the Democrats made the same transition. Considering how much the Democrats were able to transform the country after transitioning toward fighters who play to win, it's no wonder they are so worried.
The NeverTrump GOP crowd reminds me of the generals always fighting the last war. Instead of anticipating future battlespaces, they remain attached to the more civilized warfare of line infantry, the primacy of the siege line, and the importance of limited air resources supporting ground troops instead of strategic bombing.
Sure, I get it, Donald Trump doesn't sound like George Bush. So many of you had such a memorable time during that presidency, when a very decent president rose above it all — the Easter egg rolls, fireworks on the Ellipse, and the Christmas decorations in the East Room. Times have changed, and the Left is seeking to forever transform the country using tactics that the Old Ways can't combat. We saw it these last three weeks. Trump understands it, and that's what produced his "remarkable week." Matthew Continetti puts it this way.
Trump has achieved all of these gains, in such disparate areas of policy, through totally unorthodox means. He brags, he intimidates, he pouts, he jokes, he insults, he is purposefully ambiguous, and he leaves no criticism unanswered. He is unlike any postwar American president, though he shares some qualities with LBJ and Reagan. He is frenetic and polarizing, a showboat and a salesman. His methods are over-the-top, combative, and divisive. In place of the politics of consensus he adopts the politics of confrontation. Where others mindlessly repeat politically correct clichés, Trump unequivocally challenges them. He has ushered in a new era of American politics by dissolving the varnish that for so long obscured fundamental cultural divisions between and within the parties. He is president of a country that is wilder, zanier, and more unpredictable than before. It is also stronger.
The redcoats found it distasteful that some South Carolina patriots were willing to shoot at them from behind trees in a swamp, but we all know who won that war.