“Debating the Trump Presidency” with Charles Kesler and Jonah Goldberg

“Debating the Trump Presidency” with

Public debate took place on October 12, 2018, at the University of Notre Dame.

Presented by the Constitutional Studies and Tocqueville Programs at Notre Dame and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

 

 

Here Are The Ways Christine Blasey Ford’s Story Is Being Dismissed

Conservatives are coming up with conspiracy theories about Ford and saying her allegations are just too old to investigate.

Well, Kavanaugh Didn’t Sexually Assault Every Woman

.. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee released a letter signed by 65 women who said they knew Kavanaugh in high school and could vouch for his “decency.” Two women who said they dated Kavanaugh also released statements Monday saying that they knew him as a good guy.

Bringing out women who didn’t experience any sexual misconduct to vouch for the character of a man is a common tactic. It happened during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearing and when then–Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes was under fire. But just because a man didn’t mistreat all women doesn’t mean he didn’t mistreat one woman.

If It Could Happen To Kavanaugh, It Could Happen To Any Man

If it could happen to him, Joe from your office could be next. Maybe Ray, the friendly guy who bags your groceries. Or even you.

“If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something,” said a lawyer close to the White House.

But it hasn’t happened to every man. Neal Gorsuch made it onto the Supreme Court bench just fine. So did John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) tweeted a similar concern.

Joe Walsh

And remember this: If stupid, bad, or drunken behavior as a minor back in high school were the standard, every male politician in Washington, DC would fail.

Every single one. Hypocrites.

Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post has a solid response to this worry.

Ford Got Low Marks On A Professor-Rating Website

The conservative Drudge Report ran with a story from Grabien News on Monday that purported to have uncovered negative reviews of Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, by her students and posted on RateMyProfessor.com. This attack would seemingly undermine Ford because a bad professor can’t also be a victim of sexual assault, or something?

But they messed with the wrong woman. No, really. The story was literally about the wrong woman. The reviews were about Christine A. Ford, a social worker who taught at California State University at Fullerton.

Although Grabien News posted a retraction, Drudge deleted the tweet and pretended nothing ever happened.

.. It Was So Long Ago

Ari Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush’s press secretary during the run-up to the Iraq War, said he wasn’t sure Kavanaugh should be held responsible for something he did in high school.

“How much in society should any of us be held liable today when we lived a good life, an upstanding life by all accounts, and then something that maybe is an arguable issue took place in high school?” Fleischer said on Fox News. “Should that deny us chances later in life? Even for a Supreme Court job, a presidency of the United States or you name it. How accountable are we for high school actions, when this is clearly a disputable high school action? That’s a tough issue.”

Donald Trump Jr. put up an Instagram post implying that they were just kids back then and it was just like when a boy asks a girl out on a date with a handwritten note.

Ford, meanwhile, said that the incident with Kavanaugh “derailed me substantially for four or five years,” leading her to struggle academically and socially. She also had trouble forming relationships with men.

According to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, because the alleged assault happened so long ago, just ignore it: “Yet there is no way to confirm her story after 36 years, and to let it stop Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would ratify what has all the earmarks of a calculated political ambush.”

.. They Were Just Horsing Around

Carrie Severino, the chief counsel at the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, attempted to defend Kavanaugh on Tuesday by characterizing the behavior described by Ford as “rough horseplay.”

Josh Marshall

“Her allegations cover a whole range of conduct from boorishness to rough horseplay to actual attempted rape. If you go to rape, yes, that’s a very serious allegation,” she said.

When the CNN anchor pointed out that Ford never once described what Kavanaugh did as horseplay, Severino replied, “She’s certainly implying that it’s attempted rape, but you have to look at ― there are 35 years of memory that we’re trying to play with here. I’m saying that the behavior she described here could be a whole range of things. I know her perception of it was one way.”

Yes, that’s what high school students do all the time. Just men and women, horsing around, with one trying to remove the other’s clothes.

.. Something About The Salem Witch Trials

Lance Morrow, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal comparing Kavanaugh to women who had been accused of being witches. He said that “hysterical fantasies had real consequences,” resulting in the death of women believed to be witches.

Morrow goes after Ford for first not identifying herself and points out that because there was no police report, no witnesses and the other guy in the room at the time (whose reliability as a character witness is questionable) denies that the incident took place.

“The thing happened — if it happened — an awfully long time ago,” he added, “back in Ronald Reagan’s time, when the actors in the drama were minors and (the boys, anyway) under the blurring influence of alcohol and adolescent hormones.”

Something About The Russia Investigation

The Liberty Counsel, a conservative group supporting Kavanaugh, sent out a press release with at least seven reasons the public should not trust Ford. One of them seemed new and different:

Ford has a brother, Ralph Blasey, who worked for Baker Hostetler, a law firm that retained Fusion GPS, the infamous DC company that produced the unverified Steele dossier on President Donald Trump and Russia, sparking the Russia investigation.

It’s ridiculous to think that because Ford’s brother works at a law firm that had some tie to the Russia investigation, she is in on some grand conspiracy to bring down Kavanaugh and Trump. But Blasey worked at the firm from 1989 to 2004 — long before Trump was president or even considering running for president.

.. Ford Bears A Grudge Against Kavanaugh’s Mom

Right-wing websites started running with a theory about why Ford is coming out against Kavanaugh (other than that he allegedly assaulted her): His mother, formerly a Maryland district judge, ruled against Ford’s parents in a foreclosure case.

“Isn’t it kind of amazing that all the media reports today didn’t mention this little conflict of interest for Blasey-Ford?” wrote the site Pacific Pundit.

They didn’t mention this story because it’s not true, as Snopes points out. Kavanaugh’s mom did preside in a foreclosure case involving Ford’s parents, but the outcome of the case was actually favorable for them.

This is the new GOP: Angry and afraid

One of the unpleasant surprises of your 50s (among many) is seeing the heroes and mentors of your 20s pass away. I worked for Chuck Colson, of Watergate fame, who became, through his work with prisoners, one of the most important social reformers of the 20th century. I worked for Jack Kemp, who inspired generations of conservatives with his passion for inclusion. I worked against John McCain in the 2000 Republican primaries but came to admire his truculent commitment to principle.

Perhaps it is natural to attribute heroism to past generations and to find a sad smallness in your own. But we are seeing the largest test of political character in my lifetime. And where are the Republican leaders large enough to show the way?

President Trump’s recent remarks to evangelical Christians at the White House capture where Republican politics is heading. “This November 6 election,” Trump said, “is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion.” A direct, unadorned appeal to tribal hostilities. Fighting for Trump, the president argued, is the only way to defend the Christian faith. None of these men and women of God, apparently, gagged on their hors d’oeuvres.

.. “It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that [Democrats] will overturn everything that we’ve done, and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence.” Here Trump is preparing his audience for the possibility of bloodshed by predicting it from the other side. Christians, evidently, need to start taking “Onward, Christian Soldiers” more literally.

.. This is now what passes for GOP discourse — the cultivation of anger, fear, grievances, prejudices and hatreds.

.. “the true populist loses patience with the rules of the democratic game.” He comes to view himself as the embodied voice of the people, and opponents as (in Trump’s words) “un-American” and “treasonous.”

.. As Robert S. Mueller III continues his inexorable investigation of Trump’s sleazy business and political world — and if Democrats gain the House and begin aggressive oversight — a cornered president may test the limits of executive power in the attempt to avoid justice. If the GOP narrowly retains control of the House, Trump and others will take it as the vindication of his whole approach to politics. The president will doubtlessly go further in targeting his enemies for investigation and other harm. He will doubtlessly attack the independence of the FBI and attempt to make it an instrument of his will. He will doubtlessly continue his vendetta against responsible journalism and increase his pressure on media companies that don’t please him. On a broad front, Trump’s lunacy will become operational.

.. But at length he was asked to retreat from that final area where he located his self. And there this supple, humorous, unassuming and sophisticated person set like metal, was overtaken by an absolutely primitive rigor, and could no more be budged than a cliff.”

Republican leaders may dread it, but they will eventually be forced to identify that final area where they keep themselves — or find there is no one there.

The Likeliest Explanation for Trump’s Helsinki Fiasco

Character, not collusion, best explains the president’s bizarre deference to Vladimir Putin.

Last week, I wrote that the best way to think about a Trump Doctrine is as nothing more than Trumpism on the international stage. By Trumpism, I do not mean a coherent ideological program, but a psychological phenomenon, or simply the manifestation of his character.

.. During a joint news appearance with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump demonstrated that, when put to the test, he cannot see any issue through a prism other than his grievances and ego.

.. Trump made it clear that he can only understand the investigation into Russian interference as an attempt to rob him of credit for his electoral victory, and thus to delegitimize his presidency.’
.. For most people with a grasp of the facts — supporters and critics alike — the question of Russian interference and the question of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign are separate. Russia did interfere in the election, full stop. Whether there was collusion is still an open question, even if many Trump supporters have made up their minds about it. Whether Russian interference, or collusion, got Trump over the finish line is ultimately unknowable, though I think it’s very unlikely.

.. Among the self-styled “resistance,” the answer takes several sometimes overlapping, sometimes contradictory forms.
  1. One theory is that the Russians have “kompromat” — that is, embarrassing or incriminating intelligence on Trump. Another is that
  2. he is a willing asset of the Russians — “Agent Orange” — with whom he colluded to win the presidency.

.. their real shortcoming is that they are less plausible than the Aesopian explanation: This is who Trump is. Even if Russia hadn’t meddled in the election at all, Trump would still admire Putin because Trump admires men like Putin — which is why he’s praised numerous other dictators and strongmen.

.. The president’s steadfast commitment to a number of policies —

  • animosity toward NATO,
  • infatuation with protectionism,
  • an Obama-esque obsession with eliminating nuclear weapons, and
  • his determination that a “good relationship” with Russia should be a policy goal rather than a means to one

— may have some ideological underpinning. (These policies all seem to be rooted in intellectual fads of the 1980s.)