With Brett Kavanaugh, as with Donald Trump, Conservatives Defend a Tainted Nominee

The implication was that the court of public opinion is trying not Brett Kavanaugh but the very idea of the All-American boy—good-natured, mischievous, but harmless. That Brett Kavanaugh was a decent kid who may have erred here and there but only did so in good fun, and that investigating the allegations levelled by Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick in earnest would amount to marching Tom Sawyer, Opie Taylor, and the Beaver single-file to the guillotine.

.. This was what moved Senators John Cornyn and Ben Sasse to seemingly genuine tears during Kavanaugh’s testimony. But it was Lindsey Graham who went apoplectic. “What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020,” he shouted at Democrats during his turn for questions. “This is the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics.”

“Boy, y’all want power,” he continued. “God, I hope you never get it.”

.. The Kavanaugh nomination is now, in part, a referendum on the #MeToomovement—on whether the goodness of successful men, with families and the respect of their peers, should be taken for granted, and whether the women who have suffered abuse, but who don’t possess the kind of evidence a prosecutor might find satisfying, should remain silent and invisible lest they sully sterling reputations.

.. Kavanaugh—by appearing in a prime-time TV interview, and in casting the accusations, incredibly, as a conspiracy against him orchestrated by allies of the Clintons—has shown himself to be exactly the political operative he was when he was working under Ken Starr and as a hired gun for the Bush Administration.

.. He is, backed into a corner and stripped of his robes, the quintessential Fox News man—both gladiator and perpetual victim, another “white male,” as Graham called himself on Friday, told to shut up and go away by feminists and a vindictive left.

.. Belligerent, wounded, proud, timorous, and entitled—a man given to gaslighting and dissembling under pressure.

..  Should he be confirmed, he will have the power to color rulings from the highest court in the land with the biases and emotionality he has revealed this past week until, if he so chooses, he drops dead.

.. Conspiracy theories about Kavanaugh’s accusers—that Ramirez was an agent of George Soros, for instance, or that Kavanaugh’s mother, a district-court judge, had ruled against Ford’s parents in a foreclosure case—were offered not only by the likes of the Daily Caller and Trumpists at the site Big League Politics this week but also by the NeverTrumper Erick Erickson, who has called Ford a “partisan hack,” and a reporter for National Review.

.. It was Ed Whelan—who heads something called the Ethics and Public Policy Center and is a man Washington conservatives consider “a sober-minded straight shooter,” according to Politico—who potentially defamed a Georgetown Prep alumnus with unfounded speculation about a Kavanaugh “doppelgänger,” a theory that could have originated on the right-wing message boards that birthed Pizzagate and are now fuelling QAnon.

.. The kind of discrediting rhetoric that was deployed by supporters of Trump and Roy Moore in the wake of allegations against them—that the charges had come after too many years, that the women bear blame or should be regarded skeptically for being in situations in which abuse might take place—was let loose by respected figures like the National Review editor, Rich Lowry. “Why,” he asked, of Swetnick, on Wednesday, “would she constantly attend parties where she believed girls were being gang-raped?”

.. And the Times’Bari Weiss and the former Bush Administration press secretary Ari Fleischer, both on the center-right, were among those who suggested that Kavanaugh should be advanced even if the allegations levelled by Ford are true.

.. It is often argued by this crowd that broad criticisms of the right risk pushing sensible conservatives toward Trumpism. But the events of the past two weeks have made plain just how illusory and superficial the differences between the respectable establishment and the Trumpists really are.

.. it cannot be said now, as it was in November, 2016, that the man in question is the best or only option for those committed to conservative policy objectives. Backing Brett Kavanaugh is a choice conservatives have made over viable alternatives—qualified conservative candidates who could be spirited through the nomination process before November’s elections or in the lame-duck session by a Republican Senate that has already proved itself capable of sidestepping the required procedural hurdles.

They have chosen this course because the Kavanaugh nomination has presented the movement with a golden opportunity to accomplish two things more valuable, evidently, than merely placing another conservative on the court: standing against the new culture of accountability for sexual abuse and, at least as important, thumbing their noses at an angry and despairing Democratic Party.

Ben Shapiro, a Provocative ‘Gladiator,’ Battles to Win Young Conservatives

And even some former fans say Mr. Shapiro is a brilliant polemicist, but in a tribal nation, he’s just one more partisan mobilizing his troops.

“He’ll never concede anything to the left,” said William Nardi, a college student in Boston, who used to look up to Mr. Shapiro. “He’s saying the left is wrong and I’m right. Kids love that. All they care about is this feeling that they are right and that their identity is preserved. That’s what he gives them.”

.. Mr. French calls Mr. Shapiro a “principled gladiator.” His aggressive tone draws in audiences, he said, but he does not attack unfairly, stoke anger for the sake of it, or mischaracterize his opponents’ positions. He even hits his own side, as he did with Sean Hannity for not weighing in on Roy S. Moore, the embattled Alabama Republican, and Mr. Bannon for supporting him.

“He appeals to the better angels of his audience’s nature, while still being a pugilist, and that’s quite a skill,” Mr. French said.

.. He is less established than Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh, but his audience is younger. And instead of hunkering down in a studio, Mr. Shapiro travels the country, speaking at colleges

.. “So often I’ve felt turning on Fox, it makes you dumber, but you listen to Ben Shapiro and you are likely to be both entertained and enlightened,” said Charlie Sykes

.. People often discover Mr. Shapiro by seeing a video clip of him arguing with somebody.

.. He is often compared to his former colleague at Breitbart, Milo Yiannopoulos. On the surface, they seem the same. Both speak on college campuses. Both draw protests. Both used to work for Mr. Bannon at Breitbart. Both are young.

.. Mr. Yiannopoulos, a protégé of Mr. Bannon, was good at shocking audiences, saying things like “feminism is cancer.” But critics say that he was empty of ideas, a kind of nihilistic rodeo clown who was not even conservative. Mr. Shapiro broke with Mr. Bannon last year, saying Breitbart had become a propaganda tool for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Yiannopoulos’s act collapsed this year. But the fact that it lasted so long says a lot about the right’s fury against mainstream liberalism, Mr. Shapiro said.

.. Years of cultural dominance in TV, movies, comedy, media and to a large extent, universities, left conservatives feeling looked down on and labeled. Mr. Shapiro, who still lives in Los Angeles, wrote a book about it, “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.” Add to that economic frustration, and taboos around race, gender and sexual orientation, and you start to explain Mr. Limbaugh’s explosive success 20 years ago.

.. “Trump won the nomination because he was anti-left, not because of any political viewpoints,

.. He thinks it’s easy to provoke the left, which he says has become intellectually flabby after decades of cultural dominance. It’s not good at arguing and relies instead on taboos and punishing people who violate them. That is the essence of his stump speech.

.. Even if straight white males are low on the left’s pecking order, they have most of the power in Washington, in statehouses, in every corporate boardroom. They run America.

.. “I am trying to militantly defend conservative ideas,” he said. “I’m not going to be anti-left for the sake of it.”