The ugly won’t stop with Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion

Albuquerque Journal - - OPINION - Colum­nist Email gold­bergcol­umn@gmail.com; Twit­ter @Jon­ahNRO. (c) 2018 Tri­bune Con­tent Agency LLC.

Con­firm­ing Brett Ka­vanaugh was the best out­come at the end of a hellish time that left the coun­try with no ideal op­tion.

Rea­son­able peo­ple may dif­fer. But what seems ob­vi­ous: It’s all go­ing to get worse. Be­cause every­one is tak­ing the wrong lessons from the Ka­vanaugh de­ba­cle. Let’s start with the pres­i­dent. In an in­ter­view Satur­day night on Fox News Chan­nel’s “Jus­tice with Judge Jea­nine,” Pres­i­dent Trump said he “evened the play­ing field” for Ka­vanaugh when he mocked Chris­tine Blasey Ford at a Mis­sis­sippi rally.

“Well, there were a lot of things hap­pen­ing that weren’t cor­rect, they weren’t true, and there were a lot of things that were left un­said,” Trump told host Jea­nine Pirro. “It was very un­fair to the judge . ... So I evened the play­ing field. Once I did that, it started to sail through.”

That’s mostly non­sense. Once Sen. Jeff Flake of Ari­zona forced the FBI’s rein­ves­ti­ga­tion of Ford’s sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tion, Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion hinged on FBI find­ings and the votes of three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors: Flake, Su­san Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The pres­i­dent’s com­ments mock­ing Ford were un­help­ful. Collins called them “Just plain wrong.” Flake: “It was ap­palling.” Murkowski: “Wholly in­ap­pro­pri­ate.” Even Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., said he thought the pres­i­dent should “knock it off.”

Nor did Ka­vanaugh’s nom­i­na­tion “sail through” af­ter that. In­stead, the head­winds got stronger, the wa­ter chop­pier and the sharks hun­grier.

As Trump chummed the wa­ter, his nom­i­nee was res­cued by a team of RINOs. Flake’s FBI gam­bit, Collins’ sense of de­cency and deco­rum, and Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell’s steely de­ter­mi­na­tion got Ka­vanaugh con­firmed.

Trump cheer­lead­ers could use a re­minder of why Ka­vanaugh was the nom­i­nee in the first place. Trump’s Supreme Court list — brim­ming with GOP le­gal es­tab­lish­ment types, of whom Ka­vanaugh is the crown prince — was im­posed upon him by skep­tics who feared he might nom­i­nate some­one like ... Judge Jea­nine Pirro.

The pres­i­dent, who de­serves con­ser­va­tive praise for pick­ing Ka­vanaugh off the Fed­er­al­ist So­ci­ety’s menu and for stick­ing by him, is claim­ing and get­ting un­due credit for the win. The fact is, the pres­i­dent was largely a hin­drance in the fight. And he’s now do­ing fur­ther dis­ser­vice to the new jus­tice and to the Supreme Court by hold­ing up Ka­vanaugh like a par­ti­san tro­phy, as he did Mon­day at a White House swear­ing-in cer­e­mony that verged on be­com­ing a pep rally.

Such gloat­ing and to­tal war is the new states­man­ship. Ryan Wil­liams, the pres­i­dent of the Clare­mont In­sti­tute, ar­gues that the Ka­vanaugh bat­tle retroac­tively vin­di­cates Michael An­ton’s fa­mous “Flight 93” ar­gu­ment of 2016: that the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was a “charge the cock­pit or you die” mo­ment for Amer­i­can con­ser­va­tives. Now, Wil­liams says, the mid­dle has col­lapsed, the par­ties are pulling far­ther apart, and it’s Flight 93 for as far as the eye can see.

The left largely sees the sit­u­a­tion that way, too. In the wake of their fail­ure to de­stroy Ka­vanaugh, Democrats and lib­eral ac­tivists in­sist they must “fight dirty,” as po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist David Far­ris ar­gues in his book, “It’s Time to Fight Dirty.” Lib­er­als have con­vinced them­selves Democrats lose be­cause they’re too nice. That was ex­actly the view con­ser­va­tives such as An­ton held about the GOP in 2016; many vot­ers ral­lied to Trump on the grounds that “at least he fights.”

Stormy Daniels’ grand­stand­ing lawyer, Michael Ave­natti, is au­di­tion­ing to be the left’s coun­ter­puncher. In re­sponse to the GOP’s Ka­vanaugh win, he tweeted, “When they go low, we hit harder. There is far too much at stake for any other ap­proach.” Never mind that it was Ave­natti’s harder-hit­ting al­le­ga­tions that steeled the GOP’s re­solve to keep Democrats from rail­road­ing Ka­vanaugh.

There are other echoes of 2016 on the Demo­cratic side. Many now flock to the ban­ner of “so­cial­ism” the way the Ban­non­ites ral­lied for na­tion­al­ism. And both sides are dou­bling down on iden­tity pol­i­tics.

That is how we got here. It will get worse be­cause there are no in­cen­tives to be bet­ter. It won’t end well ei­ther, but it will feel fa­mil­iar.

CHRISTY BOWE/GLOBE PHO­TOS/ZU

Brett Ka­vanaugh is sworn in Mon­day as an as­so­ciate jus­tice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

JONAH GOLD­BERG

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