The march of the Septem­ber Sur­prises

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY WESLEY PRUDEN

Ev­ery­one knew a Septem­ber Sur­prise was com­ing. Supreme Court ap­point­ments are a big deal. The Repub­li­cans are de­ter­mined to get an “orig­i­nal­ist” jus­tice, one who hon­ors the Con­sti­tu­tion as writ­ten by the Found­ing Fa­thers, sub­ject to amend­ments duly adopted.

The Democrats are de­ter­mined to pre­serve “a liv­ing doc­u­ment,” sub­ject to the wishes and dreams of cer­tain judges guided only by the mo­ment. Amend­ing not nec­es­sary. Therein lies an un­bridge­able di­vide, where the bang and clat­ter of an­gry de­bate is the mu­sic of the times, to which all must dance.

Des­per­ate times re­quire des­per­ate mea­sures, and the Democrats in the Se­nate, with their me­dia con­stituents usu­ally stand­ing by to en­force pre­vail­ing whims and fan­cies, are in des­per­ate straits. The pres­i­dent submitted the name of Brett Ka­vanaugh to fill a va­cancy on the Court, and no­body could lay a glove on him. Some­thing des­per­ate, a Hail Mary pass for 90 yards with 00:07 on the clock in the fourth quar­ter, was all that was left to try.

The Democrats and other lib­er­als had con­trolled the U.S. Supreme Court as a sec­ond leg­isla­tive branch of govern­ment for many decades, and now con­trol is slip­ping away. Hence the Septem­ber Sur­prise just as the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee was about to ap­prove Mr. Ka­vanaugh and send the nom­i­na­tion to the full Se­nate.

But as Septem­ber Sur­prises go, this one is pretty thin soup. A woman of a cer­tain age, as the French put it, sud­denly re­mem­bers that 35 years ago, when she was a 15-year-old high-school sopho­more, she went to a party she’s not sure where, but it might have been in Mont­gomery County just out­side Wash­ing­ton, and there were kids drink­ing beer and mak­ing whoopee, but she can’t re­mem­ber for sure be­cause ev­ery­thing was en­veloped in clouds of es­tro­gen and fog­banks of testos­terone. Some­thing hap­pened, she isn’t sure what, as some­times hap­pens when teenagers gather for a sa­lon to sip lemon­ade and dis­cuss Plato, Socrates and the seven wise guys of Athens. She re­mem­bers that what­ever it was it turned out to be not very nice. One of the boys pawed at her outer gar­ments and squeezed against her and made her squeal. She thinks there were four guys in the be­d­room with her, but on sec­ond thought it might have been only two, and one of them might have been Brett Ka­vanaugh, 17 years old. He says em­phat­i­cally that it was not him, and a third per­son in the room backs him up.

The girl, who grew up to be Chris­tine Blasey Ford and a pro­fes­sor at Palo Alto Uni­ver­sity, wrote a let­ter to Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia in July, telling her of her con­ve­niently “re­cov­ered mem­ory.” She wasn’t sure what even a U.S. sen­a­tor could do about such a let­ter, but she asked Mrs. Fe­in­stein to keep her name out of it.

The sen­a­tor, aware of her rep­u­ta­tion as a woman of re­fine­ment, sober judg­ment and fair deal­ing, kept the let­ter and said noth­ing. The Ka­vanaugh hear­ings pro­ceeded apace, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats in the Se­nate, de­cided the sell-by date ap­proached, and called in The Wash­ing­ton Post to drop Mrs. Fe­in­stein’s bomb. This was not the bomb­shell the Democrats cov­eted, but it was time to do or die. Mrs. Ford then iden­ti­fied her­self.

The big­gest mys­tery is why Mrs. Fe­in­stein didn’t drop her bomb ear­lier. Was she sav­ing it to drop when it might give the Democrats an ex­cuse to de­mand a de­lay of game? Why didn’t Mrs. Chris­tine Blasey Ford say some­thing to fam­ily, friends or even her doc­tor at the time she said it hap­pened? Why did her ther­a­pist’s notes say she told him there were four evil-do­ers in the be­d­room and she now says there were only two? She doesn’t re­mem­ber the ex­act year it hap­pened, ex­actly where it hap­pened, who in­vited her to the party, whose house it was, how she got there or how she got home. Yet it was so trau­matic that she re­quired psy­chi­atric help three decades later.

The most gen­er­ous ex­pla­na­tion is that she just doesn’t re­mem­ber clearly af­ter all these years. Or she made it up. Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, the Re­pub­li­can chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, is do­ing the right thing, ar­rang­ing for the com­mit­tee to hear out Mrs. Ford and to hear Judge Ka­vanaugh’s re­but­tal. If the Democrats plead for more time, they’ll re­veal their true game.How much time would hard work­ing sen­a­tors need?

Mrs. Ford’s lawyer is al­ready com­plain­ing that the Repub­li­cans on the com­mit­tee in­tend to play “hard ball,” in­tend­ing to “grill her.” She may have been led to be­lieve, by Mrs. Fe­in­stein or Mr. Schumer, that she could merely ac­cuse and the Democrats would take care of the rest. But that’s not how it works. She may have a Septem­ber Sur­prise com­ing her­self. Wesley Pruden is edi­tor in chief emer­i­tus of The Times.

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