The long, long trail of trashed rep­u­ta­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY WES­LEY PRUDEN

Great rep­u­ta­tions are dif­fi­cult to make, re­quir­ing time and ded­i­ca­tion, and they are rep­u­ta­tions eas­ily de­stroyed, some­times in a mo­ment of care­less pas­sion, some­times with a word not spo­ken. Once bro­ken, a rep­u­ta­tion is ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult to patch. Leav­ing Cheyenne is usu­ally eas­ier. Many rep­u­ta­tions were put at risk over the past few weeks as the Repub­li­cans pushed to in­stall an­other judge with re­spect for the Con­sti­tu­tion on the U.S. Supreme Court, and as the Democrats re­sisted, kick­ing and scream­ing, de­ter­mined to keep the found­ing doc­u­ment free of the bias of the Found­ing Fa­thers.

This was the sum­mer that cer­tain precincts with more in­flu­ence than they de­serve went stark, rav­ing bonkers. No one has suf­fered dam­age to rep­u­ta­tion more than Dianne Fe­in­stein. The sen­a­tor from San Fran­cisco, well past the usual re­tire­ment age, is de­ter­mined to make her ten­ure in the U.S. Se­nate a life term, and at 85 she may very well suc­ceed.

She had been a rea­son­ably mod­er­ate lib­eral law­maker, will­ing to get along with con­ser­va­tive col­leagues across the aisle, and suc­ceeded to make the friend­ships nec­es­sary to be a good sen­a­tor. She served on the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and looked at the real world with a sharp and skep­ti­cal eye, aware that many evil-do­ers lurk out there with dreams of do­ing harm to the United States. A skep­ti­cal eye was not al­ways easy to sus­tain in Cal­i­for­nia, where the an­gry left thrives with dreams of trans­form­ing Amer­ica into some­thing un­rec­og­niz­able.

Now she’s en­gaged in a re-elec­tion cam­paign with an op­po­nent so rad­i­cal and so well-fi­nanced that she dare not dis­miss him as some­thing like a mosquito or a horse­fly, ca­pa­ble of in­flict­ing an ir­ri­tat­ing sting but in­ca­pable of any­thing lethal. She has to worry that the horse­fly might turn out to be a buz­zard, eager to sup on a sen­a­tor. The fight over the Ka­vanaugh nom­i­na­tion was ready-made to make it up to sus­pi­cious con­stituents an­gered by her de­vi­a­tion from Cal­i­for­nia ortho­doxy. She sug­gests the for­bid­den re­li­gious test for of­fice to dif­fuse Chris­tian in­flu­ence in the fed­eral courts. That might sat­isfy her red­hots but it will be noth­ing to re­mem­ber her by.

Some of her Demo­cratic col­leagues plunged even fur­ther off the rails and into the ditch and high weeds. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the leader of the Democrats in the Se­nate, vowed early that he would use any means nec­es­sary to pre­vent Brett Ka­vanaugh and ev­ery­one like him off the Supreme Court. We take it on good faith that he would stop short of ter­mi­na­tion with ex­treme prej­u­dice, but who knows what a crazed min­ion might do. Th­ese are par­lous times.

Both Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Fe­in­stein knew bet­ter than to take some of the ac­cu­sa­tions as se­ri­ous stuff. Not be­ing fools, they didn’t be­lieve them, ei­ther. The idea that Brett Ka­vanaugh, as a child, ac­tu­ally led a gang-rap­ing ring, and that Deb­o­rah Ramirez, the sec­ond woman of the fab three, had to sub­mit to a face-thrash­ing with a teenage pe­nis were sto­ries so fan­ci­ful that laugh­ter was the only ra­tio­nal re­sponse. Yet Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Fe­in­stein and their un­hinged col­leagues de­manded that the FBI in­ves­ti­gate th­ese fan­tasies. What the FBI con­cluded was what ev­ery­one ex­pected. There was no there there.

Julie Swet­nick, the au­thor of the story about the mid­dle-school gang-rape ring, had in­sisted that there “were many par­ties at which ‘boys lined up’ to take their turns, and “every­body in the county re­mem­bers those par­ties.” But when The Wall Street Jour­nal as­signed a raft of re­porters to find some­one, any­one, who re­mem­bered, the news­pa­per couldn’t find any. There’s an even bet­ter rip­ping good read at hand, the case of thou­sands of the dis­ap­peared. Miss Swet­nick of­fered her own list of four wit­nesses to NBC News. The net­work found that one was dead, two said they had never heard of Julie Swet­nick, and two didn’t an­swer the phone. Every­body else had ap­par­ently left the county.

And now the story has run out of gas. The Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee is ex­pected to vote on Satur­day, with the wind at Brett Ka­vanaugh’s back. There’s just not much juice left to keep the story aloft, and every­body wants the sen­a­tors to put it to bed.

They’re in the po­si­tion of the hunter who vol­un­teered to climb a tree in the Arkansas swamp to re­trieve a rac­coon treed by the yel­low hound. The ‘coon didn’t want to be re­trieved. Soon there was an enor­mous noisy strug­gle in the tree­top. Bark, leaves, hair, teeth and an oc­ca­sional eye fell at the feet of the other hunters. “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” the man in the tree­top cried. “We can’t shoot,” his friends on the ground yelled. “We might hit you!”

“Go ahead and shoot!” The treed hunter yelled. “One of us has got to get some re­lief.” Wes­ley Pruden is ed­i­tor in chief emer­i­tus of The Times.


Brett M. Ka­vanaugh

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