A week is a long time in politics. In Brett Kavanaugh’s case, a final vote on his Supreme Court nomination was delayed for an FBI investigation – the scope of which has apparently been limited by the White House – which could, in theory, be “a blessing in disguise,” as Donald Trump put it over the weekend.
That isn’t necessarily an outrageous assumption. The Republican jurist’s allies could use the extra time to persuade senators like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, at which point his confirmation will be secured. The FBI background check may even provide on-the-fence senators some cover: if the examination doesn’t turn up definitive evidence, it’s easy to imagine them saying, “Well, the FBI checked, and it looks like we’ll probably never know exactly what happened in this incident, so there’s no need to delay confirmation any longer.”
But there’s another way to look at this.
The delay in the process could, for example, give more people – on Capitol Hill and off – time to digest the fact that much of what Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee late last week wasn’t quite true.
The New York Times fact-checked his testimony, comparing his statements against the recollections of former classmates and acquaintances from his youth, as well as records from his time working in the administration of George W. Bush.
The combative nominee was compelled to answer questions he clearly found embarrassing or offensive. What emerges is the image of a skilled lawyer who, when pressed on difficult subjects, sometimes crafted responses that were misleading, disputed or off point.
There were similar fact-check pieces published over the last few days from the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Current Affairs. In each case, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee does not fare well: Kavanaugh’s strained relationship with the truth casts a menacing cloud over his nomination.
A Boston Globe editorial included a rather long list of false claims the judge made under oath and concluded, “Unfortunately, the only way for senators to convince themselves that Kavanaugh hasn’t already been shown to be a habitual liar is to lie to themselves.”
But that’s really just the start.
A delay also gives more witnesses time to speak up, as we saw yesterday with a new statement from Chad Ludington, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, who said the judge’s characterization of his alcohol consumption was “a blatant mischaracterization.”
“[W]hen I watched Brett deliver his testimony under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, I cringed,” Ludimgton’s statement read. “For the fact is, at Yale, and I can speak to no other times, Brett was a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker. I know, because, especially in our first two years of college, I often drank with him. On many occasions I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive.”
A delay in the confirmation process may give everyone time to note that Kavanaugh’s testimony pointed to “exonerations that weren’t exactly exonerating.” A delay also offers a chance to look anew at Kavauagh’s calendar from 1982 – specifically a July 1 entry that appears to describe a gathering like the one Christine Blasey Ford described in her version of events.
Meanwhile, a delay further allows observers of every stripe to reflect on that stunning opening statement from Thursday’s hearing, in which Kavanaugh was equal parts partisan, belligerent, and conspiratorial, doing lasting harm to his claims that he’d serve as a neutral arbiter on the nation’s highest court. (Even Republican Sen. Jeff Flake wasn’t altogether pleased with the tenor of the remarks.)
And finally, it’s likely we’ll see some fresh polling this week, before senators cast their final verdict. Kavanaugh was already an unusually unpopular Supreme Court nominee, and if recent developments have further eroded his public support – and there’s some preliminary evidence pointing in that direction – wavering senators will have another reason to hesitate.