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Orrin Hatch defends Kavanaugh in the least persuasive way possible

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT., talks to reporters as he walks to the weekly Senate policy luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on June 4, 2013.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT., talks to reporters as he walks to the weekly Senate policy luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on June 4, 2013.

It's not surprising that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has positioned himself as an ardent supporter of Judge Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. What is surprising is how bad Hatch's arguments are.

The retiring Utah Republican told Capitol Hill reporters yesterday, for example, in refence to Christine Blasey Ford's allegations, that Kavanaugh didn't even attend the party. Since Ford hasn't gone into any details about the event, it's difficult to know how the judge, or his GOP ally in the Senate, could say this with any certainty.

Hatch added that Ford must be "mixed up," evidently because Kavanaugh says so.

After gushing about the Supreme Court nominee's honesty, decency, and integrity, Hatch was asked about the possibility of the allegations being accurate. The senator told reporters:

"If that was true, I think it'd be hard for senators to not consider who the judge is today -- because that's the issue. Is this judge a really good man? And he is. And by any measure he is."

This was a highly problematic answer. As The New Republic's Jeet Heer wrote, "So Hatch's position is: Ford is mistaken because Kavanaugh wasn't at a party that Ford didn't really describe but it wouldn't matter if Ford were telling the truth because Kavanaugh is a good man. The philosopher Jacques Derrida described this type of thinking as 'kettle logic': the making of contradictory arguments with no regard for internal coherence."

It also touches on something we discussed yesterday: the idea that Kavanaugh's alleged violence toward Ford doesn't matter because it happened decades ago, and as Hatch put it, what matters is "who the judge is today."

It's obviously a debatable point, which could be at the center of a spirited discussion -- if that were Kavanaugh's defense. But it's not. The conservative jurist isn't saying he made a horrible mistake as a high-school student, learned from it, and is a better person now; he's saying his accuser is mistaken or lying and her corroborating evidence should be ignored.

This speaks to an ongoing controversy, on top of the questions surrounding his alleged behavior in the early 1980s.

Orrin Hatch is comfortable with both claims simultaneously -- Kavanaugh didn't attack Ford, and even if he did, Kavanaugh shouldn't be held accountable for his actions now -- but that doesn't mean everyone else should be so cavalier about the revelations.