What Does the Kavanaugh Controversy Mean for North Dakota’s Senate Race?


Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh holds up a copy of the U.S. Constitution at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Matt McClain

What does the turmoil about the Kavanaugh confirmation mean for North Dakota’s Senate race?

First, let’s get caught up.

Christine Blasey Ford has alleged, publicly and on the record, a truly harrowing experience she had with Brett Kavanaugh in Maryland after both had been consuming alcohol.

If it’s true Kavanaugh should not sit on the Supreme Court bench. Not just because he would be guilty of sexual assault decades ago, but because as an adult he lied about it.

If it’s true. And that’s the problem. What’s true and what isn’t?

That Ford decided to work through Democratic politicians to get her story out, politicians who then delayed the revelation of these explosive accusations until they could have maximum political effect, has muddied the waters around a decades-old incident the truth of which was already going to be difficult (if that word is adequate for this situation) to find the truth of.

Why didn’t Senator Feinstein ask Kavanaugh about this when he was under oath before the Judiciary Committee? Why didn’t she ask him about it when they met privately earlier this year?

Probably because what suits the political ambitions of Democrats best right now is delay.

Also not helping is that Ford’s story has some problems. Per the Washington Post’s reporting, while Ford did tell a therapist about this incident in 2012 (without mentioning Kavanaugh’s name), that therapist’s notes have Ford describing four boys as being in the room. Today Ford there was only two, and that the therapist made a mistake with the notes.

A plausible explanation, yet we’re in a situation where there just aren’t a lot of details, and when the few details we have are contradicted what are we left to do but doubt?

It’s also worth noting that Ford is so vague in some of the details about the event that it’s next to impossible for Kavanaugh to defend himself. For instance, from the Post:

After so many years, Ford said she does not remember some key details of the incident. She said she believes it occurred in the summer of 1982, when she was 15, around the end of her sophomore year at the all-girls Holton-Arms School in Bethesda. Kavanaugh would have been 17 at the end of his junior year at Georgetown Prep.

It’s understandable that Ford’s memory of a house party at which she was drinking at as a 15-year-old going on four decades ago would be vague, but it’s also presents problems when we’re asked to believe the narrative of someone who can’t remember these details. Especially when they make it impossible for Kavanaugh to provide exculpatory evidence.

He can’t, for example, tell us that he was on vacation or at baseball camp or something when this was alleged to have happened because the accuser doesn’t remember when exactly it happened. Or even where.

Is this really a sound basis for ruining the career of a man with a decades-long track record of high profile public service?

But let’s go back to the question I started this post with. The question no fewer than three national reporters have asked me about so far this morning.

What does this mean for North Dakota’s Senate race?

Before this I would have argued that incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp pretty much had to vote for Kavanaugh. Now, however, she has some political cover. This muddies the waters, giving her a reason beyond partisan or ideological loyalty to cast a “no” vote.

Where before that vote was probably a no-win situation for Heitkamp, now she’s got a path out.

As for what should be done, I am all for delaying the Kavanaugh nomination for a while, if only to see what other evidence might come out. Maybe some other witness or evidence will corroborate Ford’s story. Maybe new evidence will cut the other way and bolster Kavanaugh’s denial.

But based on what we know now, I don’t see enough to vote against Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The only thing we know for sure about any of this is that Democrats made things a lot harder by playing political games with this information.