After addressing the United Nations assembly, the president strongly defended his Supreme Court nominee as “high quality” and claimed the accusations against Kavanaugh of sexual assault are part of a “con game” played by Democrats. He also specifically went after the second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, who alleges misconduct on Kavanaugh’s part when they were both undergraduates at Yale.
“The second accuser has nothing,” Trump said, visibly agitated. “She admits she was drunk. She admits time lapses.” Then he added sarcastically, “Oh, gee, let’s not make him a Supreme Court judge because of that.”
Trump’s remarks show how these accusations can be a Rorschach test. After all, the fact that Ramirez frankly acknowledges the fragility of her memory can be taken as a sign of her honesty. She is presenting her story as best as she can recall but also being frank about the limits of her memory in a way that makes her vulnerable to attack.
Kavanaugh has taken the opposite tack of downplaying his drinking and any other evidence that might complicate his portrayal of himself as a wholesome teenager and young man. The self-portrait of the nominee as a squeaky-clean youth who, at worst, enjoyed the occasional beer is one that Trump himself seems to accept. “You know, when he said that really, what he was focused on was trying to be number one in his class at Yale, to me, that was so believable,” Trump said. “I understand college very well.”
In fact, there’s ample reason to believe that Kavanaugh was a heavy drinker in high school and in college. In contrast to Ramirez, Kavanaugh is not willing to be upfront about facts make him vulnerable. This might be persuasive to those who admire Trumpian aggressive masculinity, but can also plausibly be seen as undercutting Kavanaugh’s credibility.
As against Trump’s stark claims of a “con game,” Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who is seen as a swing vote in the confirmation, has warned against prejudging accusers. “We are now in a place where it’s not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified,” Murkowski said on Monday. “It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.” About the allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford, Murkowski said, “We need to be able to listen.”
Murkowski’s words are proof that the partisan spin Trump has chosen isn’t the only path open to the GOP.