“If it rings true, it is true,” said Michael Wolff in January of his anti-Trump book “Fire and Fury.” Who knew that that’s also the in-house standard for reporting at the New Yorker, where Toobin is a contributor?
All right, that’s unfair. The New Yorker’s standard is more like this: “If it rings true, it’s close enough to true to be published.” All the ring-of-truth that’s fit to print.
As you watch the clip, bear in mind via David French that not one first-hand witness has come forward to corroborate sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh despite the fact that both assaults of which he’s been accused allegedly took place in front of other people. In both incidents it’s the accuser alone who says he’s guilty, and in both cases the accuser admits to having memory gaps as large as being unable to remember the date that it happened.
Even so, Toobin’s “ring of truth” argument is straightforward. Isn’t there reason to believe that Brett Kavanaugh was a kegstandin’ prep-school bro? Haven’t both of his accusers claimed he was hammered when he assaulted them? Well, there you go. No number of acquaintances saying “I don’t remember anything like this” or “he never behaved this way” can un-ring that “truth.”
Chief legal analyst @JeffeyToobin calls the second allegation against Brett Kavanaugh “similar in atmospherics” to the first: “The excessive drinking, the coercive relationship with young women…” pic.twitter.com/RjK8oZtjHR
— New Day (@NewDay) September 24, 2018
I’ve been thinking about the following point since I read it this morning. It’s very far from dispositive, but it has, ahem, the ring of truth:
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) September 24, 2018
This is a variation on the theme that because an accused sex offender behaved courteously to X and Y he probably didn’t behave criminally with Z. You can’t make that assumption. Kavanaugh could trot out 100 different women he’s worked with who say he’s a sweetheart of a guy (no, really, he probably could produce 100) and it doesn’t defeat the allegations made by Ford and Ramirez. To the extent Toobin has anything like a valid point, you might say it’s this: It’s possible that Kavanaugh is a different, far more aggressive person when he’s very drunk, just as it’s possible that he was a more aggressive person generally when he was younger and has since behaved better. If he did what he’s accused of doing it wouldn’t be the first time that a youthful criminal grew into a more respectable middle-aged person. What Toobin meant to say, or should have said, is that Ford’s and Ramirez’s accounts are consistent insofar as they describe similar behavior under similar circumstances in similar time periods. That doesn’t give them “the ring of truth,” but Ramirez’s story bolsters the possibility raised by Ford’s claim that teenaged Brett was a Jekyll-and-Hyde persona towards women when he got a few in him.
But Conway’s point also describes a type of consistency. Although it’s possible, I guess, that Kavanaugh “aged out” of being a drunken predator, and although his good behavior as an older adult wouldn’t excuse criminal behavior as a younger one, it is curious that his alleged predatory habits seem to have diminished as he became more powerful and had more opportunities to indulge them. That is … not the path that #MeToo villains typically take. The typical path is the Weinstein path: As the youthful degenerate acquires money and power, he also acquires more victims. His status makes it easier to silence women he’s violated, so he takes full advantage. Remember, Kavanaugh started off as an investigator in Ken Starr’s office, then became a White House lawyer, then moved on to the federal bench. He’s been a power player in Washington for most of his adult life — yet there are no accounts of misconduct during the entirety of that time. To the contrary, as noted, his women colleagues and clerks seem to have nothing but admiring things to say of him.
His critics would reply that no colleagues or clerks have come forward yet, that a core lesson of #MeToo lesson is that a predator’s power discourages women from speaking up. Right, but the circumstances at this very moment are as conducive to speaking out as they can be, no? Kavanaugh’s already under a cloud of suspicion; he’s unpopular in polls and seemingly growing more so; millions of people are eager to hear from more accusers; the national media is bending over backwards to treat the allegations against him credulously. A single credible, corroborated account at this point would finish off his Supreme Court chances and maybe end up forcing him to resign from the bench, a modicum of justified revenge for a victim. And the women who’ve worked with him and in his circles in Washington are almost by definition uniformly smart and well attuned to political realities like this. If no one comes forward with stories of Kavanaugh behaving inappropriately as he amassed power in his adult life, what would that do to the “ring of truth” around the Ford and Ramirez allegations? Would it give Toobin any pause at all?
Probably not, no. Because then the answer will be “Other victims aren’t coming forward because, chances are, they’re Republicans and met Kavanaugh through those networks. To speak up now and kill his nomination would be a mortal sin against the right, rendering them unemployable and maybe even shunned by former friends.” So even Conway’s point, even his many character witnesses, will be dismissed out of hand. No wonder this guy has taken to showing critics his old calendars in an effort to give them something, anything, they might use as a point in his favor.
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