But if you want to know how conservatives think, fight, and win, it’s a must-read.
Authors Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino dramatically detail the nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and the unsuccessful effort by Democrats to use Ford’s accusation of sexual assault to stop it. The book forces readers to consider the ferocity of partisan politics and the human consequences. It also raises legitimate questions about the #MeToo movement, and the commitment to believing victims, no matter how fuzzy their memories, versus the rights of the accused to due process and presumption of innocence.
It won’t change any minds on that score, either. But it’s still worth reading.
Above all, “Justice on Trial” is a lesson in how different things look, depending on your ideology. When Kavanaugh testified, I saw a privileged white man mad enough to cry at the prospect of losing a coveted seat on the high court to a girl who wasn’t part of his Georgetown Prep social circle. Kavanaugh supporters — most notably, President Trump — saw a nominee locked, loaded, and ready to fight to the death for his nomination.
Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party decades ago, a charge that went from anonymous letter to riveting public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Even the authors seem inclined to believe someone assaulted her at some point in her life. But Ford couldn’t recall the exact time or place of the alleged attack. No witness could corroborate her account, and Kavanaugh passionately denied it. The book argues that there was never enough evidence to credibly accuse Kavanaugh as the assailant and that, aided by a friendly media, Democrats slimed a good man they were determined to destroy.
To that end, the authors defend Kavanaugh’s teenage honor to the hilt, dismissing well-documented stories of a high school culture that celebrated drinking and partying. The book also traffics in speculation about Ford, suggesting she, too, was a heavy drinker with a salacious high school past — as if that excuses any assault she may have endured.
For liberals, much of the book is like looking into a fun house mirror. Everything is upside down and distorted. For example, Melania Trump telling her husband “You know that woman is lying, don’t you?” (after Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee) isn’t a Stephen Colbert joke. It’s presented as a deep revelation, “held by millions of other women and men who were silenced in media discussions that day.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is not an over-the-top Kavanaugh shill but a “volcano of indignation,” and the engineer of an electric moment — “This is not a job interview. This is hell” — that helped turn the tide for Kavanaugh. By the same light, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine did not betray women by supporting Kavanaugh; she withstood immense pressure from nasty protesters and stood up for principle.
But the authors do make some valid points about discrepancies in Ford’s story, which were drawn out by Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor whose questioning of Ford at the Senate hearing was mocked by the media. And they also raise legitimate questions about much-touted reports of other alleged sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh. A Yale classmate recounted a story of a man who might have been Kavanaugh exposing himself to her. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who once represented Stormy Daniels, who had an affair with Trump, also put forward a woman who made gang-rape charges against Kavanaugh.
What the media saw as a pattern, Kavanaugh and his supporters saw as desperation, and reason to fight. They did, and won.
Kavanaugh opponents aren’t giving up. Now House Democrats are asking the National Archives to release records relating to Kavanaugh’s time in George W. Bush’s White House.
Sorry, that’s a lost cause. Read “Justice on Trial,” and get ready for the next big battle.