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A Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday made the push-pull defense we’ve seen among Brett Kavanaugh’s defenders disgustingly explicit, arguing both that this could all be a vast liberal conspiracy designed to tank Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, and that even if Kavanaugh did what he’s accused of doing more than three decades ago, it still doesn’t matter.

The column, which was written by Lance Morrow, a conservative think tank guy and former writer for Time, begins by invoking the Salem witchcraft trials, apparently relevant here:

The Salem witch trials turned on what was called “spectral evidence.” That was testimony from witnesses—either malicious or hysterical—who claimed the accused had assumed the form of a black cat or some other devilish creature and had come visiting in the night in order to torment the witness with bites and scratches, or to rearrange the bedroom furniture, or to send the baby into paroxysms.

Morrow spends another couple paragraphs drawing this parable out, noting that people were executed as a result of those foolish girls lying about what they saw more than 300 years ago. Again, this is relevant, Morrow insists, because Dr. Christine Blasey Ford first raised her allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while drunk at a high school party anonymously—or, as he writes, as “a spectral and possibly nonexistent woman, for all that one knew when the story emerged.” He continues (emphasis added throughout):

It seemed as if the American constitutional process might be drawn back to the neighborhood of Salem, Mass. According to this phantom testimony, 17-year-old Brett held the girl down, pawed her and tried to force himself upon her, and held his hand over her mouth when she screamed, until a second prep-school devil piled on top, they all tumbled to the floor, and the girl managed to slip away. The boys were “stumbling drunk,” according to the account.

He also manages to name-drop The Handmaid’s Tale before suggesting that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who came into possession of the letter that detailed the allegations, “not liking the odds of defeating Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, had found a devilishly clever way to head it off after all.” Conspiracy alert!!

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After expressing his chagrin at there now being a face and a name behind the accusations, the Journal writer casts as much doubt as possible on her account—but, conveniently, says that, even if she is telling the truth, it’s not a big deal:

What to make of it now? The tale became a lot less spectral. Still, there had been no police report, and there were no witnesses. The second boy allegedly in the room said he had no memory of such an incident and called the accusation “absolutely nuts.” Judge Kavanaugh flatly denied it. Her therapist’s notes from 30 years later are not objective reporting, merely a transcription of what Ms. Ford herself said.

The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time, when the actors in the drama were minors and (the boys, anyway) under the blurring influence of alcohol and adolescent hormones. No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred. The sin, if there was one, was not one of those that Catholic theology calls peccata clamantia—sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.

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The “actors in the drama” were teenage boys who—if they did anything wrong at all, mind you!—were awash in that happy adolescent mix of teenage hormones and cheap beer. And anyway, they didn’t even get her clothes off, let alone get to “penetration.” Maybe it’s a “sin,” the writer argues, but not a crime, and certainly no reason to muck up an otherwise smooth confirmation process for a noted girls’ basketball coach.

Morrow goes on and on about crime and punishment and how pagan liberals believe Trump is their own “Satan,” but I’d rather turn to Anita Hill writing in the New York Times today:

As Judge Kavanaugh stands to gain the lifetime privilege of serving on the country’s highest court, he has the burden of persuasion. And that is only fair.

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So far, Kavanaugh can thank his lucky stars that he has scores of conservative men taking up the business of persuading long before his next hearing.