During Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's red-faced, "special place in hell" tirade about Democrats' role in bringing sexual misconduct allegations about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to light, the ex-McCainiac maverick said something insanely un-self-aware: "Boy, y'all want power. God, I hope you never get it."
And what, pray tell, have Graham and his Republican Senate colleagues done in their own pursuit of power? How about refusing to even grant a hearing for Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, conjuring from thin air a nonexistent precedent, and holding a seat open for a year in the hopes that their party would win the upcoming presidential election? That's not indicative of an inordinate thirst for power?
Rank hypocrisy aside, Kavanaugh's hearing last week was a clarifying, last-straw moment for me, personally. I grew up in a Republican household, and took a job out of college working for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Next I shifted into journalism at the conservative Washington Times newspaper and later the American Conservative magazine. I began having serious reservations about the state of the party and the broader conservative movement during the 2008 campaign and Sarah Palin phenomenon. Where some saw "starbursts," I saw, well, a harbinger of the current president's anti-intellectualism and "Real America" race-baiting.
Then, during the Obama years, came the endless parade of manufactured crises about debt and fiscal insolvency that now scan like some parallel political universe. Then came the Trumplosion: a staggering, unpardonable assault on truth and basic decency. In the depths of my despondency these last couple years, amid the naked self-dealing, the endless lying, and the obvious incompetence, I have often fumed to my long-suffering wife that anyone who is a party to it is, figuratively speaking, dead to me. But I haven't lost friendships over it, and I hope that continues to be the case.
The Kavanaugh affair will make it much harder. This whole sorry saga has laid bare the reality that even the "respectable" remnant of the party has gone full Trump. Graham's furious meltdown was like the 2016 campaign in miniature, a farrago of insinuated conspiracies, a spittle-flecked tantrum masquerading as righteousness. The obsession with how Christine Blasey Ford's accusation was handled by Democrats is interesting perhaps from a forensic perspective. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth of her claim, about which I can be no more certain than the next mortal. But for the last two weeks I've read with increasing frustration the pedantic parsing of her story from conservative writers I had become accustomed to seeking out for their measured perspective in this era of sharp divisions. But this much is clear: However much they may dislike Trump, they salivate over that fifth Supreme Court seat. Trump will be gone in two or six years. Kavanaugh could be there for 30 or more.
And so they overlook or minimize his obvious lies and misleading testimony before the Senate panel. Some of the lying was over comparatively trivial matters, like what "boof" means (I'm sorry, but "Did you [fart] yet" does not pass the, er, smell test). And "Devil's Triangle"? No, it's not another name for the drinking game involving the flipping of quarters into cups. That's called … Quarters. He lied about the legal drinking age in Maryland. He lied about the obvious meaning of "Renate Alumnus." As I say, these are comparatively trivial matters. But the ability to lie and obfuscate so breezily — should it not at least give you pause that he might be lying, too, about more serious matters?
The most problematic moment of all was his cageyness about whether he'd ever drunk so many beers that he might not remember the events of the previous day or night. He refused to even entertain the notion, obnoxiously volleying the question back to his Democratic interlocutors. Because to actually answer would have been to open the door to the possibility that there's a simple explanation for the seemingly irreconcilable accounts of the gathering in question: He did it, but genuinely doesn't remember it.
Again: It's not for me to pronounce on Kavanaugh's guilt. My beef is with his party. (Can there be any doubt, after the judge's Fox News-worthy opening statement, that he is an implacable partisan warrior?) Every warp and woof, it is Donald Trump's party. Truth and decency do not matter. The permanent subjugation of political opposition to Republican power is the only thing that matters.
They have that power now.
With permission from Sen. Graham: God, I hope they don't for very much longer.