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'Washington Post' Columnist Megan McArdle On Kavanaugh


Brett Kavanaugh seems to be on a clear path to be confirmed for the Supreme Court, but the battle has become a flashpoint following allegations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in high school. Megan McArdle, columnist for The Washington Post, has expressed a diversity of views, which we welcome, and she joins us. Megan, thanks so much for being with us.

MEGAN MCARDLE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: You wrote at one point that you supported Brett Kavanaugh for the court, but you also supported the pause in the Senate vote to investigate allegations of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford. Now with the advantage of a few hours of hindsight, was that investigation just a fig leaf to gain a few more votes?

MCARDLE: I don't think so. I think - well, I mean, yes and no, right? I think that's why they did it. I think it was also the right thing to do. And sometimes, funnily enough, in Washington, they actually do the right thing because that's a good way to get more votes, perhaps not as often as we'd like.

I didn't actually support him. I said that under certain circumstances that if, for example, she didn't cooperate with, as it then looked possible, that they should confirm because I think that the Senate cannot vote - you know, I went to a reporter and told my story, but I won't tell it to the Senate. You can't sort of take that into evidence, I think, because it's not the same standards that an investigation has.

But I thought it needed to be investigated. These were serious allegations. And also for - you know, even if you think he didn't do it, what you want to do is get the maximal information out there. You want to, first of all, make sure that there's not something you're missing, that there's not something there because Democrats are going to investigate afterwards. But also, you need to present to the country, look; we did our job, and we can't corroborate this.

SIMON: Did the investigation do its job?

MCARDLE: I am surprised that they did not talk to Ford or to Kavanaugh. Some people say that's actually pretty normal; some people say it wasn't. I wish they had, again, because I think that democratic legitimacy requires saying, we did everything we could to make sure these things weren't true. On the other hand, both of them had testified at length. And, you know, Ford, I think, hurt herself a little bit by being uncooperative by not providing - she had, basically, two pieces of corroboration.

SIMON: I wasn't aware of the fact that she was uncooperative.

MCARDLE: Well, so she had, basically, two pieces of corroboration for her story. She had people she had told in sort of 2017, 2018. But she had - people - basically, two pieces of corroboration were her therapist's notes, which had seemed to say, look; she talked about this, although not with Kavanaugh's name in 2012, and the polygraph that she took. But she wouldn't provide the detailed information about the polygraph, and she would not provide the therapist's notes to the committee.

And, you know, it's not clear what her attorneys were doing. Whether they were trying to force the FBI to talk to her or whether they were helping Democrats, it's really not clear. But the upshot was that the committee decided without those things. And I think that without those things, what you have is literally just her testimony. She had had other witnesses who contacted the committee for her...

SIMON: Yeah.

MCARDLE: ...And provided letters, but all they said was, she told me about this in 2018.

SIMON: Well, let me ask you about the logic of Susan Collins of Maine because she said she found Christine Blasey Ford sincere, but that she couldn't let a charge that didn't have corroborating witnesses sway her support for a judge.


SIMON: Now the world heard from thousands of victims of sexual assault over these past few weeks who pointed out that's the thing about this crime. It's often committed without witnesses, and they feel insulted and outraged and offended not to be believed.

MCARDLE: You know, I think this is a real problem that we have been grappling with for a very long time and is an inherently difficult crime because, you know, some rapes involve just someone who is too intoxicated to consent. You then end up with someone who was too intoxicated, also, to have, necessarily, fully coherent memories of what happened, and they make bad witnesses, which is terrible.

And, you know, I've been trying to make clear in my coverage the whole time there really is - there were two talking points in this, neither of which I think were right. Democrats saying this is just a job interview. I mean, this guy - being called a rapist 24/7 on the media for three weeks is not just a job interview. That doesn't happen in job interviews. But Republicans kept saying presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And, you know, inherently with these crimes, first of all, that's a really hard standard. You're going to end up acquitting a lot of guys and making punishment kind of, essentially, too random to be good deterrence.

But also, you know, a Supreme Court seat is very different from being put in a cage. And while I have great sympathy for what Kavanaugh has gone through in the past three weeks and for, by the way, what Ford has gone through, which has been terrible and shameless and totally undeserved from people, you know, pushing her into hiding with death threats and so forth, it's not the same as being put in a jail cell. I've spent a couple minutes locked in a jail cell for a story, and it's way worse than what Brett Kavanaugh went through.

SIMON: Megan McArdle, thanks so much.

MCARDLE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SZA SONG, "20 SOMETHING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.