Bret Stephens' Latest Column Is Atrocious Even for Him


It doesn’t give me great pleasure to criticize a former colleague, but New York Times columnist Bret Stephens will just not stop writing dogshit pieces excusing himself for supporting something that Donald Trump does, and letting you know that it pains him very much to do so. Today, he’s turned his attention to Brett Kavanaugh.

This is how the latest installment about the folly of false accusations, by the author of “The Smearing of Woody Allen” and a column which placed as much blame for Harvey Weinstein’s actions on the “libertine culture” Weinstein grew up in as the man himself, begins:

For the first time since Donald Trump entered the political fray, I find myself grateful that he’s in it. I’m reluctant to admit it and astonished to say it, especially since the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford in his ugly and gratuitous way at a rally on Tuesday. Perhaps it’s worth unpacking this admission for those who might be equally astonished to read it.

No one who has had the misfortune of reading multiple Bret Stephens columns over the past two years is astonished to read this. In May, Stephens called Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Iran deal “courageous.” Last December, Stephens wrote about all of the Trump moves he agrees with, before lamenting that Trump’s flawed character is why he still calls himself a Never Trumper. From that piece:

Tax cuts. Deregulation. More for the military; less for the United Nations. The Islamic State crushed in its heartland. Assad hit with cruise missiles. Troops to Afghanistan. Arms for Ukraine. A tougher approach to North Korea. Jerusalem recognized as Israel’s capital. The Iran deal decertified. Title IX kangaroo courts on campus condemned. Yes to Keystone. No to Paris. Wall Street roaring and consumer confidence high.
And, of course, Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. What, for a conservative, is there to dislike about this policy record as the Trump administration rounds out its first year in office?

Apparently, all it took for Stephens to be glad that Trump is as huge of an asshole as he is was the suggestion that we should take allegations of sexual assault seriously—not when deciding whether to put someone in jail, but when deciding whether or not to put the accused on the Supreme Court. One of the most recent withdrawals from a Supreme Court nomination happened in 1987, when Douglas Ginsburg removed himself from consideration after revealing that he had smoked weed. These allegations are exponentially worse than that.

So, why exactly is Stephens grateful for Trump now?

I’m grateful because Trump has not backed down in the face of the slipperiness, hypocrisy and dangerous standard-setting deployed by opponents of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m grateful because ferocious and even crass obstinacy has its uses in life, and never more so than in the face of sly moral bullying. I’m grateful because he’s a big fat hammer fending off a razor-sharp dagger.

So, basically all of the things that Stephens has claimed to hate about him since the moment Trump “entered the political fray.” From this, Stephens details eight things from the past few weeks which have reinforced his opinion on this. They include:

  • False allegations of sexual assault are bad.
  • The allegations are “uncorroborated,” including the alleged assault of Christine Blasey Ford, who maintained throughout the entire process that Mark Judge was in the room when her assault took place, and repeatedly insisted that Judge be called to testify. (He wasn’t.)
  • Dianne Feinstein suggested that Kavanaugh’s temper tantrum and insistence that this is all a “political hit job” means he may not be impartial. (This was already a big problem, since Kavanaugh only landed a seat on the Court of Appeals because he was a flack for George W. Bush.)
  • Julie Swetnick, the one Kavanaugh accuser that mainstream Republicans seem wholly comfortable with slut-shaming, is lying.
  • Richard Blumenthal stole valor.
  • And finally, this, which makes no goddamn sense:
Being quizzed in recent days about my teenage years at a New England boarding school — the subtext being that I must know something about elite prep schools and the mentality of the boys who attend them.
I do. It was at boarding school where I first formed lasting friendships with kids of different races and economic backgrounds, and where liberal-leaning teachers showed us how to think critically, keep an open mind, and value tolerance and respect. I have no idea if Georgetown Prep was anything like that, but the facile stereotype of “white privilege” that keeps cropping up in discussions of Kavanaugh’s background is yet another ugly tactic in the battle to defeat him.

This column could’ve been a lot shorter if Stephens had fessed up to one simple thing up front: he—like the MAGA hat-wearers he so often sneers at—loves a strongman, and especially so when that strongman pisses off the libs. In a media landscape that for some reason values the opinion of Never Trumpers despite how few of them actually exist, however, admitting that probably wouldn’t be a great career move.

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