Rich Lowry: Setting a new standard for stupid

President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh leaves for a lunch break while appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, to begin his confirmation to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It's not easy to set a new standard for stupid in 2018, but a few left-wingers on Twitter managed it during Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings.

They claimed to have seen one of Judge Kavanaugh's former law clerks, Zina Bash, making a white-power symbol while sitting behind him at the opening session of the hearings.

Less discerning viewers wouldn't have noticed the alleged signal at all, or if they had, would have easily mistaken it for Bash's hand at rest in something like a gesture of OK.

It was declared "a national outrage" by a #resistance tweeter who has 200,000 followers, and the activist and author Amy Siskind said the supposed gesture alone should disqualify Kavanaugh (she deleted the tweet, but still suspected that Bash's hand represented something nefarious).

It's not clear how the hand-signal theory was supposed to make sense. Why, if Judge Kavanaugh is a stealth white-power candidate, would someone on his side go out of her way to advertise that fact on national TV?

On the other hand, if Judge Kavanaugh is a brazen white-power candidate, why does a supporter have to rely on such a subtle gesture to signal his true colors?

Who was the audience for the gesture? A racist underground initiated in a series of secret symbols and handshakes that would be activated to lend its full support for Kavanaugh?

Who knows, and who cares? For an element of the left, the Trump era has been an open invitation to lose their minds, one they have gladly accepted for fun and profit, since there are few things said about the president that can be too extreme or irrational to find an audience.

It was quickly pointed out how insane the hand-signal theory was. Zina Bash's husband explained that his Mexican-born wife is Mexican on her mother's side and Jewish on her father's side, and her grandparents survived the Holocaust. She is a most unlikely secret convert to the alt-right.

Besides, the white-power signal, depending on seeing a "W" for white and a "P" for power in the traditional OK sign, isn't really a thing. The idea was pushed by trolls to fool credulous liberals into picking it up. The Kavanaugh hearing was a coup for them.

Even if the Zina Bash hand-signal theory didn't get traction in the mainstream, its propagators tell us something about the spirit of today's left, which is bilious and enraged.

The natural idiom of the out party in American politics is suspicion of, verging on paranoia about, the party in power, which is almost always considered alien, corrupt and despotic.

But the left also is in the grips of a feeling of inflamed impotence, especially when it comes to the Supreme Court. The Democrats couldn't confirm Barack Obama's pick, Merrick Garland, for the late Antonin Scalia's seat, yet President Donald Trump has two high-court picks and counting. These seats, by their reckoning, are therefore "stolen" — although their disposition was subject to normal democratic processes. The Democrats could have had control of all the Supreme Court picks over the past several years if they'd managed to hold the Senate in 2014 and the presidency in 2016. They could do neither.

Then there's the left's racial theory of America, which is basically a conspiracy theory. It believes in a deeply embedded, all-pervasive white supremacy. Even Brett Kavanaugh, as credentialed and establishment a figure as you can find, is a suspected vehicle for racism.

Finally, Trump has done almost nothing to try to allay the fears about him the way a traditional politician would. Driving his opposition yet more bonkers might well serve his interests in a 2020 re-election campaign — but in the meantime, unhinged people have a more and more prominent place in our public life.

The new standard for stupid in 2018 isn't much of a landmark. It will be eclipsed soon enough.

Rich Lowry | National Review

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. comments.lowry@nationalreview.com

Return to Story