On Thursday morning, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford detailed under oath her claim that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh attacked her and sexually violated her when he was 17. On Thursday afternoon, Kavanaugh went before the committee to defend himself from the charge, emotionally—sometimes angrily—claiming that he was an innocent man being persecuted by Democrats, that his hearings had become a “national disgrace” that had “destroyed my family and my good name.”
The two witnesses, Ford and Kavanaugh, were both steadfast in their stories. The hearing did not offer any obvious moments that would decimate either party’s claims. Some viewers may have left not knowing what to believe: Ford was clear and responsive. Kavanaugh was irate and at times teary, but emotional denials are what we might expect from an innocent person who was wrongly accused. Predictably, people broadly on the left found Ford’s testimony compelling, while people broadly on the right… well, here are the headlines from the National Review’s homepage today:
- Brett Kavanaugh’s History-Changing Speech
- We Are Living Nineteen Eighty-Four
- An Eleventh-Hour Ambush
- Confirm Kavanaugh
- Brett Kavanaugh Should Be Angry
- After Kavanaugh’s Stand, Republicans Abandon Him At Their Peril
(This is a partial selection.)
The allegations against Kavanaugh so infuriated Lindsey Graham that during the hearings he lapsed into what I think can only objectively be described as a sputtering fit of rage. “I hope the American people can see through this sham.. This is going to destroy the ability of good people to come forward because of this crap… If you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”
Some concluded that they didn’t know what to conclude. Noah Rothman of Commentary said that “Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s pain was real and searing” and “the line of questioning pursued by a criminal prosecutor hired by Senate Republicans failed to effectively undermine her credibility” but that Kavanaugh “argued forcefully that the condemnation of him and his family over a rumor with no contemporary corroborating evidence in its favor would be a monumental injustice, and he’s correct.” The hearing, Rothman said, resolved nothing about the facts.
Let’s leave aside the procedural questions about if and how an investigation should proceed. Given what we know now, after the hearings, what can we conclude for certain? Let’s just say we do not know whether to believe Ford or Kavanaugh, that we found both of their testimonies equally likely to be true. In a state of uncertainty, we’d be left with a tricky situation. The truth or falsity of the allegation against Kavanaugh is extremely important; if it’s true, not only did he attack a woman three decades ago, but he lied shamelessly about it under oath, forcing Ford through a humiliating public process that led to her receiving death threats. If what Ford says is true, then not only should Brett Kavanaugh not be confirmed to the Supreme Court, but he should be impeached and removed from the federal judiciary entirely, disbarred, and prosecuted for perjury.
The stakes here are high: If Kavanaugh did it and is confirmed, then a sexual assailant and sociopathic liar will be given one of the most powerful offices in the country (wouldn’t be the first time). If he didn’t do it, then his indignation and disgust is justified. Republicans have argued that Ford’s allegation is completely unproven, uncorroborated, and totally inconsistent with known facts, and that presenting it to the country represents an abandonment of the “presumption of innocence” (which it is refreshing to hear them care about).
What is the best way, then, to figure out the truth? It’s absolutely the case that Christine Ford has no eyewitnesses to support her. She cannot remember exactly where the assault happened, or exactly when. She can’t remember all the people who were at the house, and the people she does say were there have said they have no memory of the event. She told nobody about it at the time. Looking at these facts, we can see how someone strongly committed to due process might think the allegation extremely weak. (Just for the moment, let’s leave aside the two other serious sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.)
However, while these aspects of Ford’s allegation might lead us to demand more proof, they in no way make it inconceivable. In fact, they’re exactly what we might expect if the allegation were true. A girl attacked by two jocks at a party may not tell anybody, precisely because she knows there are no eyewitnesses, they’d back each other up, and even if there had been physical evidence they could never be convicted of anything. It’s not surprising that attendees other than Ford don’t remember this gathering; she says it was small and informal, and remembering who was at every small and informal gathering you were ever at in high school three decades ago is impossible. Ford (and the alleged perpetrators) is the only one it was a significant night for. So the lack of corroboration doesn’t itself make the allegation dubious, and if we demand eyewitnesses before believing victims, most of the time someone who did this would get away with it, because most of the time people are sexually violated in private. Of course there is a serious risk to the “believe all accusers” approach—it leads to wrongful convictions. But there is also a risk to a “never believe an uncorroborated charge” approach—it means that you can attack someone if you’re alone with them, and as long as you leave no marks, you’ll get away with it forever.
If we are taking an uncorroborated claim seriously, though, what does that mean for standards of proof? Much later in life, Ford told her therapist and husband, but at the end of the day we only have her word. If we were to base his guilt on her word alone, then wouldn’t people be able to make any kind of false allegation they liked?
Not quite. The existence of a “he said, she said” does not mean it’s impossible to figure out the truth. It means we have to examine what he said, and what she said, as closely as possible. If both parties speak with passion and clarity, but one of them says many inconsistent, evasive, irrational, and false things, while the other does not, then we actually have a very good indicator of which party is telling the truth. If a man claims to be innocent, but does things—like carefully manipulate words to avoid giving clear answers, or lie about the evidence—that you probably wouldn’t do if you were innocent, then testimony alone can substantially change our confidence in who to believe.
In this case, when we examine the testimony of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford honestly, impartially, and carefully, it is impossible to escape the following conclusions:
- Brett Kavanaugh is lying.
- There is no good reason to believe that Christine Blasey Ford is lying. This does not mean that she is definitely telling the truth, but that there is nothing in what Kavanaugh said that in any way discredits her account.
I want to show you, clearly and definitively, how Brett Kavanaugh has lied to you and lied to the Senate. I cannot prove that he committed sexual assault when he was 17, and I hesitate to draw conclusions about what happened for a few minutes in a house in Maryland in the summer of 1982. But I can prove quite easily that Kavanaugh’s teary-eyed “good, innocent man indignant at being wrongfully accused” schtick was a facade. What may have looked like a strong defense was in fact a very, very weak and implausible one.
“If both parties speak with passion and clarity, but one of them says many inconsistent, evasive, irrational, and false things, then we actually have a very good indicator of who is telling the truth…”
Let’s begin with Kavanaugh’s denial.
Here is what he says: “I never attended a gathering like the one Dr. Ford describes in her allegation.”
And here is the gathering as Ford describes it:
After a day of diving at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember specifically being there: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, a boy named P.J., and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I also remember my friend Leland attending. I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur-of-the-moment gathering… People were drinking beer in a small living room/family room-type area on the first floor of the house.
Kavanaugh says that he never attended any event like this. Like what, though? He never attended a small gathering in Bethesda where people were drinking beer? Kavanaugh submitted his own calendars from the summer of 1982 into evidence for the Senate. As he said himself, “the calendars show a few weekday gatherings at friends’ houses after a workout or just to meet up and have some beers.” He says that he never attended a gathering like this, but that’s obviously false, because the type of gathering he says he did attend is exactly the kind she describes.
Coverage of Ford’s allegations has often implied that the “party” at which she alleges she was assaulted was a kind of large Bacchanalian house party. This is a crucial part of Kavanaugh’s “calendar” defense: If there had been a big party, lots of people would have been there, it would probably have been on his summer calendar under “PAR-TAY!” It would have been notable, and since nobody seems to remember it and he even wrote far less significant events on his calendar, Ford must be misremembering.
But Ford has been clear: She is not talking about a big event. She is talking about a few friends and acquaintances hanging around drinking some beer in a living room:
It was not really a party like the news has made it sound. It was not. It was just a gathering that I assumed was going to lead to a party later on that those boys would attend, because they tended to have parties later at night than I was allowed to stay out. So it was kind of a pre-gathering.
It’s impossible to believe Kavanaugh when he says he never attended any event “like the one Dr. Ford describes.” It was a very typical low-key high school event, and it would have been shocking if Kavanaugh never attended such a thing. Indeed, he admits it himself.
Okay, so this was a weird lie to tell, because everyone goes to these sorts of events and he had them on his own calendar. But okay, maybe you think that he wasn’t trying to subtly reinforce the impression that Ford was alleging some kind of noteworthy event. Maybe you think he just meant “I never went to this kind of small gathering with the people Ford says.” Indeed, Kavanaugh says:
[N]one of those gatherings included the group of people that Dr. Ford has identified. And as my calendars show, I was very precise about listing who was there; very precise.
Well it’s hard to misinterpret that. He was very precise. Who, then, is the group of people that Dr. Ford has identified? From her testimony:
There were four boys I remember specifically being there: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, a boy named P.J., and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I also remember my friend Leland attending.
So presumably, if we looked at what Kavanaugh’s calendars show, we wouldn’t find an event with Mark Judge, P.J., some other boy, and Leland. Instead, he gives examples of the kinds of gatherings he did attend:
I [was] in D.C. on Saturday night, August 7th. But I was at a small gathering at Becky’s house in Rockville with Matt, Denise, Laurie and Jenny. Their names are all listed on my calendar. I won’t use their last names here. And then on the weekend of August 20 to 22nd, I was staying at the Garrets’ (ph) with Pat (ph) and Chris (ph) as we did final preparations for football training camp.
None of these names are the names Ford cites. Clearly she knows nothing about his summer. But wait: Let’s look at the entry for July 1st, one Kavanaugh did not cite in his list of “parties with people who are not the people Ford cited.” On July 1st, Kavanaugh planned to go “to Timmy’s for skis w/Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, Squi.” There’s Mark Judge! There’s P.J.! So he gathered for [brew]skis with 2 of the 3 people Ford says she remembers being there. Small gathering? Beer? Judge, Brett, and P.J.? Check, check, and check. So when Kavanaugh says none of the gatherings on the calendar include the people Ford says, and implies that Ford was just conjuring names of people he would never gather with, that’s false. In fact, she cited a small gathering with P.J. and Judge before he released his calendar confirming it.
Alright this is going to briefly get complicated, but I don’t want to draw actual conspiracy-diagrams, so bear with me: There’s another person who was at “Timmy’s”: a mysterious man named “Squi.” Squi was, in fact, a man named Chris Garrett, whom Ford says she went out with and who introduced her into Kavanaugh’s social circle. Garrett has attested to Kavanaugh’s good character, but because none of this has been properly investigated, we have no idea whether he admits to having gone out with Ford. If he did, that would cast doubt on Kavanaugh’s assertion that he had absolutely no idea who Ford was and she didn’t move “in his circle”: It would still be possible that they never met and Kavanaugh never heard her name, but there would be a clear connection.
One more person: Leland. Leland is Leland Ingham Keyser, Ford’s friend. Kavanaugh repeatedly cited her statement that she couldn’t remember this gathering. Her lawyer’s statement to the press read: “simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.” Kavanaugh relied on this statement repeatedly. Two instances:
KAVANAUGH: All four witnesses who are alleged to be at the event said it didn’t happen. Including Dr. Ford’s long-time friend, Ms. Keyser, who said that she didn’t know me and that she does not recall ever being at a party with me with or without Dr. Ford.
KAVANAUGH: All the witnesses who were there say it didn’t happen. Ms. Keyser’s her longtime friend, said she never saw me at a party with or without Dr. Ford…
Do you notice something? THIS IS A BALD-FACED LIE. Keyser never said it “didn’t happen.” She said she didn’t remember being at a party with him and doesn’t know him. But in an interview with the Washington Post, Keyser said she believes Ford’s allegation. Keyser says she believes it happened, Kavanaugh tells the United States Senate that she said it didn’t.
Another fact about Keyser: She may not remember him, but he seems to remember her. When asked, he became extremely cagey and imprecise:
MITCHELL: OK. Do you know Leland Ingham or Leland Keyser?
KAVANAUGH: I — I know of her. And it — it’s possible I, you know, saw — met her in high school at some point at some event. Yes, I know — I know of her and, again, I don’t want to rule out having crossed paths with her in high school.
If you don’t remember her from high school, there’s a simple answer to this question: “I know of her now, but I don’t remember ever meeting her then.” If you of course remember her, but that would provide a direct social tie between you and the woman you allegedly assaulted (whom you say “did not travel in the same social circles” as you), then you give an answer like the one Kavanaugh gave: Don’t specify when you heard of her, fudge it with the present tense (of course you know of her now, the question is whether you knew her then), and stutter your way through.
I want to dwell just a little longer on Kavanaugh’s statement that “all the witnesses” said it “didn’t happen.” Even Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s close friend who allegedly participated in the assault, pulled a bit of a shady “don’t recall”: “I have no memory of this alleged incident. Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford’s letter. More to the point, I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.” That last bit is a denial that Judge himself participated in or witnessed such an assault, but here’s P.J.:
“I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.”
Kavanaugh says P.J. denied that the event happened. That’s not what the statement says. Kavanaugh is a federal judge, a real smart cookie. I hope he knows the difference between the absence of an awareness of an event and an awareness of the absence of an event.
This may seem like hair-splitting. But (1) “I don’t recall such a thing” should always raise suspicions and (2) Kavanaugh, for all his righteous weeping and insistence on his honesty, is not presenting the evidence accurately. He’s trying to suggest that it’s more unfavorable to Ford than it actually is. Saying “Everyone she says was there denies it” is far more effective than the truth: “Nobody she says was there remembers it, though one of them believes it happened.” Kavanaugh concluded that “Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a long-time friend of hers. Refuted.” It wasn’t refuted in the least. (Kavanaugh also plays a canny trick with the word here: “refuted” can mean both “denied” and “disproven,” so it’s true to say that Mark Judge “refuted” Ford in the sense of denying involvement, but not true that Judge’s denial actually disproved anything. By using refuted this way, one can blur the distinction and imply to the audience that an accusation has been disproven that has merely been denied!)
Briefly, let’s look at two more ways in which Kavanaugh massaged facts about the event itself in order to make Christine Ford’s claim seem impossible and treat Ford as completely detached from reality. Have a look at what he does here:
I did have the summer of 1982 documented pretty well. The event described by Dr. Ford, presumably happened on a weekend because I believed everyone worked and had jobs in the summers. And in any event, a drunken early evening event of the kind she describes, presumably happened on a weekend. If it was a weekend, my calendars show that I was out of town almost every weekend night before football training camp started in late August. The only weekend nights that I was in D.C. were Friday, June 4, when I was with my dad at a pro golf tournament and had my high school achievement test at 8:30 the next morning.
Kavanaugh quickly tries to restrict the range of possible dates to weekends, and on weekends he largely has alibis. “Presumably” this event happened on a weekend he says, because they were hard-working kids and drinking wouldn’t happen on a weeknight. But he actually has precisely such an event on his calendar! The July 1st brewski-evening with P.J., Judge, et al. happened on a Thursday, according to his own record. Kavanaugh tries to get people to avoid scrutinizing weekdays, by immediately “presuming” that this had to occur on a weekend, when he was—conveniently—frequently out of town. 1982 Kavanaugh has proven clearly that 2018 Kavanaugh is misleading the Senate about how he used to spend his weeknights.
One more obvious act of manipulation:
When my friends and I spent time together at parties on weekends, it was usually the — with friends from nearby Catholic all-girls high schools, Stone Ridge, Holy Child, Visitation, Immaculata, Holy Cross. Dr. Ford did not attend one of those schools. She attended an independent private school named Holton-Arms and she was a year behind me… Dr. Ford has said that this event occurred at a house near Columbia Country Club, which is at the corner of Connecticut Avenue in the East-West Highway in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In her letter to Senator Feinstein, she said that there were four other people at the house but none of those people, nor I, lived near Columbia Country Club. As of the summer of 1982, Dr. Ford was 15 and could not drive yet and she did not live near Columbia Country Club. She says confidently that she had one beer at the party, but she does not say how she got to the house in question or how she got home or whose house it was.
Here Kavanaugh tries to undermine Ford with his superior specificity of location (he knows exactly which corner the street is), and by suggesting that Ford simply wouldn’t have encountered him because he was far away.
Alright, here’s a map:
This is the Bethesda area in Maryland. From the top to the bottom is about five miles. The red marker is Kavanaugh’s school, Georgetown Prep. The purple is Ford’s school, Holton-Arms. The blue markers are two of the Catholic girls’ schools whose students Kavanaugh said he did encounter socially. And the green is the country club. I am not presenting this map to show anything elaborate or conspiratorial, I swear. I just want you to note that all of these places are within a very short distance of one another. Ford’s school is not remote, it’s in exactly in the area where Kavanaugh did meet students from other schools. And the country club is pretty close by.
Kavanaugh also doesn’t mention another salient fact, which is that his father and Ford’s father were members of the same golf club. Kavanaugh leaves details like this out, because he wants to create the impression that there was some considerable distance between the Bethesda prep-school community that Ford inhabited and the one he himself inhabited. But hang on, where did all these people live? Oh, turns out we have a map of that too:
Kavanaugh, who scoffs that he didn’t live near Ford’s country club, lived closer to it than she did!
So Kavanaugh’s testimony about the event itself is shot through with both outright lies and calculated manipulations of the facts. Now let’s look at some of the ways in which he deceived the Senate about the early part of his life in an attempt to discredit Christine Blasey Ford.
Ford alleges that at the time of the assault, Kavanaugh and Judge were “visibly drunk.” The other allegations against Kavanaugh, by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, suggest that Kavanaugh participated in a rowdy drinking culture as a young man, and that the abuse occurred under the influence of alcohol. Swetnick says she “observed Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively at many of these parties and engage in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls.” So drinking forms a major part of all the allegations, and facts about Kavanaugh’s history with alcohol bear on the plausibility of all three.
Kavanaugh has not only denied engaging in abuse, but has rejected the entire idea of him as having been an excessive and rowdy drinker. In his testimony and his interview with FOX News, Kavanaugh portrayed himself as having been a shy, studious, churchgoing virgin who worked a summer job and focused on community service and team sports. Here’s an abbreviated version of an exchange with Patrick Leahy:
LEAHY: Now, you’ve talked about your yearbook. In your yearbook, you talked about drinking and sexual exploits, did you not?
KAVANAUGH: Senator, let me — let me take a step back and explain high school. I was number one in the class… [crosstalk]
LEAHY: I thought we were in the Senate […]
GRASSLEY: Let him answer. […]
KAVANAUGH: I’m going to talk about my high school record, if you’re going to sit here and mock me. […] I busted my butt in academics. I always tried to do the best I could. As I recall, I finished one in the class… I played sports. I was captain of the varsity basketball team. I was wide receiver and defensive back on the football team. I ran track in the spring of ’82 to try to get faster. I did my service projects at the school, which involved going to the soup kitchen downtown — let me finish — and going to tutor intellectually disabled kids at the Rockville Library. With the church — and, yes, we got together with our friends.
Leahy asks a straightforward question. In your high school yearbook, did you mention drinking and sexual exploits? Kavanaugh does not reply “Of course! I was a sports jock!” Instead, he replies “Let me tell you about my grades, and the times I volunteered at the library, with intellectually disabled kids.” You’ll notice that this (1) does not answer the question and is (2) incredibly fishy. If you ask someone “Were you a drinker?” and they reply “I went to church and helped children,” you are not dealing with a forthright person.
Kavanaugh says that he was then, and is now, deeply pious. He says that church doesn’t appear on his extremely precise summer calendar because “going to church on Sundays was like brushing my teeth, automatic.” He only ever socialized with good Catholic girls from Catholic high schools. He tells the Senate that his daughters have prayed for Christine Blasey Ford. Which I am sure she appreciates.
His faith was so important to him that he remained celibate through the entirety of high school and college:
I never had sexual intercourse, or anything close to it, during high school, or for many years after that. In some crowds, I was probably a little outwardly shy about my inexperience; tried to hide that. At the same time, I was also inwardly proud of it. For me and the girls who I was friends with, that lack of major rampant sexual activity in high school was a matter of faith and respect and caution.
Here he is again, in his FOX News interview, talking about what a good, sweet young man he was:
I was focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday at Little Flower, working on my service projects, and friendship, friendship with my fellow classmates and friendship with girls from the local all girls Catholic schools.
I was focused on trying to be number one in my class and being captain of the varsity basketball team and doing my service projects, going to church. The vast majority of the time I spent in high school was studying or focused on sports and being a good friend to the boys and the girls that I was friends with.
I’m giving you so much of this in order to illustrate how central Kavanaugh has made it. Kavanaugh tells us that we should doubt Ford’s allegation because it is inconsistent with who he was, that it is absurd to think of him as having been a boozing, aggressive teenager. If Kavanaugh is not telling the truth about this, then, it significantly damages his credibility vis-a-vis the accusation itself. As Kavanaugh broke down in tears before the senate, he portrayed himself as not just innocent but an innocent, a man for whom drunken lechery would have been utterly unthinkable and appalling.
Kavanaugh does say that he had some drinks in high school. But his confession is not really a confession at all:
My friends and I sometimes got together and had parties on weekends. The drinking age was 18 in Maryland for most of my time in high school, and was 18 in D.C. for all of my time in high school. I drank beer with my friends. Almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out, and I never sexually assaulted anyone. There is a bright line between drinking beer, which I gladly do, and which I fully embrace, and sexually assaulting someone, which is a violent crime. If every American who drinks beer or every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault, will be an ugly, new place in this country. I never committed sexual assault.
I almost admire this. If being a beer-drinking American is a crime, then I say lock me up. Democrats are trying to punish Kavanaugh for the crime of having a few drinks in high school. They must be desperate. Kavanaugh says he freely admits to doing things that were “goofy or stupid,” but that he doubts he is alone in this. (If having flaws is a misdeed, who among us is innocent?) I was reminded here of what Jian Ghomeshi did in his infamous essay for the New York Review of Books. Accused by 20 women of harassment and violent abuse, he wrote: “What I do confess is that I was emotionally thoughtless in the way I treated those I dated and tried to date.” Since we’ve all been thoughtless, this is not actually an admission of anything, but it makes you seem contrite.
Kavanaugh is very careful to admit to only the most minor and excusable of mistakes in high school. So he won’t even acknowledge that he drank underage, saying the “drinking age was 18, and yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there.” Only the legal ones had beer. Now, Kavanaugh was simply wrong about the drinking age: It was raised to 21 in Maryland when he was 17. (Coincidentally, it was raised on July 1, 1982, the very day Kavanaugh was knocking back a few brewskis with P.J., Squi, and Judge.) And since Kavanaugh was 17 rather than 18, what he says doesn’t even matter, because either way he was drinking underage! Some people have called this a lie, but perhaps studious young Brett, who only ever took the smallest of sips, was simply unaware of the state’s laws. I’m more interested in the way Kavanaugh won’t admit to anything that could undermine his image as a straight-A choirboy type.
His decision to present himself as squeaky clean, rather than wayward but subsequently redeemed, brings us to some of the most absurd untruths of Kavanaugh’s whole testimony. The evidence that he was more than an ordinary social drinker is voluminous. His yearbook lists him as treasurer of the “Keg City Club,” and his entry says “100 Kegs or Bust,” apparently referring to a “campaign by his friends to empty 100 kegs of beer during their senior year.” (Not a single senator asked him why his yearbook said “100 kegs or bust,” and the word “keg” doesn’t even appear in the hearing transcript.) It also says he was the “biggest contributor” to the Beach Week Ralph Club, which he admitted was a reference to vomiting. Here’s Liz Swisher, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s who is now chief of the gynecologic oncology division at the University of Washington School of Medicine:
Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him. I watched him drink more than a lot of people. He’d end up slurring his words, stumbling… There’s no medical way I can say that he was blacked out. . . . But it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess.
Here’s Daniel Livan, who lived in Kavanaugh’s dorm:
“I definitely saw him on multiple occasions stumbling drunk where he could not have rational control over his actions or clear recollection of them… His depiction of himself is inaccurate.”
James Roche, Kavanaugh’s freshman year roommate at Yale, says Kavanaugh was “frequently incoherently drunk,” and that “he became aggressive and belligerent” when he was drunk. Here’s Republican ex-pharmaceutical executive Lynn Brooks, another Yale classmate who roomed with Kavanaugh’s second accuser, Deborah Ramirez:
“He’s trying to paint himself as some kind of choir boy… You can’t lie your way onto the Supreme Court, and with [his self-description in the FOX interview], he’s gone too far. It’s about the integrity of that institution.”
Brooks remembered a particular incident when Kavanaugh participated in a drunken event with his fraternity, in which everyone was “ridiculously drunk” and had to do “ridiculous things.” Here’s the Washington Post account:
Brookes said she remembers seeing Kavanaugh outside the Sterling Memorial Library, wearing a superhero cape and an old leather football helmet and swaying, working to keep his balance. He was ordered to hop on one foot, grab his crotch and approach her with a rhyme, Brookes said. He couldn’t keep balanced, she said, but belted out the rhyme she’s remembered to this day: “I’m a geek, I’m a geek, I’m a power tool. When I sing this song, I look like a fool.” “It’s a funny, drunk college story that you remember — at least, I remember,” Brookes said. As she tracked his career over the years, and his rise in the federal court system, she said, “I thought it was so funny to think that’s the Brett who sang that song.”
In total, the New York Times cited “nearly a dozen people” who knew Kavanaugh and confirmed he was a “heavy drinker.” Kavanaugh also hosted weekly tailgates while at Yale. [Update: on Sunday another Yale classmate said Kavanaugh was belligerent when drunk, that he saw Kavanaugh staggering from intoxication, and on one occasion “I witnessed him respond to a semi-hostile remark, not by defusing the situation, but by throwing his beer in the man’s face and starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.”] Kavanaugh’s close high school friend Mark Judge even wrote a memoir called Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, which featured a character called “Bart O’Kavanaugh” passing out from partying and puking in a car. Judge even mentioned “Bart” in the yearbook, suggesting this was probably a high school nickname or inside joke. (Interestingly, Wasted also provides a timeline of Judge’s job history consistent with Ford’s own memory of it.) When Senator Leahy asked whether “O’Kavanaugh” might have been inspired by a certain real-life individual, Kavanaugh replied that the book was an attempt to help Judge recover from an addiction, and:
KAVANAUGH: I think he picked out names of friends of ours to throw them in as kind of close to what — for characters in the book.
LEAHY: So you don’t know — you don’t know whether that’s you or not?
KAVANAUGH: …So, you know, we can sit here [and] make fun of some guy who has an addiction.
Leahy says Is this based on you? Kavanaugh replies How cruel you are to make fun of my friend’s addiction.
So it’s in the yearbook, in his friend’s memoir, and multiple fellow Yalies have eyewitness accounts. Now let’s look at what happened when he was asked about the discrepancies between this evidence and his self-description:
WHITEHOUSE: Let’s look at, “Beach Week Ralph Club — Biggest Contributor,” what does the word Ralph mean in that?
KAVANAUGH: That probably refers to throwing up. I’m known to have a weak stomach and I always have. In fact, the last time I was here, you asked me about having ketchup on spaghetti. I always have had a weak stomach. […] this is well-known. Anyone who’s known me, like a lot of these people behind me — known me my whole life — know, you know. I got a weak stomach, whether it’s with beer or with spicy food or anything.
WHITEHOUSE: So the vomiting that you reference in the Ralph Club reference, related to the consumption of alcohol?
KAVANAUGH: Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.
Ah yes, the judge from Keg City definitely got into the “Beach Week Ralph Club” thanks to his delicate stomach’s intolerance for spicy food. And look, another glorious non sequitur: Q: Was the ralphing alcohol-related? A: I went to Yale. The implication here, of course, is that you couldn’t have gotten to Yale and Yale Law School and have been some kind of heavy-drinking, belligerent bro. Speaking as a fellow alumnus of Yale Law School, BAHAHAHAHAHAHA. (One trivial footnote here is that Yale’s acceptance rate then was about four times higher than it is now, and it would have been especially easy for someone who went to Georgetown Prep. [Update: It turns out Kavanaugh’s grandfather also went to Yale, even though Kavanaugh lied and said he had “no connections” there.] Still, I do not doubt Kavanaugh when he says he did well in school. He very much seems like the type who would.)
Senator Whitehouse continued to try to get a straight answer out of Kavanaugh about the ralphing-all-over-the-beach club:
WHITEHOUSE: Did it relate to alcohol? You haven’t answered that.
KAVANAUGH: I like beer. I like beer. I don’t know if you do…
KAVANAUGH: … do you like beer, Senator, or not?
WHITEHOUSE: Um, next…
KAVANAUGH: What do you like to drink?
Kavanaugh is asked if the ralphing pertained to drinking. He replies that he likes beer, which is irrelevant, because lots of people like beer and yet aren’t given prizes for Outstanding Contributions to Vomiting. Kavanaugh then goes on the attack: I am a loyal beer-drinking American. Are you? Whitehouse is cowed and moves on.
This is typical of Kavanaugh’s answers about alcohol. Here, he is asked to be more specific about what he meant when he said he sometimes had “too many” beers:
MITCHELL: What do you consider to be too many beers?
KAVANAUGH: I don’t know. You know, we — whatever the chart says, a blood-alcohol chart.
Needless to say, this is an attempt to avoid giving any detail about what condition he is actually admitting he ended up in. Also needless to say, there was no follow-up.
To conclude Kavanaugh’s implausible alcohol-related denials and evasions, here’s a particularly striking exchange with Amy Klobuchar:
KLOBUCHAR: So in your case, you have said, here and other places, that you never drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened. But yet, we have heard — not under oath, but we have heard your college roommate say that you did drink frequently. These are in news reports. That you would sometimes be belligerent. Another classmate said it’s not credible for you to say you didn’t have memory lapses. So drinking is one thing.
KAVANAUGH: I don’t think — I — I actually don’t think… the second quote’s correct. On the first quote, if you wanted, I provided some material that’s still redacted about the situation with the freshman year roommate, and I don’t really want to repeat that in a public hearing, but just so you know, there were three people in a room, Dave White, Jamie Roach (ph) and me, and it was a contentious situation where Jamie did not like Dave White. I was — at all, and I’m in this…
Well, the second quote is correct. It’s verbatim from Lynn Brooks, who said “it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses.” The second bit is impossible to assess. He insists that there’s some publicly unavailable material that sheds light on relationship between his roommates. (Elsewhere, when he is questioned again about his roommate’s firsthand observations, he says again that it’s all explained in the publicly unavailable material. Which is quite convenient, since this is one of the more damning quotes—and also, let’s note, a quote from a man, who is less likely to be treated as crazy or delusional, because we live in a sexist society where an indignant man who tells obvious lies will be believed over a scared and consistent woman.) His attempts at further explanation are bizarre:
KAVANAUGH: So Dave — so Dave White came back from — from home one weekend, and Jamie Roach had moved all his furniture…
KLOBUCHAR: OK. OK.
KAVANAUGH: … out into the — out into the courtyard.
KAVANAUGH: And so he walks in, and so that’s your source on that, so there’s some old…
KLOBUCHAR: OK, so drinking is one thing.
KAVANAUGH: There — and there’s much more. Look at the redacted portion of what I said. I don’t want to repeat that in a public hearing.
What?? Jamie says he saw Brett drink a lot and get aggressive. Brett says in response that Jamie didn’t like a third guy, Dave, and once moved his furniture into the courtyard. It’s all explained somewhere else. It totally makes sense. Don’t make me repeat it.
Senator Klobuchar moves on.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. Drinking is one thing, but the concern is about truthfulness, and in your written testimony, you said sometimes you had too many drinks. Was there ever a time when you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened, or part of what happened the night before?
KAVANAUGH: No, I — no. I remember what happened, and I think you’ve probably had beers, Senator, and — and so I…
KLOBUCHAR: So you’re saying there’s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before, or part of what happened.
KAVANAUGH: It’s — you’re asking about, you know, blackout. I don’t know. Have you?
KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? I just — so you — that’s not happened. Is that your answer?
KAVANAUGH: Yeah, and I’m curious if you have.
This was a moment of childish petulance so egregious that Kavanaugh had to apologize to Senator Klobuchar after a recess. Elsewhere he did explicitly deny having blacked out, but answering questions with questions like this is not what an honest witness does. There are no moments comparable to this one in Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony.
I am sorry to keep piling up instances of perjury, but there are so many of them to go through. Let us turn to two more lies, which both appear minor but have important implications. First is the case of poor Renate.
Renate Dolphin was a contemporary of Kavanaugh’s when he was at Georgetown Prep and she was at school nearby, and initially signed a letter supporting him. In Kavanaugh’s yearbook, some of the football players, including Kavanaugh, used the cryptic phrase “Renate Alumni.” Two ex-Georgetown Prep classmates told the New York Times that boys were bragging (truthfully or not, probably not) about sex with Renate. Sean Hagan said that Kavanaugh and his teammates “were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate. I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.” Dolphin herself didn’t know about the yearbook page when she signed the support letter, and when she discovered it was horrified:
I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago… I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way.
But instead of admitting that they had been terrible to Renate, four of the football players said that the references to her in the yearbook “were intended to allude to innocent dates or dance partners.” Kavanaugh himself blamed the dirty-minded circus media for taking a sweet tribute and construing it as something obscene:
“That yearbook reference was clumsily intended to show affection, and that she was one of us. But in this circus, the media’s interpreted the term is related to sex. It was not related to sex.” … “She’s a good person. And to have her named dragged through this hearing is a joke. And, really, an embarrassment.”
Renate herself certainly didn’t interpret it as a display of friendship when she found out about it. But if you’re credulous enough to believe Kavanaugh’s denial, the definitive proof that it’s horseshit is that elsewhere in the yearbook, one of the boys has printed the following charming ditty:
“You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”
There can be no doubt that not only were the boys trying to obliquely call Renate a slut (whether or not any sex actually transpired is irrelevant), but Kavanaugh is now rather despicably trying to pose as the defender of a woman he unrepentantly humiliated.
Some Republicans tried to suggest that scrutiny of Kavanaugh’s yearbook was grasping at straws. Here we are trying to make sense of nonsense scrawlings from some silly kids in a musty old book. Here’s Lindsey Graham: “if we want to sit here and talk about whether a Supreme Court nomination should be based on a high school yearbook page, I think that’s taken us to a new level of absurdity.” But as with Ford’s allegation itself, what’s relevant is not just what happened then but what is happening now: Kavanaugh is lying. The evidence from the yearbook bears on the credibility of his statements about his character in high school, and Kavanaugh himself made his character a central part of his defense and his argument for why Ford should not be believed. Kavanaugh’s supporters can play dumb and suggest examining the yearbook is absurd, but being in the keg club and objectifying and demeaning women is evidence that his “I was always either at the soup kitchen or buried in my schoolbooks” defense is an act.
Here, Richard Blumenthal tries to explain to Kavanaugh why small lies to the Senate matter:
BLUMENTHAL: [In law, there’s a Latin phrase that means] ‘false in one thing, false in everything.’ Meaning in jury instructions that [prosecutors tell] the jury that they can disbelieve a witness if they find them to be false in one thing. So the core of why we’re here today really is credibility. Let me talk…
KAVANAUGH: But the core of why we’re here is an allegation for which the four witnesses present have all said it didn’t happen.
BLUMENTHAL: Let me ask you about Renate Dolphin who lives in Connecticut. She thought these yearbook statements were, quote, “Horrible, hurtful and simply untrue.” end quote, because Renate Alumnus clearly implied some boast of sexual conquest. And that’s the reason that you apologized to her, correct?
KAVANAUGH: That’s false, speaking about the yearbook and she — she said she and I never had any sexual interaction. So your question is false and I’ve addressed that in the opening statement. And so, your question is based on a false premise and really does great harm to her. I don’t know why you’re bringing this up, frankly, doing great harm to her. By even bringing her name up here is really unfortunate.
The first exchange is fascinating. Blumenthal explains to Kavanaugh why it’s important to look at little things, like his lies about the yearbook. If someone is willing to say one false thing under oath, it undermines their credibility on everything, or at least means the “oath” part means nothing to them. Kavanaugh’s response is to… lie under oath, by saying yet again that “the four witnesses present have all said it didn’t happen.” (I always get irony wrong, but I think this counts as irony.)
But then look at how Kavanaugh responds to the specific question. Blumenthal asks whether the reason Kavanaugh apologized to Renate was that the remark was not a tribute to a friend but a nasty innuendo. Kavanaugh replies by pointing out that Renate said they never had any sexual interaction, “so your question is false.” Then he becomes righteously indignant on Renate’s behalf, presenting himself as the protector of the woman about whom fellow members of the “Renate Aluminus” club said, let us recall: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”
Here, not only is Kavanaugh obviously lying, but he’s incredibly bad at it. He can’t give a plausible answer to the question, so he pivots to bluster. Remember, if you’re ever stuck up the creek without an argument, you can always launch into a grandiloquent “HOW DARE YOU.”
“He can’t give a plausible answer to the question, so he pivots to bluster.”
Kavanaugh’s prepared testimony offers five core defenses against Ford’s allegations, which he enumerates.
- First, he says, “let’s start with my career.” Kavanaugh proceeds to list the various respectable positions he has held over the last three decades. He details all the background checks he has gone through, saying he has been “thoroughly vetted.” And yet, he says, “throughout that entire time, throughout my 53 years and 7 months on this Earth, until last week, no one ever accused me of any kind of sexual misconduct.” (Note here a small bonus lie: Ford alerted the U.S. Senate about her allegation in July, not “last week.”)
- Second, he says, consider “specifics.” Here he cites the uncorroborated nature of Ford’s account, the fact that Christine Ford did not go to a Catholic school, the lie that the allegation is “refuted,” etc. We’ve gone through all of this.
- Third is the part about not living especially near the country club, and the fact that Christine Ford can’t remember who took her from the country club to the party.
- Fourth, he says, look at the calendars. We’ve looked at the calendars.
- Fifth, he says, consider his character. Ford’s allegation is “radically inconsistent with my record and my character from my youth to the present day.” This is where he discusses church and virginity and scholarly diligence. But he also has a long discussion of his public history with women. He talks about all his female friends. He quotes from three supportive texts he has received from women. He cites his history of giving opportunities to female law clerks, and the support they have shown him.
Much of the other text in Kavanaugh’s testimony is angry wind about how his life has been ruined, disgrace has been brought upon the august body of the Senate, the nation is going to hell in a handbasket, etc. Look, then, how little this all adds up to. When he addressed the specifics, he dissembled or stalled until the questioning Senator moved on or ran out of time. His character-based defense requires us to swallow obvious falsehoods.
What of his other main points? His distinguished career on the bench and his long record of employing women and being friends with women and coaching girl’s basketball and such. As to his time as a judge, I could mention that his record of judicial opinions suggest he is a man devoid of human empathy. But his atrocious jurisprudence seems to have become all but irrelevant to people at this point. Instead, I’d point out that this statement ignores the entire flood of concealed abuse by powerful people that has come out over the course of the MeToo movement. “If this allegation was true why didn’t it become a scandal earlier in my career?” is what we might call the “Cosby defense” or the “Weinstein defense.” We know the answer to that question: because women aren’t believed, as evidenced by, well, the entire thing that’s happening right now in which Republicans are overlooking Kavanaugh’s endless disqualifying statements and calling a credible accusation a witch hunt.
Kavanaugh says that as a federal judge, he has been investigated up and down. You know who else was a federal judge? Alex Kozinski, the judge Kavanaugh himself clerked for, who turned out to have engaged in decades of sexual harassment without consequence and who even assaulted a woman on live television without it impeding his career. Kavanaugh is not stupid, yet he defends himself with lines like “if such as thing had a happened, it would’ve been the talk of campus,” even though it definitely wouldn’t since frat brothers engage in casual disgusting behavior all the time. And they get away with it, as Kavanaugh might be expected to have noticed, because of people like Kavanaugh’s former employer Ken Starr, who failed to investigate serious campus rape allegations when he served as a university president.
Kavanaugh must also know full well that men get away with sexual misbehavior for innumerable reasons: They can sue you, they can publicly discredit you, they can cause you to be inundated with death threats, they can make you a national punchline, they can beat the shit out of you. The reason women don’t report is precisely because they know uncorroborated allegations will be dismissed! They know that “I am a federal judge, therefore I would not do this” somehow actually flies as a defense in the United States Senate!
Kavanaugh cites all the many women who say he’s wonderful, and his record of promoting women. But while this is respectable, we can’t treat it the way Kavanaugh wants us to treat it, i.e., as evidence that Ford’s accusation is ludicrous. How could an abuser be a public champion of women’s causes? I don’t know, ask Harvey Weinstein. Ask Eric Schneiderman. Both had prominent women who would have written them glowing recommendation letters! I’m not dismissing the “character evidence” Kavanaugh wants us to consider. But I am saying that he’s trying to convince us of something we shouldn’t accept, namely that having lots of women support you means it’s outlandish to think that you could privately have abused someone.
As for Kavanaugh’s legions of devoted female employees, well, this should go without saying: “I’m not a sexist because I have many female subordinates” should get you laughed out of the room. (Imagine Bill Clinton bragging about the female-friendly gender ratio of his White House internship program!) In fact, there are already female Yale Law graduates who say they were told in applying for clerkships that Kavanaugh liked his female clerks and he liked them with that Certain Look. Brett Kavanaugh may have treated every single female employee with the utmost respect. But their testimonials cannot be used to brand Ford a madwoman.
“His character-based defense requires us to swallow obvious falsehoods.”
Alright, so Kavanaugh is a proven serial liar whose shocked, innocent presentation was obviously an act. What of Ford’s testimony? If we care about getting to the actual truth, we have to apply equal scrutiny to both sides. Ford cannot be believed merely because accepting her allegations as true would be politically advantageous. If she isn’t believable, the left needs to acknowledge that. But, well, read her testimony for yourself. Watch her answers to questions. See if you see the same tendencies that I’ve shown Kavanaugh demonstrated. See if you see tactics like changing the subject, answering a question with a question, playing dumb, bursting into tears and accusing critics of waging a conspiracy to destroy you, fabricating nonexistent corroboration, deleting inconvenient facts, and issuing an angry how-dare-you-sir every time things look dicey for you. All of this, as we have seen at exhaustive (and exhausting) length, is present throughout Kavanaugh’s testimony. Go and find similar reasons to doubt Ford.
Now, there are some attempts to argue that Ford was more credible than Kavanaugh that I find unpersuasive. In particular, many have criticized Kavanaugh for being emotional and aggressive. The New York Times began its editorial about why to believe Ford by contrasting the two witness’ tones, saying that “where Christine Blasey Ford was calm and dignified, Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent.” I do not think this should make much of a difference in itself. “Tone policing” is often a way to diminish the opinions of people who happen to be emotional for good reason. And if Kavanaugh was innocent, he might well find himself uncontrollably sad, angry, and embarrassed. Instead of looking at the manner in which the two witnesses spoke, we need to look at the facts of what they actually said.
What most impressed me about Ford was not that she stayed calm, but that she gave the answers an honest person would tend to give. By this I mean that she did not, as Kavanaugh did, try to avoid conceding even the slightest fact that might appear to affirm the other side’s story. Instead, she freely admitted facts that she knew would “help” Kavanaugh. She offered corrections to her original letter, even though she knew that these could be construed as “changing her story.”
FORD: In the second paragraph, where it says this — “the assault occurred in a suburban Maryland area home”… “at a gathering that included me and four others,” I can’t guarantee that there weren’t a few other people there, but they are not in my purview of my memory.
MITCHELL: Would it be fair to say there were at least four others?
MITCHELL: OK. What’s the second correction?
FORD: Oh, OK. The next sentence begins with “Kavanaugh physically pushed me into the bedroom,” I would say I can’t promise that Mark Judge didn’t assist with that. I don’t know. I was pushed from behind, so I don’t want to put that solely on him.
That second correction is a fact that could actually reduce Kavanaugh’s role in the attack. It is moments like these, where Ford does the opposite of what Kavanaugh does (i.e., concedes weak spots rather than issuing implausible denials), that improve my confidence in what she is saying.
But I am not actually trying here to prove that Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth, even though I don’t think Kavanaugh or the Republicans have produced good arguments against her. The idea that her testimony is disproven by the calendars or the witness statements is false. The idea that Kavanaugh is an honest upstanding person who was a gentleman in high school is false. The primary Republican argument is that Ford cannot prove it, but it is very hard to prove a crime like this. I’m mainly interested, though, in showing that Kavanaugh isn’t telling the truth. Not because I am unfairly giving him higher scrutiny, but because he’s the one being considered for the Supreme Court, and if he’s lying, that should be the end of the issue as far as the Senate is concerned. Out he goes!
The Democratic senators were predictably useless in trying to figure out the answer to the simple question of whether Kavanaugh was telling lies. They left important questions unanswered, failed to pursue promising threads, and seemed to spend most of their questioning time arguing about whether and how there should be an FBI investigation into the allegations. But while the FBI investigation may turn up additional useful information, at this point there is absolutely no need for it unless Christine Blasey Ford wants it. It’s completely unnecessary in determining whether Brett Kavanaugh should be on the Supreme Court; even the very limited questions already asked of Kavanaugh have yielded disqualifying answers. Kavanaugh is lying, it’s provable, and that’s all there is to it. Unless you think it’s acceptable to have someone on the federal bench who treats duly sworn oaths as meaningless, the guy shouldn’t be holding any office.
I have mostly left out a significant fact here, which is that there are two other sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh. I haven’t covered this much because it wasn’t the subject of the hearing, but it’s incredibly important additional evidence! Deborah Ramirez says that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were Yale undergraduates, and recalls him laughing as he zipped his pants. The New Yorker spoke to a Yale classmate who “confirmed having learned of the incident — and Judge Kavanaugh’s alleged role in it — within a day or two after it happened.” Ramirez’s general reputation for honesty is backed up by other classmates, and Kavanaugh’s own ex-roommate has said he believes her. Swetnick’s accusations, which include what she describes as incidents of “gang rape,” were dismissed out of hand by Republicans as both unfounded and too lurid and extreme to be true. (A future federal judge would never have been capable of such acts!) But while all we have to go on is her sworn affidavit, it’s worth remembering (1) that it’s a very serious matter to make these accusations in a sworn affidavit, and Swetnick is exposing herself to considerable legal penalties if she turns out to be lying and (2) that we actually do have a witness who says Mark Judge told her personally that he and other boys had taken turns having sex with a drunk woman. Judge’s ex-girlfriend, Elizabeth Rasor, said that she couldn’t “stand by and watch him lie” and suggest Georgetown Prep was a sexually innocent place. “Mark told me a very different story,” she said.
As I say, Swetnick’s allegations are indeed incredibly serious and it’s reasonable to demand evidence beyond her word before accepting them (though not before investigating them). But given that, in Kavanaugh’s own words, “what happened at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep—and that’s a good thing” (which is a kidding-but-not-kidding way of confirming that there is a code of silence around misbehavior), there is no reason to dismiss them merely because they stayed under wraps until Kavanaugh became a national figure.
Let’s remember how the National Review, America’s leading organ of conservative thought, responded to Kavanaugh’s testimony:
Mark it in your memory: 3:10 p.m., September 27, 2018. If what Kavanaugh had to say sealed his confirmation (and I think it did), and if Kavanaugh serves as a resolute constitutionalist on the Supreme Court (and I think he will), his speech did what so many political speeches try to do but don’t come close to accomplishing: It changed the course of American history.
In the morning, writer Kyle Smith said, Ford had seemed credible. But after lunch, the great and esteemed judge took his seat, and with fierce logical precision and booming righteous indignation, laid the matter to rest once and for all. No more would there be a question: It would be a travesty of justice not to appoint this man to the Supreme Court.
What does it say about this country that this is the state of our discourse? That Kavanaugh even stands any chance of being made one of the most powerful figures in the American government, with control over life and liberty? That a man like this is even a judge? He went before the United States Senate and showed total contempt for his vow to tell the truth. He attempted to portray a highly esteemed doctor as a crazy person, by consistently misrepresenting the evidence. He treated the public like we were idiots, like we wouldn’t notice as he pretended he was ralphing during Beach Week from too many jalapeños, as he feigned ignorance about sex slang, as he misread his own meticulously-kept 1982 summer calendar, as he replied to questions about his drinking habits by talking about church, as he suggested there are no alcoholics at Yale, as he denied knowing who “Bart O’Kavanaugh” could possibly be based on, as he declared things refuted that weren’t actually refuted, as he claimed witnesses said things they didn’t say, as he failed to explain why nearly a dozen Yale classmates said he drank heavily, as he said Ford had only accused him last week, as he responded to his roommate’s eyewitness statement with an incoherent story about furniture, as he pretended Bethesda wasn’t five miles wide, as he insisted Renate should be flattered by the ditty about how easy she was, as he declared that distinguished federal judges don’t commit sexual misconduct even though he had clerked for exactly such a judge.
And what does it say about us, and our political system, that he might well get away with it?
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A video to accompany this article can be found here. You can read my analysis of Kavanaugh’s actual judicial record here. My new book, The Current Affairs Rules For Life, systematically dismantles a series of conservative arguments against the left.
NOTE: I am certain I got a small fact wrong here and there over the course of this article. If you see a little stack of corrections appear at the bottom, do not be surprised. I did the best I could and have sources for everything, but it’s possible I misinterpreted something. In the original (unpublished) draft, for instance, I misinterpreted an ambiguous line in this Washington Post article, and thought Kavanaugh and Ford’s fathers were both members of the exclusive Columbia Country Club when they were in fact both members of the exclusive Burning Tree Golf Club. I caught that before publication, but it’s not impossible that there were other slip-ups. I am relying on the Washington Post’s transcripts of the hearings so I apologize if any of my criticisms of Kavanaugh are based on a transcription error.
[Corrections: This article originally said Renate Dolphin was a classmate of Kavanaugh’s rather than a contemporary. They attended differing nearby single-sex schools. It also originally mixed up the names of Swisher and Swetnick. I have updated a sentence that said the “sole” Republican argument was that the allegations were unsubstantiated, because this is not the case. There are other arguments, such as the inconsistence of Ford’s therapy notes and certain discrepancies in her accounts. I have therefore changed the word to “main” in order to be fair. I have removed a brief section on the “devil’s triangle,” because the evidence on this now conflicts, with James Roche saying that it referred to sex and a group of Kavanaugh’s prep school classmates having since come out and said that it was a drinking game. I want to be as fair as possible to Kavanaugh and not make accusations against him that may not be true, so I have removed the section. I am concerned not with twisting the facts to hurt Kavanaugh, but presenting them scrupulously and honestly, and if new evidence comes out that alters my assessment of the facts, I am more than happy to incorporate it and update this piece.]