Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court because he’s dishonest and unable to use his considerable legal education and experience to form a logical, coherent defense strategy. In addition, his performative, self-pitying rage before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed him to be a conspiratorial partisan, which undercuts any notion that he can be a fair-minded adjudicator of the cases that come before him.
It’s indisputable that Kavanaugh lied repeatedly in his testimony to the Senate. At Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson wrote an 11,000-word article dedicated to refuting an array of Kavanaugh assertions with facts.
As Robinson wrote, when viewing the testimony of Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford “honestly, impartially, and carefully” it’s clear that:
- Kavanaugh is lying.
- There’s no reason to believe Blasey Ford is lying.
Now, that Kavanaugh drank too much (and underage) 35 years ago doesn’t matter very much today. His dishonesty is happening right now in real time, and that is important because it undermines his credibility as a judge. I’m not going to recreate Robinson’s article here. Read it for yourself and you’ll see a sober-minded dissection of Kavanaugh’s lies, misdirection, and use of performative anger to blunt Democratic questioning.
Robinson’s excellent article missed one Kavanaugh whopper: his assertion that he got to Yale Law School “without any connections” by “busting his tail.” In fact, Kavanaugh was a legacy student because his grandfather attended Yale as an undergraduate.
Kavanaugh’s blatant dishonesty ought to be disqualifying, but I’m also bothered by something else: how inane his defense has been. He’s supposed to be an elite legal thinker — one of the top legal minds the country has to offer. But what he’s offered in his defense has been:
- A calendar
- A letter signed by 65 women, some of whom later retracted their support
- The lack of corroboration of Ford’s story
- Irrelevant and misleading assertions about his career and the nature of federal background checks
- Misleading and false claims about his high school behavior in general, and his drinking in particular.
- Evading direct questions.
- Self-pitying indignation.
I understand the difficulty in attempting to prove a negative. But, there’s a difference between asserting innocence, and accusing Senate Democrats of a “well-orchestrated political hit.” (It’s sorta interesting to note that while defending himself from an accusation made without supporting evidence, Kavanaugh makes an accusation without supporting evidence.)
The point, however, is how flimsy and dishonest Kavanaugh’s arguments are on his own behalf. Imagine a similar accusation made against Antonin Scalia, for example. While I think Scalia was wrong about a great many things, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have made a forceful, logically coherent, and legally sound case in defending himself. There is no chance he’d have offered up a calendar and tried to claim that because he didn’t have this particular underage drinking party penciled in, it could not have happened. (Side note: Robinson points out that such an event actually IS in Kavanaugh’s calendar, including the names of two of the boys Ford remembers being at the gathering where she was sexually assaulted.)
As a public relations professional with some experience in crisis communications, one thing is particularly striking: how easy it would be to construct a response that used existing facts, avoided telling obvious lies, and would likely have Kavanaugh already confirmed an on his way to the Supreme Court.
What we know from multiple descriptions from people who knew Kavanaugh, and from Kavanaugh’s own contemporaneous accounts that he was a binge drinker who got belligerent and aggressive when he was drunk. He’d already be on the Supreme Court if when Ford’s allegations were made public he emerged with a statement in which he:
- Admitted to binge drinking in high school and college
- Admitted that he sometimes drank so much that he could not remember what he’d done the night before
- Acknowledged it was possible that during one of these blackout episodes, he did exactly what Ford has claimed
- Apologized to Ford and anyone else he may have hurt when he was drunk and out of control, and
- Asserted that his life of service to America is demonstration that while he’s personally ashamed of his excessive drinking and out of control behavior, he doesn’t live that way anymore.
He could even toss in a sixth point about how he’ll work with an appropriate organization to address the dangers of drinking alcohol underage and to excess, but I don’t think that would have been necessary. Those five points above would not have satisfied many on the left. He’d be acknowledging it was possible he’d committed sexual assault without admitting it.
That statement would likely have headed off the second round of hearings and the FBI investigation. It would have given Republicans cover to mutter platitudes about how youthful indiscretions shouldn’t disqualify someone from important office, and a majority of voters would probably have agreed. In the end, the strategy I describe would have likely resulted in Kavanaugh being confirmed on a mostly party-line vote (although I think it’s possible he could have picked up the support of a few red-state Democrats).
It’s almost inconceivable that no one on Kavanaugh’s team or in the GOP proposed this strategy. It has the advantage of being the easiest path, in part because it’s a good fit with things the public already knows about Kavanaugh.
Instead, Kavanaugh and the GOP decided to construct their defense on lies and bluster. They may be able to bully Kavanaugh through the system and onto the Supreme Court. But his nomination and the confirmation process lays bare the fundamental dishonesty and abuse of power that lies at the heart of today’s Republican party.
Whether or not Kavanaugh assaulted Ford, he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court because he’s revealed himself as entitled, dishonest, partisan, and unable to think clearly under pressure.