Brett Kavanaugh clearly went to Capitol Hill on Thursday with a mind towards putting on a show.
From the word go, the judge’s testimony was a badly acted soap opera that found Kavanaugh pin-balling from bouts of simulated sobbing to fits of feigned incredulity to spells of angry ranting and back again, with no logical progression and no regard for what his behavior seemed to convey about his temperament.
Here’s angry Brett:
Here’s a sobbing Brett delivering a tearful tribute to beer, before describing a grim future where beer drinkers are hunted down and indiscriminately persecuted:
Here’s Brett pretending to be so upset he can barely breathe:
And here’s Brett guzzling water like he just woke up from a long of night of keg stands, on the way to explaining the whole “Renate Alumni” debacle:
If you could get past the act (admittedly a tough ask given how hard the sell was), Kavanaugh’s demeanor was overtly indignant. That’s understandable if you believe he was wrongfully accused, but putting aside the allegations, Kavanaugh seemed to believe there was something unjust about the process itself. As if he, a privileged white man who espouses high-minded ideals and harbors pretensions to a moral high ground he pretty clearly imagines the majority of Americans can never reach, should not be subjected to scrutiny. One almost got the feeling it wasn’t so much the allegations he was angry about, but rather the fact that he was being called to answer them, an ironic twist considering his chosen profession.
Kavanaugh railed against Democrats, called the confirmation process a “national disgrace” and at one point went so far as to posit a conspiracy involving the enemies of Donald Trump who, Kavanaugh believes, are so hopelessly biased against the President that they would lend credence to otherwise baseless allegations of sexual assault in a deliberate effort to destroy him, his wife, and “little Liza“.
Kavanaugh’s seemingly unhinged opening rant was the subject of vociferous debate on Thursday with most of the discussion centering around the notion that while it is entirely understandable why Kavanaugh would be distraught, one would expect a bit more in the way of restraint and grace under fire from someone who is nominated to sit on the Supreme Court.
But as alluded to above, what was perhaps more striking was how quickly the sobbing and shrieking gave way to smugness when Kavanaugh was pressed by Rachel Mitchell about his drinking. Have a listen to this:
That’s a Supreme Court nominee essentially regurgitating a glorified version of the old “I had a few beers” line.
I’d say it’s a “tried-and-true” approach to deflecting allegations of alcohol abuse, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Characterizing something as “tried-and-true” implies that whatever that something is has proved effective or reliable before. In that respect, “I had a few beers” is the opposite of “tried-and-true”.
“I had a few beers” is what you say when you get pulled over coming home from the bar at 3 AM and the nice man with the badge and the gun asks you if you’ve been drinking.
“I had a few beers” is what you say when, after fumbling around for you keys and stumbling through the front door, your significant other asks whether you’re drunk.
“I had a few beers” is what you say when you come home from a high school party and your parents ask if there was alcohol at Mike’s house.
“I had a few beers” has such a terrible track record when it comes to being believable that it actually functions as a tacit admission of guilt. If you ask someone whether they’re drunk and they tell you they “had a few beers”, your sober mind automatically translates that into something like “I’ve been drinking heavily”.
There is exactly nothing believable about Kavanaugh’s responses to those questions about his drinking in high school and college. Popularity, privilege, college and heavy drinking go together like peanut butter and jelly. The notion that Kavanaugh was the relatively responsible one in the group who, on his worst nights, had “a few too many beers” is laughable in the extreme.
Importantly, he needn’t have lied there. Health concerns aside, there isn’t anything “wrong” (per se) about admitting that you drank heavily in college and there certainly isn’t anything disqualifying about it from the perspective of high office. Just ask George W. Bush. Also, there is nothing written in stone that says getting blackout drunk means you sexually assaulted someone.
Of course there is corroborating evidence to support the contention that Kavanaugh was a heavy drinker. Mark Judge, the man who Christine Blasey Ford claims was in the room when the alleged assault occurred, has since written voluminously about his high school days and in a 1997 memoir, he talks about a character named “Bart O’Kavanaugh” who had a penchant for vomiting in vehicles and passing out drunk. You can read more about Mark and his musings here.
Here’s what happened when Senator Leahy asked Kavanaugh directly if “Bart” is in fact “Brett”:
But even more disconcerting than Kavanaugh’s bungled efforts to lie about the extent of his drinking when he needn’t have lied, was his demeanor. Over the course of the proceedings, Kavanaugh laughed, scoffed and otherwise acted as though there is something inherently unjust about his having to entertain questions in the first place.
One of the more telling moments came when Senator Durbin asked if Kavanaugh would be willing to call for an FBI probe right then and there, since he (Kavanaugh) is apparently so interested in clearing his good name. Unsurprisingly, Kavanaugh was non- committal.
While it’s impossible to know whether Dr. Ford’s allegations (or any of the allegations leveled against Kavanaugh for that matter) are unequivocally true, what we do know after Thursday is that this Supreme Court nominee is prone to lying even when it’s not necessary, is inclined to theatrics at best and emotionally unstable at worst, and is ready and willing to act as a political operative for the White House by perpetuating unfounded conspiracy theories.
Republicans are pushing forward with Kavanaugh and the President of course took to Twitter on Thursday evening to throw his support behind the nominee.
There will likely be no FBI probe, nor with there be any sincere effort on the part of Republicans to discover whether or not these allegations have merit. As is the case with their support for Donald Trump, the GOP is putting political expediency ahead of concerns about the long-term reputation of the Republican party. This nominee will forever be tarnished by these allegations and any move against Roe will now be seen as an egregious affront made possible by the confirmation of a man who stands accused of sexual assault by multiple women, one of whom has now provided sworn testimony to Congress.
It’s also unclear whether this gamble will pay off for the GOP in November. It might, to the extent the drama plays into Donald Trump’s “it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get me” narrative that resonates so well with the base.
On the other hand, this could potentially alienate women voters and it’s likely that if Kavanaugh is crammed through, Democrats will be even more energized than they already were.
Bear in mind that it probably wasn’t lost on top Democrats that this potentially put Republicans in a position where they would be forced to withdraw the nomination or risk the bad optics associated with moving ahead.
That’s a bit of a Sophie’s choice.