Brett Kavanaugh’s Big Lie: Growing Up Doesn’t Mean Making Mistakes

In front of his family, Kavanaugh was unable to admit to simple failings of character in his past and try to make amends. What example does that set for his daughters?

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Judge Brett Kavanaugh started his Judiciary Committee testimony responding to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault by tearfully yelling at senators for over half an hour. His furious denials of the allegations stood in stark contrast to the measured, thoughtful, and pained testimony of his accuser. But, as his fury turned to complete belligerence during questioning, one thing became clear: Kavanaugh had no intention of admitting any moral failing of any kind — not when he was young and not as he got older. That inability to admit any mistakes of any kind and the inclination to cling to a less-than-believable personal narrative was bizarre. Whatever happened at that house party (and, yes, believe women), Kavanaugh’s testimony was dishonest. It was built on a large untruth: His life was without moral blemish. No one’s life is and there are always witnesses around to speak to that effect.

For a guy who choked up at the thought of his daughters offering prayers “for the woman,” Kavanaugh has a deeply peculiar relationship with sin. He seems like the guy who casts the first stone. (There’s a reason Jesus didn’t trust that dude.)

I grew up in the same era as Kavanaugh. It was a fantastically permissive era for boys and girls who were largely left unsupervised by parents. It was a time when latchkey kids had their run of empty homes. In my life, the result of that lack of supervision was a disastrous descent into teenage alcoholism. I was a wreck of a kid. I made a bunch of bad decisions. I was also a churchgoer. Life is complicated.

Judge Kavanaugh suggested over and over again that he was not a wreck of a kid. He claimed he worked hard, was charitable, went to church on Sunday, and “liked beer” but did not over-consume. Never. Nope. Not ever.

My retort to this: Ha! If Kavanaugh is telling the truth — and many people tell stories that indicate he isn’t — he’s telling it in a very specific way. He is assuming his own righteousness and reshaping his memories around this assumption. Many people do this, but it’s rare to do it so obviously, and so publicly.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, and by extension the American public, have been asked to simply take Kavanaugh at his word despite the eyewitness accounts of his being a sloppy drunk and his friend Mark Judge’s memoir of prep school depicting a bunch of sloppy drunks. Kavanaugh said a passage in his yearbook about “ralphing” at keggers was linked to having a “weak stomach.” I mean … that’s as ridiculous as his suggestion that a yearbook joke about being a girl’s “alumnus” was simply meant as a tribute to their friendship. Kavanaugh even said that it was legal for him and his friends to drink, an easily verifiable lie.

The issue here seems to be that Kavanaugh can’t imagine that Kavanaugh did anything wrong and so he has become his own alternative historian. Either that or he’s a deeply craven man who will say anything to get the brass ring (in this case, a robe).

Kavanaugh seems to be the guy who, in a job interview, gives this answer to the faults question: “Gosh, you know, I just work too hard and care too much.” Employers know to not hire that guy. He might be smart and hard-working, but he’s either a liar or a narcissist.

And there’s just something fundamentally disturbing about a man who will not admit his faults. Because no man is faultless. And in fact, there are many who might hear him admit bad behavior in the parentless era of he grew up in and offer empathy. They might even offer respect for being brave enough to admit past failings. Having a messy childhood is pretty standard for Gen Xers. And admitting that fact shouldn’t disqualify anyone from the Supreme Court.

The problem is that Kavanaugh wouldn’t do that. Because he would not do that, everything else he says is suspect. There’s no reason to believe anything because the Brett Kavanaugh character he’s presenting to the world is simply not believable.

We don’t need a spotless judge on the Supreme Court bench. We need someone who has the moral fortitude to speak honestly about the world as it is. The men who wrote the Constitution were deeply flawed. Flawed judges can surely interpret it. That said, sexual assault should clearly be disqualifying for a federal judgeship, much less a Supreme Court appointment. And so should habitual dishonesty. Even people who don’t believe Dr. Blasey Ford must admit that Kavanaugh’s story of his life — if not that night — doesn’t hold together.

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