The price of Brett Kavanaugh's denials

Published on Tuesday, 17 September 2019 20:16
Written by Monica Hesse

The Washington Post

During Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings last year, I remember thinking there was a better path for him than the shouting, conspiracy-peddling one he chose. I remember thinking he should have frankly addressed how much he’d drunk as a youth - to the point of stupor, several of his friends told reporters - and used that context when responding to accusations of sexual misconduct.

Something like, “I have no memory of these events. But I drank a lot in high school and college. I sometimes drank until I puked; I sometimes drank until I blacked out or wasn’t sure of my actions. If I did what I’ve been accused of, I am horrified. I welcome a full investigation. I am ashamed, and I am so, so sorry.”

He didn’t do that, of course, but I wished he had. I longed for the dialogue that a statement like that could have forced us to have.

This week, we’re all catapulted back to last year, thanks to a new book with new revelations. Now, it’s hard not to ask whether Kavanaugh was lying during his hearings - if not to the Senate, then to himself.

In “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh,” authors Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, both of the New York Times, dig into allegations by Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh, her classmate at Yale, thrust his exposed penis at her during a party. Kavanaugh emphatically told the Judiciary Committee that the event had never happened, saying that if had, it would have been “the talk of campus.” One year later, Pogrebin and Kelly write: “Our reporting suggests that it was.”

They found seven corroborators to Ramirez’s story, all of whom had heard about the alleged penis-waggling long before Kavanaugh was nominated; two of them within days of the party at which it allegedly happened.

It’s important to remember that Kavanaugh’s defense all along was never, “I was young and dumb and drunk.” His defense was “It never happened. Everyone else is lying.”

His defense was about black and white, but we all could have had a lot to discuss in the gray of it; we could have waded into some truly thorny conversations. His defense, as it turned out, worked well for him. But it kneecapped the rest of us.

I would have liked for Kavanaugh to inspire a national conversation about young people and alcohol, about young people and toxic pack mentality, about young people and the alcohol-infused toxic pack mentality that might cause a blackout-drunk Yale undergrad to, say, thrust his genitals into the face of a mortified classmate as friends around him laughed.

I would have liked for him to encourage a conversation about the ways a few men behaved back in high school and college, and how they account for that now. We could have talked about what it means as a 50-something, to realize that you might have done some terrible things when you were young, things you would now never do and can barely recognize.

We could have talked about how a person wrestles with that: how you find a way to atone for sins that you have no memory of committing, but which are very likely to be true because they were corroborated by at least seven people.

Those conversations could have been about pain and growth and reconciliation, but we didn’t have them.

Instead, we had Kavanaugh improbably claiming that “Beach Week Ralph Club” did not refer to a group of young men binge drinking at the shore, but rather to his sensitive stomach and delicate constitution. Instead, we heard him insist that “Devil’s Triangle” referred not to a fantasized sexual exploit - the definition commonly accepted by everyone else - but instead to a three-cup game similar to “Quarters” - a definition used by nobody but Brett Kavanaugh.

Instead of allowing for the possibility that he was a complicated person, one had grown and matured with age, he insisted on the unlikely narrative that he was perfect and always had been.

Instead of grappling with credible accusations, and his ensuing doubt and self-reckoning, he used his platform on national television to shout, and bluster, and blame the Clintons.

They’re all liars, was his message. I’m the real victim here.

He slammed the door on thoughtfulness. He repelled nuance. He placed his own nicked pride above everything else, including truth. Including justice.

What a missed opportunity. What a waste. What a lingering wound, for the entire country.

A year has passed and there are still so many important conversations we didn’t have.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Editorials on Tuesday, 17 September 2019 20:16. Updated: Tuesday, 17 September 2019 20:18.