Looking for a barometer of our shameless political era? Check out Fox News last night, where a nominee seeking confirmation to a lifetime position on the United States Supreme Court took to the presidential pravda network to declare that the allegations of sexual misconduct against him couldn't be true, in part because he was a virgin throughout high school "and many years thereafter." Behold, the Confessions of Judge Brett Kavanaugh:
Brett Kavanaugh: "We're talking about allegations of sexual assault. I've never sexually assaulted anyone. I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter." pic.twitter.com/KNkwv4zHGN
- Ryan Saavedra 🇺🇸 (@RealSaavedra) September 24, 2018
It is first of all gobsmacking to see a nominee to the nation's highest court jump on cable news to declare his virginity. We've come a long way even from John Roberts, the George W. Bush nominee for chief justice who was clearly chosen to pull the court in a certain direction-but who at least had a scrupulous veneer of dignity. Even Neil Gorsuch, while a bit smug, was a smooth prevaricator from the witness chair and an outwardly non-stunted adult.
Kavanaugh has been a blundering mess throughout his process. There are major questions over whether he lied under oath to Congress. He kicked things off by declaring he'd witnessed first-hand that "no president has ever consulted more widely, or talked with more people from more backgrounds, to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination"-a lie that insults the listener's intelligence when the president is Donald J. Trump. The whole thing has reeked of tactless desperation, culminating with an interview on a right-wing cable network in the lead-up to his Senate testimony Thursday.
More importantly, though, whether or not Kavanaugh was a virgin actually has no bearing on the two allegations made against him. Neither woman-Dr. Christine Blasey Ford or Deborah Ramirez-claims that Kavanaugh had intercourse with her. Ford says Kavanaugh held her down and tried to tear her clothes off, and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Ramirez said he exposed himself to her while she was drunk on the floor at a dorm party. Are those included in Kavanaugh's description of "anything close to sexual intercourse"? More than anything, the Fox interview leaves the impression that Kavanaugh believes intercourse is necessary for an event to qualify as sexual assault.
Then there's the fact that Kavanaugh's routine on Fox has been supplemented by another report on his supposed Virgin Years. Here's The New York Times' look at his yearbook:
Among the reminiscences about sports and booze is a mysterious entry: “Renate Alumnius.” The word “Renate” appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Preparatory School’s 1983 yearbook, on individuals’ pages and in a group photo of nine football players, including Judge Kavanaugh, who were described as the “Renate Alumni.” It is a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls’ school.
Two of Judge Kavanaugh’s classmates say the mentions of Renate were part of the football players’ unsubstantiated boasting about their conquests. “They were very disrespectful, at least verbally, with Renate,” said Sean Hagan, a Georgetown Prep student at the time, referring to Judge Kavanaugh and his teammates. “I can’t express how disgusted I am with them, then and now.”
This lines up fairly evenly with accounts of Kavanaugh's time at Yale, where he was a member of a fraternity and a secret society with particular reputations. In the Fox interview, he had this to say:
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.
If so, he also spent a lot of time lying about his hard-partying and his sexual conquests. That's not all that unusual for a teenage boy, but Kavanaugh's lying seems to have extended to when he's under oath, as an adult, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It certainly extended to his nomination acceptance speech, cited above, where he suggested Trump looked anywhere beyond the list given to him by the Federalist Society when looking for a judge. (That lie wasn't even necessary-he threw it on top to lick the boot of a man who may soon have a case coming before the Supreme Court.) Like the president himself, you have to ask: Why should we believe anything this guy has to say?
Video: Kavanaugh Says He Was Never at Party Where Alleged Assault Occurred
And beyond all that, there's the spectacle of putting Kavanaugh on Fox News. Once upon a time-around, say, the Merrick Garland Era-there was some expectation that a Supreme Court nominee would at least maintain a veneer of nonpartisanship, of fealty to the law. Maybe that was, to some extent, a sham, but it did help maintain the legitimacy of the court as an institution. Gorsuch didn't help, but Kavanaugh has pretty much put paid to that even before he sought out Fox to "rev up" his support with the conservative base-apparently part of a larger strategy from Republicans.
Like the president long has, the judge and his confirmation squad now see that he only needs the support of His Team to make it through. If it is politically palatable enough for Republican senators, they will vote to confirm him regardless of whether the allegations against him have merit. After all, 19 women accused Trump of sexual misconduct and he was elected president. Republicans have basically declared outright that the hearing featuring Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford will be a fraud, and Fox mirrored that when the reprehensible Jesse Watters described Kavanaugh's strategy as "playing the V-card." That accurately suggests that whether or not Kavanaugh is telling the truth is largely irrelevant as a political consideration. It's a game: force him through and Crush the Libs.
Kavanaugh is a lifetime Republican operative and an obvious partisan who is being installed on the court, via expressly political tactics and maneuvering, to accomplish political goals for the conservative movement. Going on Fox News is just the icing here. Maybe stripping the coat of nonpartisan legitimacy off the Supreme Court is what's needed in this era, which increasingly is marked as much by brutal honesty as shameless lying. The president is the ever-present force of this epoch, and while he lies constantly, he also tends to expose some American institutions for what they really are. If there's anything useful to take from these times, maybe it's that more of our politics were always a sham than we were ready to admit.
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