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WASHINGTON-There are two things I know now for certain, having watched Judge Brett Kavanaugh perform the Bud Light King Lear he performed for the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The first is that, having watched him in high dudgeon, I don't want to be around him when he has, as the auld wans say, drink taken. Especially at the beginning of his session, he gave every indication that he would very much be the angry, belligerent inebriate that many of his college friends have said he is. He's the guy from whom you move to the other end of the bar rather than engage.
And second, and probably ultimately more important, the Hour of Angry White Male Rage is far from passing out of our politics. This was manifested not only in Kavanaugh's angry truculence with Democratic members of the committee, but also by the mid-session defenestration of Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor who handled all the questioning for the Republicans when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was on the stand, and who was handling all the questioning of Kavanaugh until she asked him about one specific entry in his beloved calendar-the one for July 1, 1982, that read:
Tobin's house -- workout. Go to Jimmy's for 'Skis with Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, and Squi.
There was a certain interest in this entry, because it conforms to the timeframe of Dr. Ford's allegation and, pretty obviously, "'Skis" was short for "brewskis." Equally obviously, "Judge" was the notoriously elusive Mark Judge, whom all the Democrats want to get under oath, and whom all the Republicans want to send to Neptune. (He's already in Delaware, after all.) Mitchell was gently leading Kavanaugh to deny the possibility that the July 1 entry referred to the gathering at which Ford alleges she was attacked.
It was common knowledge in the hearing room that the Republicans were not satisfied with how Mitchell had handled the questioning of Ford. So, when she edged up against the possibility of what may have happened on that long ago day in July, it was time for her to go. The Hour of Angry White Male Rage had come 'round at last. And Lindsey Graham was its proud herald.
Graham had already had a televised nutty at the lunch break and, once Mitchell was shuffled out of the way, he proceeded to signal to all his Republican colleagues that it was time to let the freak flag fly.
"What you want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open and hope you win [the presidency] in 2020. You said that! Not me! Boy, y'all want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham...To my Republican colleagues, if you vote no, you're legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics!"
This was the old Huckleberry, the fire-eyed house manager of the impeachment of Bill Clinton, before his Chang-and-Eng act with the late John McCain took some of his edge off him. Back in the late 1990s, of course, Graham was hunting presidential privates-and, of course, Brett Kavanaugh was practicing all the things he deplored Thursday on behalf of Ken Starr, and leaking his brains out while he was doing so. (His lachrymose bellowing about the toll his family has paid over these 10 days of "hell" is pretty rich when you consider all the lives he and the rest of those merry men shredded in Washington and Arkansas, and even richer when you recall that it was Kavanaugh who insisted that President Bill Clinton be questioned in the most prurient way possible when Clinton finally sat for a deposition.) Sooner or later, please god, the 1990s will be over.
Anyway, while Graham cued up his fellow Republican committee members for the rest of the afternoon, it was Kavanaugh himself, with his raving opening statement, that first cleared the decks for them. On Wednesday, he released a set of "prepared remarks" that pretty plainly were a feint. What emerged on Thursday was a stunning outburst of wounded privilege and raging contempt for people who would deny him that to which he was entitled. (When Clarence Thomas ran his rap about a "high-tech lynching," he was firm, but he didn't raise his voice.) If Kavanaugh really is completely innocent, then his anger is somewhat justified. But, I don't think he is, and, therefore, I think he looked like the guy you move to the other end of the bar to avoid.
I wrote it myself yesterday afternoon and evening. No one has seen a draft or it except for one of my former law clerks. This is my statement.
I believe this.
This confirmation process has become a national disgrace. The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advice and consent with search and destroy. Since my nomination in July, there has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything, to block my confirmation. Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate leader said he would “oppose me with everything he’s got.” A Democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as “evil.” “Evil.” Think about that word. And said that those who supported me were “complicit in evil.”
Another Democratic senator on this committee said "Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare." A former head of the Democratic National Committee said, "Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come." I understand the passions of the moment, but I would say to those senators: Your words have meaning. Millions of Americans listened carefully to you. Given comments like those, is it any surprise that people have been willing to do anything, to make any physical threat against my family, to send any violent email to my wife, to make any kind of allegation against me and against my friends, to blow me up and take me down? You sowed the wind; for decades to come, I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.
This sounds better if you read it as Brad Dourif in Wise Blood.
The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment, but at least it was just a good old-fashioned attempt at Borking. (Ed. Note: Oh, Christ. Not this.) Those efforts didn't work. When I did at least okay enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed. Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn't take me out on the merits. When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr. Ford's wishes.
And then, and then, as no doubt was expected, if not planned, came a long series of false, last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred. Crazy stuff. Gangs, illegitimate children, fights on boats in Rhode Island - all nonsense, reported breathlessly and often uncritically by the media. This has destroyed my family and my good name - a good name built up through decades of very hard work and public service at the highest levels of the American government.
The charges are not "last minute." There is no clock on this thing. I don't know how often we have to point this out. It was hard on Kavanaugh's family, but he's still living at home and, no matter how this turns out, he's going to have a sinecure in the federal judiciary. But it was this next bit that really opened the door on who this guy is.
This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars and money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country, and as we all know, in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around, comes around.
Frankly, this was as lunatic as it was fraudulent. I think we can stipulate that as much outside money has been spent promoting Kavanaugh's nomination as fighting against it. That, alas, is part of our politics now, thanks partly to Kavanaugh's old mentor, Anthony Kennedy. Much later, when Senator Cory Booker pinned him on whether or not he thought Dr. Ford was part of a "calculated and orchestrated political hit," Kavanaugh as much as crawled under the table. He smarmily retreated to the notion that something really bad may have happened to Ford, but that his alleged grinding on her while Mark Judge giggled and turned up the stereo wasn't it. And "revenge on behalf of the Clintons"? Jesus, Judge, are we all back at the Mena Airport again? How're things around David Hale's old place? Parker Dozhier's heirs still running the ol' fishing' hole?
Oh, and that threat right there at the end? The going around and the coming around. He will overturn Roe now, not merely because he thinks it's bad law, but because the circus made him do it. He will have his revenge on all these drones who put him and the kids through this "hell," and it will come from the highest court in the land. This, I guarantee you.
With the Democratic members of the committee, Kavanaugh remained an enraged, entitled twerp through the whole long day. There was his interchange with Senator Amy Klobuchar, in which, after she asked him about his alleged blackout drinking, Kavanaugh sneered, "Have you?" If any ordinary person had treated a sitting United States Senator with that kind of virulent disrespect, they'd have been hauled off in irons. Of course, after all the noise and bother, it stays 6-5 and pick 'em that this strategy will work. It certainly has solidified the president*'s support-for the moment, anyway. I suspect it played pretty well in MAGA precincts outside the Potomac. But what I also know is that Brett Kavanaugh is now far more dangerous a nominee for the Supreme Court than he was when the day began. He will be a wrathful judge. He pretty much said so, and his supporters on the committee enthusiastically encouraged it.
Afterwards, the entire Republican senatorial delegation met in the Strom Thurmond Room of the Capitol. (Make of that what you will.) Chairman Chuck Grassley, who has stayed too long at the fair, announced that the committee will be meeting at 9:30 on Friday morning. But the memory I have is that of poor Rachel Mitchell, who flew all the way out here to try and do the best she could in an impossible job that she freely accepted, gently pushing her way out of the committee room as the Hour of Angry White Male Rage receded all around her.
"What happened?" I asked her.
"Excuse me, " she answered. "I have to get out of here now."
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