If Brett Kavanaugh was sober last week, try to picture him drunk.
After that performance, who could be surprised to learn that a younger drunker Kavanaugh was belligerent, ugly, and abusive, with a serious impulse control issue? In other words, your ideal Trump Supreme Court judge.
For all the hand-wringing in Washington circles about how out of character Kavanaugh was on Thursday, he looked like nothing more than a grown-up version of the entitled jerk from his yearbook entry.
If the consequences were not so momentous, this would play out as some kind of horrifying farce. But it's all too painful and raw.
As of this writing, Mitch McConnell is pushing Kavanaugh across the finish line to get him confirmed within days.
The narrative from the Senate Judiciary Committee is that an FBI investigation showed nothing to corroborate the complaints about Kavanaugh, so full speed ahead. No need to corroborate the litany of Kavanaugh's hare-brained lies, apparently.
Of course the FBI investigation was a sham and a set-up. Brett Kavanaugh is Donald Trump's last best hope if he gets indicted. He's going to protect him, and make everyone else do it, too.
For the public, the message is clear: if you're a woman, your statements must be corroborated, but if you're a man, feel free to lie like a sidewalk. If you're Donald Trump, you can obstruct justice in plain view of the entire world, up to and including appointing the judges who will rule on your criminal prosecution, when the moment comes.
Lost in the controversy are the grave responsibilities of the Supreme Court justice
Lost in all of this are the grave responsibilities and solemn duties of the office Brett Kavanaugh seeks.
On Thursday afternoon, while Kavanaugh railed and wept in self-pity, the Supreme Court denied a Texas inmate's final appeal for a stay of execution.
Imprisoned for 17 years on death row for the murder of his girlfriend, the prisoner, Daniel Acker, did not live to see the sun go down. He was the second prisoner executed during Kavanaugh's ten days of hell.
Consider Anthony Ray Hinton. After almost 30 years on death row in Alabama, he was exonerated and released after the US Supreme Court upheld his appeal.
Or the Central Park Five, innocent teenagers coerced into false confessions, for whom Donald Trump took out a full page ad seeking the death penalty.
Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, almost 1500 prisoners have been executed, including 22 who were juveniles at the time of their offence. 163 death row prisoners have been exonerated and released.
Every one of them had a right of appeal to the Supreme Court, which quite literally holds the power of life or death.
The matters that come before the court have vital importance and national significance. This is no place for people of weak or impulsive temperament, or who cannot put aside bitter partisanship.
The focus on fairness to Brett Kavanaugh is wholly misguided. The issue is fairness to the public, who are entitled to the best judiciary possible. They deserve a Supreme Court that serves impartially, with great wisdom, compassion and principled adherence to the law.
No one needs to play True Detective
Nobody needs to play True Detective and figure out what happened 36 years ago, because it's really simple.
Brett Kavanaugh demonstrated his own unfitness with his angry, embittered and dishonest appearance before the Senate.
Of course the FBI investigation was a sham and a set-up. Brett #Kavanaugh is Donald Trump's last best hope if he gets indicted. He's going to protect him, and make everyone else do it, too. Comment by @garossino
If you were looking for a daycare or a physician for your child and a reference check turned up a serious and credible report of child abuse or negligence, that would be the end of it. You'd go somewhere else. Full stop.
Hold the violins. There’s no due process, no presumption of innocence, no demand for the source report the case to the police, no need to "solve the mystery," no standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s a betrayal of a child’s best interests to ignore a credible complaint of abuse.
Of course, if there's publicity that could damage a reputation, there should be some process where an explanation could be sought and given.
But the onus of proof should fall on the professionals involved to resolve any doubt in their favour. The principle is pretty simple: better safe than sorry.
So it is with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Where allegations reach a high standard of credibility clearly demonstrated by Christine Blasey Ford, the onus for resolving that doubt should rest with Kavanaugh.
Difficult as that may be, the public should not be asked to shoulder the burden of risk.
What's astonishing is that when questions are raised, a candidate would lie and attack those making inquiries.
In this case, Christine Blasey Ford unambiguously meets the test of credibility. She first mentioned the incident and identified Kavanaugh years ago; she named another eye-witness unlikely to support her story; she passed a polygraph test; she notified Congress before Kavanaugh was nominated; she sought an FBI investigation; her testimony under oath was forthright; and she was not discredited when tested by an experienced sex crimes prosecutor. Even her account is corroborated by Kavanaugh's own calendar showing that his close social circle included people she named as present.
If, as Kavanaugh says, they didn't know each other, that's actually remarkably probative. Either Ford is some obsessive stalker who waited 36 years to spring her trap, or she was there. No other explanation is seriously plausible.
If Ford was there, her case becomes almost insurmountable. It was even made stronger by comparison with Brett Kavanaugh's testimony, which was as compelling a display of judicial unfitness as we're likely to see in a lifetime.
Brett Kavanaugh furiously attacked his questioners, claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy, then lied under oath, obfuscated and dissembled.
“Boofing” is flatulence. “The Devil’s Triangle” is a drinking game. “Ralphing” is vomiting caused by spicy food. The description ‘Renate alumnus’ is just being friendly and respectful to a good friend.
The only thing missing was the dog that ate his homework.
Higher and higher, the lies piled up, catalogued in remarkable detail by Nathan Robinson.
Kavanaugh's lies are not innocent exaggerations
Some, including Jeff Flake, have characterized these statements as exaggerations. That might work for Kellyanne Conway or Rudy Giuliani on Sunday morning cable networks, but it wouldn't fly for five minutes in the U.S. Supreme Court.
It's also an unfair description. Kavanaugh was, for example, quite specific in describing the principles of the drinking game "Devil's Triangle," which nobody has ever heard of. That's not exaggeration, it's a fabrication, a pure invention. The Devil's Triangle is widely understood to mean a threesome of two men with one woman.
The real question is why an innocent man--a seasoned court veteran--would lie under oath so easily about something as insignificant as teenage braggadocio in a high school yearbook.
Considering the evidence as a whole, the most rational explanation is that it’s not insignificant at all. In Kavanaugh's mind, he needs the lies. That's a pretty safe bet that his little lies are foot soldiers for the big one.
As a general rule, innocent people don't lie, because they aren't afraid of the truth. They hunger for it. They want a full investigation, because they are sure they'll be exonerated when the facts come out.
They do all the things that Blasey Ford did and Brett Kavanaugh didn't.
If you're an innocent man who wants to be a Supreme Court justice, and you don't believe a thorough FBI investigation will clear your name, how on earth can you vote in favour of the death penalty for someone else?
Yet even if we give Kavanaugh the full benefit of the doubt about what happened in the summer of '82, the most compelling feature of his testimony is his manifest unfitness for the Supreme Court.
“What goes around comes around,” he hissed at the Democratic members of the committee, alleging a shady Clinton-inspired conspiracy by his political enemies.
That testimony should not be minimized or normalized. It was inexcusable, and the threatening tone was as disqualifying an alarm bell as has been heard in the modern Supreme Court era. If any other public servant did that in the Senate chamber, they would be immediately suspended and probably fired. Such a performance would end the career of any woman or person of colour who tried it.
Far from displacing doubts raised by Dr. Blasey Ford’s evidence, Kavanaugh only brought his own issues into sharper focus. He was not forthright or honest. The seething rage, vitriol and sheer disrespect he directed at fairly straightforward Democratic questioning revealed a man too mired in bitter partisanship to give confidence to the broad public.
Kavanaugh the ultimate judge-shopped nominee, only short-listed after Mueller's appointment
Which is not all that surprising, because he’s the ultimate judge-shopped nominee, corruptly chosen after a corrupt investigation, ordered by a corrupt president who's obviously stacking the court to save his own skin.
Curiously, during the 2016 election campaign, Brett Kavanaugh was not on a list of Trump’s top 21 candidates for the Supreme Court
He was only added in 2017, and somehow shot to the top in 2018.
It wasn’t just the Roe v. Wade issue, certainly, because many other candidates are lined up to overturn it.
The most notable legal event to emerge between the 2016 election and this nomination is Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of Robert Mueller. In fact, since the firing of FBI director Jim Comey, Donald Trump has carried out a sustained and ruthless attack against his own justice system.
In addition to Comey, Trump has fired the FBI’s deputy director, attacked the Department of Justice and veteran FBI investigators, threatened his own attorney-general, Rod Rosenstein, and the Mueller investigation itself.
Meanwhile, Trump’s own campaign manager, senior campaign advisors, personal lawyer and former national security advisor have all been convicted of fraud, conspiracy or perjury, and are cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
Trump himself has approached near hysterics at his inability to shake Mueller off the trail. The Mueller investigation hangs over this process like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
It's unthinkable that a president in these circumstances could nominate a Supreme Court justice at all, but here we are.
Suddenly, his top Supreme Court pick is someone who didn't make his top 21 two years ago. Trump goes to the guy who's written in support for presidential immunity from court process.
As the noose of that investigation closes in ever more closely Donald Trump, it becomes increasingly likely that this investigation will end up in the Supreme Court in some fashion.
If Trump is looking to stock the court with his own team players, he couldn't have done much better than the Brett Kavanaugh who showed up last Thursday--a man who horrified many friends and allies who expected to see a professional, dignified and composed rebuttal of Blasey Ford.
As with so many others who've come much too close to Donald Trump's orbit, Kavanaugh appeared to take on the very worst traits of his patron and defender.
But he was right about one thing.
What goes around comes around.