Law & the Courts

Brett Kavanaugh Should Be Angry

Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee , September 27, 2018. (Pool via Reuters)
Kavanaugh’s powerful testimony may well end up changing the course of the Supreme Court, and of our politics.

Brett Kavanaugh may have saved his Supreme Court confirmation with one of the most memorable statements in modern congressional history.

After his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, delivered a compelling, sympathetic performance earlier in the day, Kavanaugh entered the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with his chances hanging by a thread. Commentators speculated about how he’d inevitably be dumped by the GOP. Instead, he transformed his situation with a sustained exercise in righteous indignation as forceful and compelling, in its way, as Clarence Thomas’s attack on a “high-tech lynching” that saved his nomination in 1991.

Kavanaugh had been stilted and overly programmed prior to Thursday, including in his initial round of Senate hearings and in an interview with Fox News earlier in the week. But, after days of enduring a process of unprecedented nastiness, Kavanaugh didn’t hold anything back.

In his opening statement, he was personal about the devastating effects of the charges levied against him, both on his reputation and on his family. He was excoriating about how Ford’s allegation was handled by Senate Democrats, who sat on it until the last moment. He scorned the ridiculous charges that have been layered on since, including that he was party to gang rapes. He invoked all he had invested in public service and in his friendships over the years. He expressed regret, as he should, over juvenile references in his high-school yearbook. He acknowledged enjoying beer, as a teenager and still as an adult. And he was angry, very angry, at the Democrats who have attacked his integrity and welcomed any bottom-feeding allegation, including a grotesque smear dredged up publicity-hungry lawyer Michael Avenatti.

His face was distorted in fury, he had trouble composing himself, and at times he wept. This was an incredibly raw performance by the standards of Washington and especially by the standards of Senate confirmation hearings.

Immediately, the same opponents of Kavanaugh who have been portraying him as a monster took great umbrage that he’d be angry at being portrayed as a monster. Look, they said, he lacks a judicial temperament!

But how is a person who maintains his innocence supposed to react when a political party will credit any allegation against him, when swathes of the media presume his guilt, when every aspect of his teenage years — including notations in his yearbook — are used against him, when all the testimonials in his favor and his decades of spotless public service mean nothing?

Kavanaugh’s anger over these kinds of attacks says nothing about his jurisprudence. His extensive opinions as a D.C. Circuit Court judge are all carefully reasoned and written. His opinions on the Supreme Court, should he make it there, will no doubt be the same. Hearing a case or writing an opinion isn’t the same as defending your integrity in a high-stakes political showdown.

The most difficult challenge Kavanaugh had was pushing back on Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her in high school, without seeming harsh or dismissive. He didn’t contest that she was assaulted and expressed sympathy for her — in fact, in an emotional moment, he related how his daughter suggested praying for her. But he persuasively made the case that there isn’t evidence of her contention that he was the perpetrator. The four people Ford has named as being present at the party in question say they don’t recall it, and Kavanaugh’s calendar that served as something of a journal suggests he was often out of town or otherwise accounted for on summer weekends in 1982, the year of the alleged incident.

Brett Kavanaugh, like all Supreme Court nominees, has carefully calculated his way through his public career. But if he gets on the Court, it will be because he abandoned the usual constraints and showed the nation a powerfully human reaction to the attacks on him. His opening statement may well end up changing the course of the Supreme Court, and of our politics.

© 2018 by King Features Syndicate

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com. 

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
World

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More
Culture

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More