Law & the Courts

No, Kavanaugh Didn’t Lie

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, September 27, 2018. (Andrew Harnik/Reuters)
He never denied drinking to excess in high school.

Brett Kavanaugh gave high-profile testimony that very few people seem to have paid attention to in any detail.

The media is now engaged in a full-court press to establish that Kavanaugh drank to excess — when he admitted in his testimony that he drank to excess.

In his opening statement in the Senate hearing, Kavanaugh said, “Sometimes, I had too many beers.” This is obviously an acknowledgment of excessive drinking. He further allowed of himself and his friends, in a statement that covers a lot of misbehavior: “We sometimes did goofy or stupid things. I doubt we are alone in looking back in high school and cringing at some things.”

In the Martha MacCallum interview on Fox News the week before the hearing, he said much the same thing: “And yes, there were parties. And the drinking age was 18, and yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there. And yes, people might have had too many beers on occasion.”

Kavanaugh never denied going to keg parties, or — to cite the recent reporting — enthusiastically planning his high-school friends’ excursion for beach week, or getting in a barroom scuffle at Yale. If Kavanaugh had been asked about any of these specifically and denied them, his critics would have a case for dishonesty that simply doesn’t exist.

They object that Kavanaugh put too much emphasis on the “choirboy” parts of his record, but what obligation was he under to talk about, say, the Ralph Club over and above his academic and athletic record, when he was being fiercely pressed by opponents determined to assassinate his character?

His critics took great umbrage that he told MacCallum that “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 girls that I was friends with.” This is almost certainly true, though. If he was at school for roughly a seven-hour day, five days a week, and had football and basketball practice too, and had to spend some time studying and six to eight hours a night sleeping, that doesn’t leave the “vast majority” of his time for anything else.

He wasn’t a dropout or an alcoholic. He, by his own recollection, was at or near the top of his class during high school. None of that means that he didn’t drink to excess, but — again — he never said otherwise.

His specific denial is that he never blacked out. So far, in all the people who knew him who have emerged to say he slurred his words or stumbled when he’d been drinking, no one has credibly alleged that Kavanaugh told them after a bout of drinking that he had no idea where he was or what he did the night before.

The other charges of lying are picayune. A cluster concerns his high-school yearbook and his allegedly dishonest explanation of the slang terms “boof” and “Devil’s Triangle.” His critics say those terms refer to sex acts, whereas Kavanaugh says they refer to flatulence and a drinking game, respectively.

The evidence suggests that he’s right. A history of farting — yes, there is such a thing — notes that “boof” was one slang word for flatulence, and former classmates of Kavanaugh’s wrote a letter saying that they played Devil’s Triangle, and explained how it was done.

Another yearbook phrase is “Renate Alumnius,” a reference to a female friend of Kavanaugh and his buddies. Kavanaugh’s critics believe that it is sexual innuendo. Kavanaugh said the “reference was clumsily intended to show affection” and expressed regret over it and specifically apologized to the woman. How you regard this answer will depend on how much weight you put on the word “clumsily,” but it’s hardly the stuff of a perjury charge.

The emphasis this week of Kavanaugh’s opponents on his drinking isn’t a sign of strength, but of desperation and weakness. On lying under oath, they’ve got nothing.

© 2018 by King Features Syndicate

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

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