I see a lot of our friends on the Left are in a snit on social media. If Ralph Northam must resign, they cry, should not Brett Kavanaugh do so also? Oh ho ho, they say, so the Right now concedes that old yearbooks matter? Hypocrisy!
The differences between the two cases are obvious. First, the Kavanaugh yearbook in question was his high-school yearbook. Kavanaugh was 18 at the time. Northam’s yearbook was from medical school. He was 24. It seems obvious that the younger you are, the more knucklehead behavior you are permitted.
Second, if Kavanaugh’s yearbook had depicted him in an obviously racist pose, wearing blackface or a Klan robe, this would have sunk him and rightly so. We can’t have public figures in important positions who have such an awful photo in their past. It severely undermines the public’s trust. The Northam photo may be the single most shocking image of a high-ranking public official to be published in American history. Yearbooks don’t automatically matter but they can matter, if they reveal extremely disturbing information, even allowing for youthful indiscretion. Making a mildly sexist joke might be counted a youthful indiscretion. Being fixated on Mein Kampf quotations, even as a teen, is not okay.
Third, the charges made about Kavanaugh were minor. Did “boofing” mean vomiting from excessive drinking? Or a sex practice? He maintained it meant flatulence and no one could prove him wrong, not that whether or not a person once joked about drinking too much is terribly interesting. Did “Devil’s triangle” indicate some kind of reference to a bisexual orgy? Kavanaugh maintained, more plausibly, that it was a drinking game, and no one could prove him wrong. How rude was Kavanaugh’s reference to being a “Renate alumnius” meant to be? Kavanaugh says not very, and no one could prove him wrong.
None of Kavanaugh’s yearbook jokes were particularly relevant to the question of whether he was fit to be a Supreme Court justice and the Democrats could not show that he perjured himself in answering silly questions about them. Northam’s yearbook shows something far, far worse.
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