It wasn’t that long ago that Curmie was working on a piece he called “Triple,” as there were three stories he wanted to cover with short commentaries rather than writing a longer essay about a single topic. I’d decided to treat them in what I perceived to be descending order of importance. I wrote the first mini-essay, about “Plaid Shirt Guy” (I’ll get that posted eventually), but I got tired and went to bed before writing the second of the three parts, about the credible but imprecise and anonymous allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (The third section was to be Serena Williams’s petulant display at the US Open; I may or may not get back to that one.)
|The building, unlike Brett Kavanaugh, doesn't make Curmie want to puke|
The next morning I woke to news that the charges against Judge Kavanaugh were no longer anonymous, and carried at least some more specificity than had hitherto been realized (or at least publicized). Everything changed then. Personally, I went from a grudging acceptance of Kavanaugh as a deeply problematic inevitability to real questions about him—not for what he is alleged to have done as a teen-ager, but because of how he comports himself now. Do I believe that any candidate ought to be judged on events from decades ago? No. Curmie intends to vote for Beto O’Rourke for Senate in a few weeks; I’m not unaware of his arrests for DWI and burglary a generation ago. But I’m voting for him for two reasons: most importantly, he is not the mendacious, pusillanimous, fecal accretion that is Ted Cruz, but more relevant to the point here is the fact that he’s come clean about his past, addressed it, and argued that he’s not a post-adolescent idiot anymore. I believe that.
Had Brett Kavanaugh taken a similar approach, Curmie would be back to thinking about Kavanaugh the way he thinks about Samuel Alito: as a lightweight partisan, technically qualified but not one of the nation’s 100 best conservative judicial minds. That isn’t Brett Kavanaugh, though.
His defense is two-fold: that stuff didn’t happen, and if it did, it shouldn’t matter. Besides, that’s what guys do. Well, sort of. I suspect it’s true that most boys have, shall we say, run through a stop-sign or two. Curmie did when he was a teen—in part because the girl’s text and subtext (or at least Curmie’s interpretation of the subtext) didn’t exactly converge and Curmie chose to believe in the one most in synch with Curmie’s short-term desires at the time. In retrospect, the motivation seems not to have been lust, much less a power dynamic; rather, I think it was the intoxicating naughtiness of the moment.
I would, however, argue that we’re talking about a much lesser offense. In this scenario, no one was physically restrained, nor were there any locked doors. There was no use of superior physical strength, no taking advantage of a drunken girl unable to give a reasonable consent. There were no leering friends laughing at a victim. There was no attempt to cover her mouth, nothing close to making her fear for her personal safety (per se), no attempt to remove panties, or indeed anything close to that. Does that excuse the behavior? No. Does being younger than Kavanaugh was at the time of his alleged transgressions? No. But does it suggest a different scenario than the one described by Dr. Blasey Ford? I think so. More importantly, it was behavior I outgrew by the age of 16.
OK, let’s flip the script. A few years later, Curmie, then a young adult and a college professor, was accused of forcing himself on a student. Curmie had just cast a show, and this particular young woman didn’t get the part she wanted. It’s unclear exactly how the story developed. The bottom line was that I had supposedly offered her a better role if… well, you know. It’s unclear whether she was just venting to her friends and made up a story that one of them passed along, or whether there was an actual allegation about me to my boss. Anyway, as I understand it, the suggestion was a little too specific, and (purely by luck) I had a credible witness that I was someplace else at the exact moment in question. But I didn’t know that when my boss talked to me.
Obviously, I denied the allegation, and I suggested a possible motivation. What I didn’t do was scream. Or vow vengeance. Or evade questions. Kavanaugh’s performance at the post-allegation hearing, on the other hand, was not that of an innocent man. He came across as a guy who’s been fined $200 for jaywalking: “yes, I’m technically guilty, but nobody ever really enforces that rule.” Given the multiple sources—whether the FBI could be bothered to interview them or not—who corroborate the general character of the young Brett Kavanaugh, even if not the specific allegations that precipitated the second look at his candidacy, we can confidently believe that he was considerably less than the choir boy he pretends to have been. This may mean that he graduated summa cum laude from the Bill Clinton School of Sexual Predation, chanting the institutional motto, Nega, Nega, Nega (deny, deny, deny). Or it may mean, as some have suggested, that attempted rape was such a matter of course for Kavanaugh and his privileged cohorts that it really did make no impression on him… why, after all, would he remember an event as inconsequential as that? Curmie can’t decide which is worse: perjury or a stunning level of hubris. Either way, we’re a long way from a legitimate reason to confirm.
The foregoing presumes that Kavanaugh really did assault teen-aged Christine Blasey. That’s because, speaking as someone who has been falsely accused, Curmie believes her. She brings a calm credibility to her allegations; and Brett Kavanaugh’s performance at the hearings did not give his denials the same gravitas. Indeed, at this point it becomes irrelevant for our present concern whether Kavanaugh is “innocent.” Rather, the hubris, petulance, paranoia, and general lack of decorum he displayed in the re-opened hearing ought to have disqualified him not merely from SCOTUS, but from every courtroom in the country except as a defendant.
Chances he’ll be confirmed, anyway: 99%