As an undergraduate in the 1990s, I didn’t attend an Ivy League school, but I attended one that was very similar, Davidson College in North Carolina. It was dubbed, by whom I don’t even know, the “Princeton of the South.” It remains a Top 10 ranked liberal arts college. (For reference: It’s where Stephen Curry played his college basketball.) I also studied at Harvard University for a year as a Nieman Fellow in 2013 and 2014. Davidson is a smaller version of Harvard, just without the graduate schools.
That’s why I know with certainty the image Brett Kavanaugh painted Thursday during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about his time at Yale University was bogus. He acted as though it would be impossible for a man such as himself to have gotten good grades and played sports while getting knockdown drunk at parties or on the weekends.
That’s a lie. And he knows it.
And every person who went to a school like that—and probably most colleges and universities that aren’t similar—knows that was a lie.
That Kavanaugh suggested otherwise tells me to be suspicious of everything else he said.
That he could so blatantly tell such a falsehood during such an important moment in our country’s history tells me a lot about the man’s character, more than what the little girls on the sports teams he coaches ever could. Maybe he really does treat his wife and daughters well, and has plenty of close friends, men and women, who hold him in high regard for good reason. None of that excuses his performance on Thursday.
At Davidson, I saw men of privilege, just like Kavanaugh, get disgustingly drunk during parties on the weekends to the point of passing out or almost passing out, or stumbling back to their dorm room with equally drunk women on their arms—and get up on Monday morning and attend classes as though the weekend never happened. And they found time to make it to the chemistry lab and spent several hours in the library, sometimes after a sports practice. That’s not a practice unique to privileged white men, but it is telling that Kavanaugh used his status as a privileged white man—because he got into Yale—as a reason to believe he could never have behaved in such a manner.
I had a near-perfect view of such behavior in college because I never got drunk and could watch it all while sober. I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs, not because of religious reasons but because I saw what those substances did to my father and oldest brother and was afraid they could unleash in me what was unleashed in them. My father frequently got violently drunk when I was a little boy. He would beat my mother when he did. My oldest brother murdered a man when he was high on drugs. He later told me he did it because a friend whispered something in his ear—to “do something” about a man who had charged my brother with stealing a couple hundred dollars from his little country store—a suggestion my brother was incapable of resisting because the drugs had so impaired his ability to reason. That’s why there was never any chance I would view getting stupid drunk on weekends as a rite of passage at Davidson the way so many of my classmates did.
Kavanaugh clearly got stupid drunk many times. One former classmate said he got “stumbling drunk.” Another classmate said he was a “sloppy drunk” who slurred his words and that it is not credible to believe Kavanaugh had no memory lapses from those nights of hard partying.
Lynne Brookes, a self-identified Republican who attended Yale with Kavanaugh, said this to CNN after watching Kavanaugh during the Senate hearing:
“There is no doubt in my mind that while at Yale he was a big partier, often drank to excess,” she said.
“And there had to be a number of nights where he does not remember. In fact, I was witness to the night that he got tapped into that fraternity, and he was stumbling drunk in a ridiculous costume saying really dumb things. And I can almost guarantee that there’s no way that he remembers that night.
“There were a lot of emails and a lot of texts flying around about how he was lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee today,” Brookes continued.
Kavanaugh tried to downplay that truth in an interview on Fox News and during Thursday’s testimony. He said he liked, and likes, beer but that he never got “blackout” drunk; instead, he just “went to sleep” after heavy bouts of drinking. A growing number of his former classmates and friends have said that he is not telling the truth. Since the Kavanaugh story began galvanizing the country, I’ve heard from some of my former classmates from Davidson who tell me, in no uncertain terms, that that kind of drinking was prevalent in colleges like ours and that many people who are upstanding citizens and leaders today participated when we were in college.
They are not proud of those moments but are willing to own up to them and say that they are better people today. Why couldn’t Kavanaugh simply do the same? Probably because it would give more credence to his primary accuser’s claim that he tried to rape her in high school when he was drunk. That’s the heart of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation. At this point, it is reasonable to say that Blasey Ford is telling the truth and that Kavanaugh could have done something he can’t even remember because he was too drunk.
That truth doesn’t change just because he cried and got belligerent during a 45-minute-long opening statement. For what’s it’s worth: I’ve seen men who have done awful things—beaten women, beaten other men, killed people—who then cried and got belligerent when it was time for them to face the consequences of their actions, which is why that emotional outburst stuff doesn’t move me.
After Thursday and considering Kavanauagh’s and Ford’s appearances, I have zero questions about Ford’s credibility—zero—but a growing number about Kavanaugh’s I did not have before hearing him speak. That doesn’t even include his doublespeak on the reliability of polygraphs—yesterday, he said they weren’t reliable but in court he said they were reliable enough to be used. Don’t let me get started on his decision to boldly proclaimed conspiracies about liberals and Democrats during his testimony.
The GOP resisted all efforts to have a full, fair and independent investigation and airing of all relevant facts. That forced each of us to decide for ourselves, based on what we now know, who to believe. I believe Ford. Fortunately, Sen. Jeff Flake forced the Senate’s hand and got Kavanaugh confirmation vote delayed by a week so the FBI could finally look into Ford’s allegations—something he and others should have done a week ago, but better late than never.
I don’t know if the results of that investigation will make me change my mind about Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault—I believe her because she seems a lot more credible than Kavanaugh—but at least it gives the country a chance at some semblance of sanity going forward. It won’t correct all the wrongs. It won’t undo all the damage done to the quest by sexual assault survivors to be heard and taken seriously. But at this point, it is our best way forward.
For me, no matter what is uncovered in the FBI investigation, Kavanaugh’s willingness to mislead about something so seemingly trivial and well known tells me something disturbing about his character, disturbing enough to not want him sitting on the highest court in the land.