I spent most of yesterday watching the Judiciary Committee hearings, and in this post, I am going to try to make sense of them. What follows is my amateur opinion. It differs from everything I have heard and read about the hearing, so it may be of interest.
First of all, I believe Christine Blasey Ford’s account. I am certain that she suffered the experience she described, and I am certain that she is not mistaken about the identity of the two persons in the room. If you reject these judgments, then you will probably prefer to navigate to some other blog.
Well, do I think then that Brett Kavanaugh is lying? The reality, I suggest, is a great deal more complex, and it will take me a while to explain. The keys to understanding the truth lie in Kavanaugh’s testimony, in its words, but also in his self-presentation. To keep this reasonably short, I am going to simply state my conclusions without extended background justifications. Take them for what they are worth.
Brett Kavanaugh was born into an extremely conventional upper middle-class Catholic family, and as a boy he was under enormous parental pressure to be a Good Boy. This meant being polite to adults, embracing sports, mobilizing his considerable psychic energy and his considerable intelligence to do well, as that is conventionally understood, in school. He went to Church regularly, as regularly, to quote his testimony, as brushing his teeth. He palled around with boys and girls in happy, cheerful Leave it To Beaver style, systematically denying his sexuality in ways that were deeply painful. His every action was a public performance, an affirmation of the part of him that would garner praise from parents, teachers, coaches, and priests. He was a Good Boy.
This is, psychodynamically, a volatile mixture. Kavanaugh was constantly under extreme pressure to repress his sexual [and also aggressive] urges. His reward for this painful pressure was praise, approval, high grades, and all the other overt public rewards that his social milieu had to offer.
Kavanaugh was hardly alone in this set of circumstances, needless to say, nor are they peculiar to young Catholics, although the particular form they take does have religious, ethnic, and economic roots. This is, after all, the stuff of a hundred, nay a thousand, American novels.
Kavanaugh drank beer. As he said repeatedly in his testimony, he drank beer, he liked beer, he still likes beer. It is not at all an accident that it is beer, not hard liquor, that he drank. He was not a solitary drinker [this is an absolutely crucial point, as we shall see.] He drank beer with his buddies, his male friends. When he drank, he experienced a momentary relief from the crushing psychic repression that defined his emotional makeup. When he drank, his sexual and aggressive urges achieved some expression. And under the influence of beer, which he regularly drank to excess, he became belligerent, sexually aggressive toward women.
But it is a striking and enormously significant fact that he became belligerent and sexually aggressive toward women in the presence of other men. Indeed, his drunken behavior was as much a performance for the benefit of those men as it was an expression of any sort of desire for the women. Listen closely to the astonishingly accurate, revealing, and precise testimony of Christine Blasey Ford. Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, she tells us, were laughing uproariously as Brett assaulted her. They were laughing with each other, having a good time with each other.
Compare this with what we know of many of the sexual predators who have been called to account by the #MeToo Movement. Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, and all the rest. They committed their assaults in private, and the focus of their acts was their sexual victim.
Not Brett Kavanaugh. In a Fox News interview, and then in his Senate testimony, Kavanaugh says he was a virgin in High School and for some years thereafter. He was a Good Boy. I believe him. I do not think he was actually trying to rape Christine Blasey in that room, and if by some accident he had managed to rip her clothes off, I think it is entirely possible that he would not have known quite what to do next. He and Mark Judge were laughing with each other, having a good time with each other.
The accounts of Kavanaugh’s Freshman Yale roommate and of other victims make it clear that, as we would expect, he did not change his basic psychological makeup when he graduated from prep school.
Brett Kavanaugh is a Good Boy. He has done everything that was demanded of him as a boy, and has been spectacularly successful. Now, the entire enormously painful psychologically demanding series of inner repressions and compromises on which his entire life has been built is being called into question by the public revelation of that repressed side, that back side, that hidden side of his psyche. His testimony yesterday was a desperate, impassioned, terrified cry: I AM A GOOD BOY. To deny him the Supreme Court seat is to tell him that those sacrifices, repressions, and denials were for naught.
Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth. But so was Brett Kavanaugh. Not about the actual incident. He was telling the truth as he genuinely believes it. He is a Good Boy.