by Brad Delong (originally published at Grasping at Reality with at least Theree Hands)


Clowns (ICP)

I confess that I have been procrastinating on various things. Why? Because I have been unable to tear my eyes away from the multiple train crash that is the confirmation process… the career… the life of Brett Kavanaugh. My view of this is a third- or fourth-hand view. It is the view of Georgetown Prep from Sidwell Friends. And it may well be wrong. But I think that it is right. So, with that warning, here goes:

The first… oddity… is Brett Kavanaugh‘s reaction to Christine Blasey Ford. It really ought to have been something like this:


I cannot say that I have a good memory of this, and I am not certain I am remembering the incident that was clearly very traumatic for her. I was drunk. I think she was drunk. From my perspective, we were roughhousing, and I was hoping she would let me see her tits. When it became clear she clearly was scared, Mark and I backed off.

I was in an unhealthy liberal culture in my high school and college years. When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible. I hope I have learned to be a better person since then. I am now trying hard to be my best possible self.

I was too much of a dork and a dick back then to call her up the following day to apologize. And I have not been my best self in shirking my duty to apologize to her, to repent, to atone. It maybe too late now— better late than never Is not always true. But if better late than never is true in this case, I would like to say: I do regret my actions at what I believe was that incident and at other incidents where I was young and irresponsible. But I am not a rapist. I do not like to force myself I’m scared, struggling women.

That would’ve been the same thing to do. The non-psychopathic thing to do. The normal thing to do. The Manly thing to do.

But Brett Kavanaugh and company did not do that. Why not?

I think the balance of the probabilities has to be that he was, more likely than not, poisoned by his upbringing, and perhaps especially by his upbringing in the right wing of the Catholic Church of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II—their moral imbecility in the age of artifical birth control is truly wondrous.

I think it is more likely than not that he did and perhaps does have a particular kink: enjoying destroying female agency, through intoxication and a little light restraint, perhaps especially when women find themselves of multiple minds, with hopes, fears, regrets, and anticipation. Perhaps especially when there are no hopes and anticipations but only fears and regrets.


Thus, if that is who Brett Kavanaugh really was and is, there is an awful lot out there—not just Christine Blasey Ford, and Deborah Ramirez out there trying to make an example of Christine Blessey forward and frighten the others into silence has been a deliberate part of his confirmation strategy since the possibility of his nomination was first mooted.

Why didn’t this get steamrolled out of him at Yale? My memory of Harvard-Radcliffe half a decade before is that frat boys and misogynist frat-boy culture wer in retreat: Wellesley women were finding themselves and their careers, and Radcliffe women believed that they could demand that Harvard boys toe the line. Harvard-Radcliffe had or at least seemed to have things largely under control—Finals Clubs marginalized, alcohol served sedately as wine and beer at Masters’ Receptions and House parties, some heavy drinking in dorms, most men who weren’t too shy trying to figure out how to be properly feminist so that the object of their affections’ roommates would not tell her that they were pig.

But, I am told, then the drinking age went up. And Finals Clubs came back. And seniors began getting frantic phone calls from the younger sisters of high school friends, saying: “They’ve looked my roommate in the basement of ∏Η, and they say they won’t let her out until she gives them all blowjobs…”

Not sure I am right about all this. Certainly not sure beyond a reasonable doubt. Certainly not sure even by clear and convincing evidence. But I do believe it is more likely than not. It was certainly how Georgetown Prep looked from Sidwell Friends at the time. And it is certainly how Georgetown Prep through the lens of its yearbook and “no means yes, yes means anal” Yale ΔΚΕ look today.

Then, of course, there are the finances. Where did the down payment for his house come from? Who paid off the roughly hundred thousand dollars in credit card debt? Where did the hundred thousand dollars for the country club initiation fee come from? Financial disclosure forms are designed by Congress to allow for low-level bribery, or perhaps it would be better to collect favor exchange (you make sure my business does not get ground finally in the mills of government, I put you onto some really good investments), well putting curbs on truly mind-boggling corruption. As I see it, there are three places where at the cash that filled the holes in Kavanaugh‘s finances could’ve come from cold

  1. From family, in which case is almost surely a gift tax sheet.
  2. From giving a highly overpaid speeches to groups of Federalist Society were these and donors, in the strange way judges appear to be allowed to do.
  3. From parenthesis two), but somehow he forgot to give the speeches and just took the money.

(2) is unseemly, but more-or-less par for that particular social group’s course in this particular ideological-partisan judicial environment. (1) is criminal, but the IRS is very unlikely to prosecute in May will waive many penalties if you come forward voluntarily to disclose and amend your return. (3) is simply corrupt. That Cavanagh is unwilling to disclose how the holes in his finances have been closed strongly suggests to me that it is (3).

Somewhat connected with finances… There are multiple ways of being an acceptable relationship partner. You can be a good listener and a soulful lover, making her feel highly valued and good about herself. You can be a Brooklyn hipster, actively sharing the childcare, and child management, and household maintenance load. Or you can be filthy rich, bringing enormouis financial resources to the household for your partner to utilize as social power. Here Kavanaugh’s problem is that he has worked for the the government and is not rich by Silicon Valley, American finance, of even Big Law standards. Does that matter? Yes, because wealth as social power is a relative status thing.

This complex of issues may have a considerable amount to do with a general sense I get of right wing upper middle-class and lower upper class psychological grievance. Their incomes today vastly exceed those of the proletariat by a margin that those who remember America of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s cannot find anything other than mind-boggling. Yet, as I like to put it, their predecessors in the 1960s could believe they could look George Romney in the eye, but they look at Mitt Romney and the other plutocrats and feel very very very small indeed. The decline of patriarchy and their failure to become plutocrats themselves has, they think, cheated them. Kavanaugh wants to run with the big dogs. He wants to be the kind of person who can trivially spend six figures on a Country Club initiation fee. Hence he cannot afford to have judicial principles.

I will pass over Kavanaugh’s judicial practice, safe to say that he is the most perfect example I have found so far of conservative legal theory: in Frank Wilhoit’s words: “Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protectes but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect. Kavanaugh is extreme here, but not unusual except perhaps that he is one of those who believes that above all the law protects but does not bind Republican presidents, even—or perhaps especially?—those named Trump.

This bears on why Kavanaugh is still in the ring—and why Republicans are still backing him, and have been backing him for months knowing that sexual assaults he cannot now remember because he black-out drunk are out there. As I said before: Why would anybody sane ever, ever choose Brett Kavanaugh over Amy Barrett as the swing vote to eviscerate Roe versus Wade? People have advanced three reasons:

  1. They just do not think girls are serious—other things being equal (or, indeed, not equal), choose the man.
  2. Amy Barrett has faith and principles: they do not know what the key issues will be 20 years from now, and they are scared to appoint somebody who may turn out to be like Justices Kennedy and Souter, actually have principles and faith, and so go off the reservation.
  3. Amy Barrett does not believe that the president is above the law—princeps legibus solutus est is not one of her judicial principles.

Things are definitely not equal. There are lots of reasons to fear Brett Kavanaugh does not have a judicial temperament in addition to the fact that he is now lying about sexual assault of a 15-year-old 35 years ago…

And I will note the unseemly posturing of the legal establishment: Neal Katyal says:

Regardless of where one stands on the Kavanaugh nomination… with his former clerks, his mentoring and guidance is a model for all of us in the legal profession…

at the same time as the Guardian reports on Amy “Don’t Wear a Suit to Your Kavanaugh Clerkship Interview” Chua:

[Amy] Chua invited a group of students that she mentored to a bar last year to catch up and discuss their plans for clerkships…. Chua… told the students she had known about allegedly abusive and harassing behavior by another judge, Alex Kozinski, who was head of the ninth circuit and was forced to retire from the bench last year after more than a dozen women accused him of harassment. The conversation then turned to Kozinski’s protege and good friend Kavanaugh…. Chua allegedly told the students that it was “no accident” that Kavanaugh’s female clerks “looked like models”. Student reacted with surprise, and quickly pointed out that Chua’s own daughter was due to clerk for Kavanaugh. A source said that Chua quickly responded, saying that her own daughter would not put up with any inappropriate behaviour.


Yale provided Kavanaugh with many of the judge’s clerks over the years, and Chua played an outsized role in vetting the clerks who worked for him. But the process made some students deeply uncomfortable…. Sources who spoke to the Guardian about their experiences with Chua and Rubenfeld would only speak under the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution and damage to their future careers…. Chua advised the… student… that she ought to dress in an “outgoing” way for her interview with Kavanaugh, and… should send Chua pictures of herself in different outfits…. Questions about why the couple believed it was important to emphasize the students’ physical appearance when discussing jobs with Kavanaugh. The couple were not known to do that in connection with other judges, sources said:

It is possible that they were making observations but not following edicts…. I have no reason to believe he was saying, ‘Send me the pretty ones’, but rather that he was reporting back and saying, ‘I really like so and so,’ and the way he described them led them to form certain conclusions…

Paul Krugman notes:

how respectfully the judicial crazies have been treated by the non-right-wing legal establishment…. The way law professors rushed to endorse Kavanaugh—who got his career start pursuing conspiracy theories…. What seems to explain the difference is incentives. Judges are political appointees; so a lawyer may find himself or herself facing a Federalist Society judge, creating an incentive to treat these people respectfully…

It’s not cases. It’s clerkships. Law professors don’t practice. They do place students.

As I said: a multiple train wreck of a confirmation process, of a career, of a life.