What Was Brett Kavanaugh Thinking?

I still can’t figure out what Brett Kavanaugh was thinking.

His bizarre, angry, entitled performance before the Judiciary Committee is now the subject of national mockery. And his easily disprovable lies on matters both small and large are being exposed even before the weeklong limited FBI investigation. Particularly good here are Nathan Robinson’s thorough deconstruction of Kavanaugh’s perjury at Current Affairs, as well as Briahna Gray and Camille Baker’s takedown at The Intercept. And now a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s is contesting his description of his drinking, including one shocking allegation that Kavanaugh responded to an mild insult by throwing a beer into a friend’s face, causing an altercation that led to jail time for a member of their social circle.

It was expected that Kavanaugh would twist his friends’ failure to recall the events described by Dr. Ford into refutations that such events ever took place. It’s a gross mischaracterization, but it’s probably not perjury.

But why in the world did he try to paint himself as a choir boy in high school and college, when those claims could be so easily disproven? Why not just admit that he was a wayward, somewhat mean-spirited teenager inclined to drink too much and joke about sex, but that like most boys he cleaned up his act as he grew up? That would have been far more credible given what we already know about prep school frat boys, and it would have humanized him and made him a more sympathetic character. He could have denied the allegations of assault while conceding that he did do more mild things of which he is now ashamed.

But he didn’t. He chose to lie blatantly, obviously and effortlessly–all while under oath.

Did he really think that the public would believe that a Devil’s Triangle was a drinking game, when every worldly person knows exactly what it really is? Did he truly think the public would buy the notion that teenage boys asking “have you boufed yet?” refers to flatulence rather than a sex act? Did he believe that people would accept his lie that being a “Renate almnius” was a term of endearment for his friend, rather than a vicious inside joke about her supposed promiscuity? Did he think none of his college friends would expose the reality of his drinking habits?

Why tell so many easily controvertible lies?

The best guess at an explanation is that Kavanaugh inhabits the same post-truth worldview as Donald Trump: not only does the truth not matter, but it doesn’t even matter if everyone knows you’re lying. All that matters is that you fought back, didn’t concede an inch to the other side, and looked strong and unshakeable to your base of supporters.

That attitude may well have earned Kavanaugh the continued support of the President. But he also had to know that the weight of his bald-faced lies would expose him to open ridicule and reduce the chances of his being confirmed. And he must know by now that even if Republicans do confirm him to the Court, House Democrats won’t sit idly by while an unrepentant perjurer and accused sex assailant rules from the bench in an aggressively partisan manner. There will be investigations piled on investigations that will not only have severe consequences for Kavanaugh himself, but also for the credibility of the Supreme Court itself.

And if he was willing to lie with such breezy facility on so many comparatively minor issues, why should anyone believe him over Dr. Ford, Ms. Ramirez or Ms. Swetnick? Did that not occur to him?

The whole episode demonstrated not only a shocking lack of character, but also a bizarre failure of judgment.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.