Given the harrowing and extremely credible allegation that Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford at a party when he was 17 years old (and she was 15), plenty of conservatives have attacked the charges from the perspective of youthful indiscretion. As a former 17-year-old boy, I’d just like to say that while they have a scintilla of a point, extending it to this circumstance is absolute hogwash. I did a lot of stupid stuff that could be classified as “idiot high school boy nonsense.” I got caught driving 90 miles per hour in a 35. I started a huge fight on a baseball field. I said racist and misogynistic things. I did not, however, do what Ford alleges that Kavanaugh did to her at a party:
Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stair well from the living room. They locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help.
Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with REDACTED, who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh’s hand over my mouth I feared he may inadvertently kill me.
This is not stupid teenage boy stuff, folks. This is sexual assault at any age. The fact that a bunch of conservatives came out and characterized this attempted rape as “boys being boys” is instructive as to how Donald Trump became the standard bearer of American conservatism. This ordeal is further proof that the only difference between Donald Trump most “Never Trump” conservatives is in tone, not substance.
I do not understand why the loutish drunken behavior of a 17 year old high school boy has anything to tell us about the character of a 53 year old judge. By God’s grace (literally), I am not the same person I was at 17. This is a terrible standard to establish in public life.— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) September 17, 2018
If the story is true, we now have to decide whether a man is unqualified for the Supreme Court because he drunkenly groped a girl 35 years ago when he was 17. I'm going to answer "no" on that one. I don't see how this has any bearing on his qualifications whatsoever. https://t.co/bdyvxoi0BT— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 16, 2018
A lawyer close to the White House said the nomination will not be withdrawn. “No way, not even a hint of it. If anything, it's the opposite. If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” https://t.co/aAbYbNVgNj— Carrie Budoff Brown (@cbudoffbrown) September 16, 2018
To be fair, not all conservatives stuck to this bankrupt logic. Famed Never Trump conservative Tom Nichols retracted his “he was only 17 take” after getting ratio'd into oblivion.
This was not a good take and I'm deleting it. I've read her letter. I get it. I still don't know what happened, but this looks a lot more callous than I intended it.
I'm screenshotting it here, so that it's not lost as as a shady dodge. It's a bad take. pic.twitter.com/8Aj8AJAoy9— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) September 16, 2018
That said, Nichols was clearly in the minority, as Washington Post libertarian opinion columnist Megan McArdle pushed a galaxy-brain take that every day of your life before turning 21 is the legal equivalent to The Purge: none of it counts.
You'd be cool with a teen rapist getting a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court?— Kara (@finalflower) September 14, 2018
I would be cool with a teen murderer getting a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. I think there's good reason we expunge juvenile records, and would raise the expungement age to 21.— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) September 14, 2018
Impugning someone's character at 55 because of what they did at 17, no matter what they did, is a difficult exercise—but that doesn't mean we should just outright disregard everything that happened and chalk every mistake up to youthful indiscretion. Many conservatives assert that what you do at age 17 shouldn't disqualify you from higher office, but if Kavanaugh had been convicted of what he is accused of at age 17 in at least 13 states, he would have lost his right to vote. Plenty of conservatives typically argue that losing voting rights at least temporarily is an adequate punishment (a recent poll has roughly 48% of Florida conservatives supporting this measure), so why is disqualifying a sexual criminal from adjudicating the law in the highest court in the land seen as such an extreme measure? (answer: because American conservatism largely values controlling the levers of power above all else)
Calling Ford's allegations “uncorroborated,” as the other main attack line against them goes, is simply wrong. Her claims are backed up by her therapist's notes from 2012, long before there was a President Trump or a Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh. That's literal corroboration. That fact proves that this is not some 11th hour smear tactic, and those screaming “why didn't she say this earlier” are answering their own question. As Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post, these attacks are “all the ills that I was trying to avoid. Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation” (side note: this is what patriotism really looks like).
Not to mention, we don't need to rely solely on Ford's testimony to paint a picture of Brett Kavanaugh's youth as that of a drunken misogynist, further calling into question whether this was an isolated incident.
Perhaps worth remembering in the context of teenaged Kavanaugh: He joined a secret society at Yale known for excessive drinking and nicknamed “Tit and Clit.” https://t.co/5NnjeVP2Ufhttps://t.co/XPUyCeP4g8— Joshua Benton (@jbenton) September 16, 2018
Mark Judge—the only other witness to Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh placed his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams while he molested her—even admitted to being an alcoholic in high school in his 1997 memoir Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk. Paste’s Shane Ryan has a detailed post recapping unimpeachable evidence of Judge’s extremely creepy online behavior, and Judge even included a passage in his book about someone with the last name Kavanaugh. Per WaPo:
According to the book described “his own blackout drinking and a culture of partying among students at his high school, renamed in the book ‘Loyola Prep.’” Although Kavanaugh is not mentioned in the book, according to The Post, a reference about a beach party references “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” who “puked in someone’s car the other night” and “passed out on his way back from a party.”
This drunken misogyny can be extrapolated further into Kavanaugh’s adult life, thanks to a misogynistic e-mail chain he was a part of, which was led by Judge Alex Kozinski—a man Kavanaugh clerked for who retired after being accused of sexual misconduct by 15 women. Brett Kavanaugh also sent this cryptic e-mail in 2001 (at age 35), recounting a trip where everyone should be “very vigilant [with respect to] confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses.”
Kavanaugh has issued a flat denial of the allegations against him, undercutting the “youthful indiscretion” narrative so many of his defenders have launched, and this development may be for the best for those conservatives who believe that all crimes committed as juveniles are equally harmless. Attempted rape is a serious allegation at any age, and anyone dismissing a heinous act as the one described by Christine Blasey Ford as a simple youthful mistake is a central part of the problem with misogyny in America. Boys of all ages should be held to a higher standard than “well he didn’t penetrate her when he tried to rape her at age 17,” or else we’re just sowing the seeds for a new generation of sexual abusers.
All that said, perhaps we should hold Kavanaugh to his own standards, when he wrote the following as justification for asking Bill Clinton questions like “If Monica Lewinsky says that you ejaculated in her mouth on two occasions in the Oval Office, would she be lying?”
I am strongly opposed to giving the President any “break” in the questioning regarding the details of the Lewinsky relationship — unless before his questioning on Monday, he either (i) resigns or (ii) confesses perjury and issues a public apology to you. I have tried hard to bend over backwards and to be fair to him and to think of all reasonable defenses to his pattern of behavior. In the end, I am convinced that there really are none. The idea of going easy on him at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.