What Happened With Ford and Kavanaugh 36 Years Ago?

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It riveting listening first to Professor Christine Blasey Ford and then Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the pair appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee during eight hours of high drama on Thursday.  

After Ford’s heartfelt opening statement and testimony, there was no doubt about the truth of her allegations against Kavanaugh – until we heard from the judge with his impassioned unequivocal denial of the charges and his strong, impactful defense of his character.

As a Democrat who does not favor Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court on philosophical grounds, I can sympathize with those on the Republican side who see these last-minute allegations as just part of the opposition’s strategy to sandbag a nomination on the cusp of confirmation. The timing of the release of Professor Ford’s allegations has, unfortunately, legitimately tainted the motivations behind the allegation.

As we saw during the hearing, Republicans (and Kavanaugh) have grasped onto the timing of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the leak of Ford’s letter to make process the issue – not the substance and merits of Professor Ford’s actual allegation. As Lindsay Graham so theatrically put it: this is about whether you support “despicable” political tactics, not whether you believe Professor Ford or Judge Kavanaugh.

But whom should we believe? What did happen on that summer night in 1982? Even with an FBI investigation there may still be doubts.

Watching the entirety of Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s appearances before the committee, several things seem most likely to happened. First, in spite of the Republican’s best efforts to sympathize with Ford while casting doubt on her memory of the details of a night 36 years ago, anyone who has been through any trauma knows that the relevant details are, in fact, sealed into one’s memory.  

It defies credulity to assume that Professor Ford would just make this story up and she simply knows too many of the players in young Brett Kavanaugh’s world to be confusing her facts and her assailant’s identity. Bottom line: Ford’s telling the truth.

So what about Kavanaugh? It is likely that back in his High School, College and Law School days there were actually two Brett Kavanaughs. Almost all of the time there was the nice, gentlemanly, somewhat shy, athletic Brett who friends and colleagues so admired and enjoyed the company of.  

But, ever so often, after those “too many beers” that were referred to multiple times in testimony, a meaner, more cocky, brutish, bullying Brett would appear. It is that Brett that several friends and roommates have referenced in reported accounts. It is that nasty, drunk Brett who, with his friend, Mark Judge, was likely in that room with Christine Blasey that summer night back in 1982. And it was that Brett, who, as he often did, even with his weak stomach, drank way too much only to wake up the next morning unaware of what had transpired the night before.

In some sense, I guess, Kavanaugh is right when he alleges that it must be a case of mistaken identity. For the Brett Kavanaugh who has emerged in life and has built a stellar professional reputation and a beautiful family resembles nothing like the ugly drunk Brett who was probably put to sleep for good so many years ago.   

We did get a taste of that alternate Brett during question and answer phase of the hearings with some of his nasty, snarky, even dismissive responses. We did get a glimpse of that nastier Brett which, of course, still resides deep down in his personality, a side which, thankfully, he has so long ago tried to bury.  

I don’t doubt that he does not remember the night that Professor Ford describes. I think that he actually believes that he wasn’t there that night and that he has been wronged. He certainly wants to believe it. But I think even Brett Kavanaugh has his doubts.

Never mind his clear opposition to subjecting the question to an FBI investigation, it was his response, at the very end of the day, to a question from U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as to whether he had watched Professor Ford’s testimony on television earlier in the day that was most telling: “No I did not.”

Brett Kavanaugh did not want risk facing an ugly past that he knows might have been true but he just, honestly, cannot remember – and clearly, does not want to.

Jay Jacobs is the Nassau County Democratic Chairman, Democratic National Committee Member At-Large and a former New York State Democratic Chairman.