Just as the perjury case against President Clinton hinged on the definition of the word “is,” the leftist campaign to paint Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh as a lying, ice-throwing hothead could depend on how you define “boof.”
As the sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Kavanaugh remain stubbornly uncorroborated, the Democratic effort to derail his Supreme Court nomination has switched gears to more subjective criticisms of his temperament and descriptions of his youthful partying.
“Thursday’s hearing provided fresh examples of Judge Kavanaugh’s difficult relationship with the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said in Tuesday floor remarks. “Judge Kavanaugh gave answers about his yearbook page, supposed drinking games and high school behavior that simply defy credulity.”
Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, called for the FBI to investigate Mr. Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, including the judge’s assertions that he never suffered memory loss after drinking and that a reference to “skis” on his 1982 high school calendar referred to beer.
“Lying to Congress is a federal crime,” Mr. Sanders tweeted.
Other Democrats have argued that the judge’s impassioned, emotional denial of the sexual misconduct allegation reveals that he lacks the calm demeanor required of a high court justice and that his denunciations of a Democratic “political hit” show him to be hopelessly partisan.
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“Last Thursday, he launched into a partisan political screed that contradicted everything he has ever professed to believe about the way judges should behave,” said Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, who accused Judge Kavanaugh of a “paranoid fantasy.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that “there’s a lot to be concerned about” when it comes to Judge Kavanaugh’s “judicial temperament” and “sense of fairness.”
For Republicans, the shift in tactics has been maddening. They argue that anybody would be outraged by a 36-year-old allegation of sexual assault and subsequent trial in the media, and they say there has been no criticism of Judge Kavanaugh’s temperament on the bench.
“I’m offended by the fact that anybody would hold it against Brett Kavanaugh to be upset by the way he was treated,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told ABC’s “This Week.” “Words were put in his mouth that he didn’t say, he’s accused of being a gang rapist, a bumbling, stumbling drunk, a degenerate person, and he was hit by a truck.”
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said Judge Kavanaugh would have been criticized regardless of his demeanor.
“Had Judge Kavanaugh sat dispassionately through Thursday’s hearing and denied the allegations weakly, his critics would have taken his lack of forcefulness as proof of guilt. We all know this,” Mr. Hatch said in a Tuesday op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. “We’re not stupid. Spare us the pearl-clutching.”
Republicans argue that the sudden parsing of Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony on the meaning of words such as “boof” — he said it meant flatulence, social media mavens say it means anal sex — came as more evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to tar the nominee with whatever allegation works.
“Give me a break,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said at a Tuesday press conference. “That just shows the sort of desperation the other side has to not only deny the nominee a fair and dignified confirmation process but to turn this into a three-ring circus.”
He added, “And now we’re talking about throwing ice on somebody when you were in college as disqualifying you from a seat on the United States Supreme Court?”
Mr. Cornyn referred to Tuesday’s report in The New York Times about Mr. Kavanaugh being questioned by police for a 1985 bar brawl in which he allegedly threw ice at another young man.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, offered a deadpan response. “Judge Kavanaugh may have been accused of throwing some ice across a college bar in the mid-1980s. Talk about a bombshell,” he said on the Senate floor.
The Times later issued a statement saying, “In retrospect, editors should have used a newsroom reporter for the assignment,” not op-ed and magazine writer Emily Bazelon, who tweeted in July that the nominee “will harm the democratic process & prevent a more equal society.”
Meanwhile, NBC News was hit with pushback after suggesting in a Monday report that Judge Kavanaugh lied when he said he didn’t learn of Deborah Ramirez’s allegation that he exposed himself to her at Yale until The New Yorker report.
The judge obviously knew of the allegation beforehand because his denial was quoted in the Sept. 23 story. In addition, he told the committee in a Sept. 25 interview that he was aware that reporters were pursuing the story, as reported by National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke.
Left-wing advocacy group Demand Justice posted Monday a list titled “Kavanaugh: 31 Lies and Counting,” which included his statement that “devil’s triangle,” as written on his 1982 calendar, was a drinking game. His critics argued that it referred to sex involving three people.
The “lying” narrative has become ubiquitous on left-leaning media sites with headlines such as “All of Brett Kavanaugh’s Lies” in GQ, “All the Lies Brett Kavanaugh Told” in HuffPost, and “How We Know Kavanaugh Is Lying” in Current Affairs.
“Regardless of whether such petty lies could ever to amount to perjury, they provide glimpses into Kavanaugh’s character and candor. As Kavanaugh well knows, in our legal system, even small lies matter,” said a Monday op-ed in Politico by Demand Justice’s Brian Fallon and Christopher Kang, who both worked in the Obama administration.
Conservative magazine National Review disagreed. “None of this comes close to rising to the level of perjury. And none of it, despite the hopes of his enemies, substitutes for the weakness of Christine Blasey Ford’s original charge,” said Tuesday’s editorial, “The Perjury Farce.”
Indeed, critics point out that the allegations about lying have soared even as the sexual assault allegations crumble. Accusations by Ms. Blasey Ford and Ms. Ramirez have yet to be corroborated, and the account by Julie Swetnick of gang-rape parties while he was in high school have been met with widespread skepticism.
The lying-and-fuming allegations may have a specific target in mind: Sen. Jeff Flake. The Arizona Republican has said he will vote against the nomination if the FBI investigation shows that Judge Kavanaugh lied under oath.
At a Tuesday event hosted by The Atlantic magazine, Mr. Flake said he was “troubled” by Judge Kavanaugh’s decision to come out firing at the committee hearing.
“I was very troubled by the tone of the remarks,” Mr. Flake said. “The interaction with the members was sharp and partisan, and that concerns me.”