The Slatest

Brett Kavanaugh’s Opening Statement Was a Defiant Howl of Rage Against Democrats

Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday in Washington. Michael Reynolds/Getty Images

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sat down in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and declared war on the Democratic Party. His statement marked a total departure from what he submitted to the committee on Wednesday, veering into an openly political attack on his opponents. It was thoroughly partisan and utterly disgraceful, a Trumpian Hail Mary that exuded desperation, entitlement, and rage.

“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” Kavanaugh said, his voice raised. “The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process. But you have replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’ ” He took direct aim at Democrats, asserting: “Since my nomination in July, there’s been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation.” He continued:

Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate leader said he would, “oppose me with everything he’s got.” A Democratic senator on this committee publicly referred to me as “evil.” Evil—think about that word—and said that those who supported me were “complicit in evil.” Another Democratic senator on this committee said, “Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.” A former head of the National Democratic Committee said, “Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.”

“You sowed the wind,” he admonished Democratic senators, and now “the country will reap the whirlwind.”

Kavanaugh denounced “Democratic members of this committee,” calling their behavior during his earlier hearings “an embarrassment.” He accused them of “lying in wait” to spring false accusations upon him when “it looked like I might actually get confirmed.” He described “this whole two-week effort” as “a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.” He alleged that this effort was driven by “revenge on behalf of the Clintons”—a reference to his tenure as a prosecutor on Ken Starr’s team during the 1990s—“and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.” He insisted he was the victim of “grotesque character assassination.”

Indeed, that was the theme of Kavanaugh’s testimony: that he is the victim, that Democrats and Clinton allies are engaged in a conspiracy to destroy his nomination and reputation. He demanded sympathy, crying and yelling in turn. “I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process,” he said. “You may defeat me in the final vote, but you’ll never get me to quit.”

This remarkable performance was impassioned, entrancing, and absolutely inappropriate. Kavanaugh dropped any pretense of non-partisanship. He came out swinging as a Republican, as a man who loathes the Democratic Party just as much as the president who nominated him loathes it. He abandoned any effort to obtain Democratic votes and instead appealed directly to Republican senators: Don’t let these monsters stop me from getting what I deserve. Not even Clarence Thomas descended to this level of raw political fisticuffs when fighting Anita Hill’s allegations. If, after Thursday’s testimony, Kavanaugh is still confirmed to the Supreme Court, there will be no question whose bidding he will do on the bench.