Alcoholism runs through my family, and what I saw every time Kavanaugh was questioned about his drinking was achingly familiar. The defiance, the casual references to “liking beer,” the mentioning of a friend who has a real problem, the insistence that he was the “Ralph King” because he has a “delicate stomach,” the turning the question on the questioner—all are tactics of the person with alcoholism who has been cornered. I’ve seen this scene before—in a kitchen, and in a driveway. But I was stunned to see it on the floor of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
I watched some of the news analysis of the hearing, hoping this angle would be discussed. But while there’s been quite a bit of discussion about Kavanaugh’s high school and college habits, there’s been very little discussion about his drinking now. Yet Kavanaugh used the present tense often. He said “I like beer” a number of times. He even asked two of the senators what they like to drink, the implication being now, not when they were in high school. When pressed during the hearing about whether he drank to excess in the past, Kavanaugh avoided the question and instead recited his accomplishments: Yale, Yale Law School, 12 years a federal judge. But high achievement in these realms doesn’t actually tell us anything about Kavanaugh’s drinking habits, now or in the past. Going to Yale is not an assurance of sobriety, and it does not rule out the possibility that he was also a problem drinker.
Based on the testimony of Ford and numerous accounts of people who knew, and drank with, Kavanaugh in college, we have good reason to believe that he abused alcohol in his youth. Liz Swisher, a former classmate, has said, “He drank heavily. He was a partier. He liked to do beer bongs. He played drinking games. He was a sloppy drunk.” Another acquaintance, Charles Ludington, released a statement saying, “On many occasions I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive.” We do not know whether he continues to drink this way, but the way he responded to questions about his past drinking makes it a relevant question. And yet, even in one of the most charged Senate committee hearings in decades, no one was willing to ask about his current drinking habits. [Continue reading…]