Opinion writer

Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh has issued a new statement denying the allegation that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl when both were in high school. “This is a completely false allegation,” he said right up front. The Supreme Court nominee insisted that he has “never done anything like what the accuser describes.”

The woman has a name: Christine Blasey Ford. It is off-putting, to say the least, to see Kavanaugh try to depersonalize his accuser, whose name he and everyone else now knows. Kavanaugh then said that he didn’t know who it was “until she identified herself yesterday.” Why, if he never did anything like this, should her identity matter then? In addition, he asserted his willingness to testify about “this false allegation, from 36 years ago.” It’s not clear why the date of the alleged incident is relevant unless he is going to argue in the alternative: I didn’t do it, or if I did, I was in high school. Moreover, having now emphatically denied the incident, he has made his present credibility the issue.

His statement is intriguing for what it does and doesn’t say. Absent from the statement are assertions that:

  • He didn’t know Ford.
  • He didn’t drink to excess in high school.
  • He didn’t attend this party or parties such as the one described by Ford.

One potential problem for Kavanaugh, of course, is that if he knew Ford, and was at this or other similar parties and drank to excess in high school, he becomes (aside from self-interest) a non-credible witness. She apparently has a distinct memory; he allegedly was drunk. That’s a problem for him if she comes across as certain, credible and earnest, while he is relying on his memory as a drunk teenager.

Even creepier is another odd choice by Kavanaugh: He has retained Beth Wilkinson of the law firm Wilkinson Walsh and Eskovitz.  Why does a federal appeals court judge need a lawyer? Well, there is the adage that any man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. But, more to the point, what’s the lawyering that is required here?

One possibility is an attempt to intimidate Ford by holding the threat of slander and/or perjury claims over her head. If so, that’s just dumb. She knows very well the risks she has taken in choosing to come forward. Another possibility is that Kavanaugh needs help with the “I don’t remember” vs. the “it didn’t happen” defenses, which are not exactly the same. Moreover, if he is going to be put under oath, perhaps he wants advice as to what he can say without fear of contradiction and the resulting claims that he was untruthful under oath.

Honestly, I cannot figure out exactly why he wants or needs a lawyer. From a PR perspective, it’s not a smart move.

At this point, public testimony from both Kavanaugh and Ford seems obligatory. The longer that Senate Republicans delay, the longer this will take to resolve. And the passage of time seems to be the thing Republicans have most wanted to avoid throughout this process. They didn’t want to wait for all the documents from Kavanaugh’s tenure to be revealed. They didn’t want to wait until after the midterms. They didn’t want to slow down the train when Ford’s complaint first surfaced. Now they have no choice — which reminds us why lifetime confirmations for the Supreme Court should not be rushed in the first place. At some point, it’s all going to need to come out.