Judge Brett Kavanaugh has admitted to saying some things he should not have during a Senate hearing last week, a tacit acknowledgement of the questions being raised about his conduct and emotions as he seeks confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh made the remarks in a column for the Wall Street Journal, arguing that he would be an independent and nonpartisan judge. But he did not apologize for his behavior at the hearing, in which he interrupted senators, turned questions about drinking back on them and seeded his opening remarks with comments about “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
His performance has come under increased scrutiny as his potential appointment to the Supreme Court hangs in a delicate balance.
More than 2,400 law professors from across the political spectrum signed a letter this week arguing that the lack of “judicial temperament” that Kavanaugh displayed would be disqualifying for any court, let alone the highest in the land. And when Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – a Democrat from a red state who voted to confirm President Trump’s first nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, to the court – announced that she had decided not to support Kavanaugh on Thursday, she too cited questions about Kavanaugh’s “temperament, honesty and impartiality” as chief among her concerns.
“I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times,” Kavanaugh wrote. “I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.”
But despite the nod toward conciliation, Kavanaugh continued to lament the treatment he had been subject to, criticizing the accusations he faced as “wrongful and sometimes vicious allegations.”
“My time in high school and college, more than 30 years ago, has been ridiculously distorted. My wife and daughters have faced vile and violent threats,” he wrote. “My statement and answers also reflected my deep distress at the unfairness of how this allegation has been handled.”
Critics were quick to seize on what they saw as a disconnect between the sentiments in the column and those he displayed during the hearing.
“Your shameful and deliberately polarizing performance in that hearing room was in total contradiction to the sweet reason expressed in this op-ed,” NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote on Twitter.
“It’s too late for this, Judge Kavanaugh,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy wrote on Twitter. “You told us there exists a vast liberal conspiracy, led by Dem Senators, organizing fake charges against you. That’s delusional. You threatened us that ‘what comes around goes around’. That’s unacceptable.”
Kavanaugh said in the column that he believed the Supreme Court should “never be viewed as a partisan institution.”
“The justices do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle,” he wrote. “As I have said repeatedly, if confirmed to the court, I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player.”
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Eli Rosenberg