Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Kavanaugh and the Rule of Law

The fact that he knowingly gave false statements under oath should disqualify him.

I have followed the Kavanaugh confirmation battle in the news pretty closely, but I haven’t written anything about it until now. I thought I ought to say something about it before the final vote is held. The outcome of the nomination will have consequences for the future of the Supreme Court and its legitimacy, and that in turn will affect our politics for many years and likely decades to come. When Kavanaugh was nominated, I became aware of some of his bad rulings on 4th Amendment and other issues, but I did not have reason to think he was unfit to serve. The last few weeks and Kavanaugh’s behavior during that time have led me to conclude that he should not be confirmed, and the main reason for that is that he has lied repeatedly under oath. Everyone that watched his testimony on Thursday was witness to it, and the evidence that he lied to the Judiciary Committee many times seems to me to be overwhelming. For the purposes of determining whether he should be a Supreme Court justice, it doesn’t really matter why he lied or what he lied about. The fact that he knowingly gave false statements under oath should disqualify him.

The hearing on Thursday was a spectacle and an embarrassment for the nominee. Judge Kavanaugh comported himself poorly throughout, and during his angry opening statement he gave the committee members and the public ample reason to doubt his fitness for the Court before he answered any questions. Kavanaugh’s anger and accusatory tone were bad enough for someone who aspires to sit on the highest court, but the real problem lies with the multiple lies he told during his testimony. The judge has sought to present himself as someone beyond reproach both now and in the past, but he has gone so far to whitewash his excessive drinking habits and crude yearbook references that he has blown up his credibility in the process. Kavanaugh has gone to such lengths because he stands credibly accused of sexual assault when he was 17, and so he has attempted to eradicate anything from his past that might make that accusation seem easier to believe. His evasions and misrepresentations on these other points have only made his fervent denials of the very serious charge less believable, and in the process he has torched his reputation and rendered himself unworthy of the Supreme Court.

Almost twenty years ago, the House impeached then-President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice. Republican members emphasized again and again the importance of upholding the rule of law, and they insisted that no one, not even the president, should be above the law. Whatever their reasons for taking that position then, they were correct. Now Kavanaugh has committed the same crime of perjury, and the very least that the Senate can do is refuse to reward him for that crime by giving him a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. If the Senate truly valued the rule of law, Kavanaugh’s nomination would never have made it out of committee. Unless it wants to make a mockery of both the Court and the rule of law, the Senate now has to defeat Kavanaugh’s nomination.