Even before she raised her right hand and swore to tell the truth, there was good reason to believe that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was the one doing so. She had offered to take a lie detector test about Brett Kavanaugh, and had passed it with flying colors, a point which, the admissibility of test results notwithstanding, is not exactly insignificant. She had called for an FBI investigation into whether or not she was telling the truth, not the obvious move for someone fabricating a story. And far from acting like an attention-seeker, Ford had made every effort to avoid the limelight.
Then she began to speak, and it was almost immediately clear that she was the honest one. Even the individual with more reason than anyone else on earth other than Brett Kavanaugh to hope that Ford came across as unbelievable conceded the point. Ford was, Donald Trump himself admitted late on Friday afternoon, “a very credible witness.”
But here’s the thing: If Christine Blasey Ford was telling the truth, then Brett Kavanaugh, a federal judge, was lying. And not just lying, but lying under oath, which is to say committing perjury, which is to say committing a federal crime. Which would also mean that he had committed the entirely separate crime of sexual assault.
All in all, not the most desirable of credentials for an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
But it wasn’t only Ford who provided reason to believe that she was telling the truth and that Kavanaugh wasn’t. There were three “tells” that he was lying, all furnished by Kavanaugh himself.
The first was his adamant refusal to agree to an FBI investigation into whether he was being honest, which he would naturally welcome if he thought it would vindicate him and fear if he thought it would not. His too-cute-by-half evasions — parrying Sen. Dick Durbin’s attempts to pin him down by slyly repeating, “Whatever the committee wants to do,” knowing full well that the GOP-controlled committee would not permit it and could not require it — only highlighted Kavanaugh’s anxiety about what an investigation would uncover.
Then there were the “little” lies, all lies that there would be no reason to tell if Kavanaugh were telling the truth about Ford’s allegations. And there were lots of them. Like the ones aimed at obscuring how much he drank during the periods in question, how out of control he was when he got drunk and how frequently that occurred. Or the lie that the phrase “Renate Alumnius” next to his name in his yearbook, whose meaning was illustrated by the misogynistic ditty “You need a date/and it’s getting late/don’t hesitate/to call Renate,” was actually a term of admiration. Or the lie that the phrase “Devil’s Triangle,” also associated with him, was nothing more than a name for a drinking game. Or the lie that individuals said to be at the party in question had refuted Ford’s account, when all that they had actually said was that they did not remember. Or even the lie, intended to bolster credibility, which would not have needed bolstering had he believed that he was being straightforward, that he had not watched Ford’s testimony before giving his own.
Finally, there were his cocky, belligerent, disrespectful, dripping-with-entitlement interruptions of senators, sarcastically demanding to know about their drinking habits. Even, presumably, without having consumed a single brewski, Kavanaugh displayed an amped-up, swaggering, bullying side that was very different from his I-am-a-choir-boy performance on Fox days earlier, and very consistent with what at least three women have come forward to describe.
In years past, we proceeded on the premise that Americans cared a very great deal about the difference between telling the truth and telling falsehoods. It is a premise that has been sorely tested over the past two years. The Kavanaugh hearings have brought the test to a new and worrisome level.
Jeff Robbins is a Boston attorney and former U.S. delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.