Amazingly, there is still one unmentionable in l’Affaire Kavanaugh: the role of alcohol. That’s not surprising, for American culture has still to come to terms with alcohol or with the culpability of the drunk. Apparently, we don’t want to.
Here are questions that should be asked–right now–of Brett Kavanaugh by the Senate Judiciary Committee:
- Do you drink today? If you do, how much and how often?
- When was the last time you got drunk?
- Have you ever been so drunk you blacked out?
Unlike the “he said/she said” contentions of the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, these questions (probably including the third) can be answered through careful investigation. They should be. Maybe they have been. I don’t know. Certainly, no one in the media is talking about them.
If it can be established that Kavanaugh has reformed a life in which drinking was once a formidable part (as is the case, if the allegations against him are true) then he needs to be viewed in a different light from that cast on a man who drinks as heavily now as he did in his teens. This, though, brings up the ugly question: Is the sober person responsible for the ugly drunk alcohol once unleashed?
In considering someone of a position within our judicial system, this question must be answered. In law, one certainly is responsible for what one did while drinking. In society, often much less so. If we give a pass to drunken actions in considering someone for the bench, we risk weakening this distinction.
Would that be a good thing? Or bad?
The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of responsibility. If it contains members willing to excuse actions for mitigating circumstances such as inebriation or even drug-altered states, the entire legal framework of our nation will change. If Kavanaugh is being given a pass though he had a wild youth, that may lead to his opting for leniency on the transgressions of others or, at least, lead him to excuse them. On the other hand, it might make him more severe. Either way, recognition of personal pasts should be as important in the confirmation process as political and judicial stances.
It may be true that our legal system, in this regard, does need changing. Perhaps what one does when one’s mind is addled needs to be treated differently (I’m not arguing for that, simply posing it as a legitimate concern). What we don’t need is to get to that change sloppily, through confirming an Associate Justice for political expediency and adherence to a particular judicial philosophy instead of looking at the totality of the individual–including their relationship to alcohol and, of course, to sexual boundaries.
The consequences of the course the Senate Republicans seem set on may be dire in ways their short-sightedness and willingness to elide the candidate’s personal traits don’t allow them to see.