Let me start by acknowledging my bias. Brett Kavanaugh is one of the most decent people I have ever known. There is nothing in my experience working with him at the White House in the early 2000s or since that would suggest the accusations against him are plausible. He is simply among the most honorable people I’ve ever encountered.
Now, Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court hinges on what happened at a high school party 36 years ago. Christine Blasey Ford alleges that an inebriated 17-year old Brett Kavanaugh groped her above her clothes and fumbled with her one-piece swimsuit in an attempt to remove it as Mr. Kavanaugh’s friend, Mike Judge, cheered him on. Both Mr. Kavanaugh and Mr. Judge deny any such thing happened.
“It’s just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way,” Mr. Judge told The Weekly Standard. Pressed on whether he could recall anything that could have been misinterpreted by either of the parties, Mr. Judge said, “I can’t. I can recall a lot of rough-housing with guys. It was an all-boys school, we would rough-house with each other. I don’t remember any of that stuff going on with girls.”
Mr. Kavanaugh also strongly denied the claim. “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone,” he said in a statement released by the White House Monday. “Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making the accusation until she identified herself yesterday.”
“I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity,” the statement said.
It looked as if Mr. Kavanaugh might get that chance at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday at 10 am. Mr. Kavanaugh and Ms. Ford were both invited to appear. However, that is now in limbo. On Tuesday, Ms. Ford’s attorney, Lisa Banks, wrote to the committee saying that an FBI investigation should be conducted before her client testifies.
‘Out of Left Field’
Who is telling the truth is, at this moment, impossible to tell. However, for anyone who has ever known Brett Kavanaugh, myself included, it is very difficult to believe these charges are true. Friends of Mr. Kavanaugh have been quick to jump to his defense. Mr. Kavanaugh’s friends quickly assembled a letter from 65 women who knew him in high school vouching for his character. “Through the more than 35 years we have known him, Brett has stood out for his friendship, character, and integrity,” the women wrote. “In particular, he has always treated women with decency and respect. That was true when he was in high school, and it has remained true to this day.”
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Meghan McCaleb, one of the letter’s signatories who remains a close friend of Mr. Kavanaugh’s, described the letter as a “group effort” initiated by women he knew in high school. The allegation against him is “really out of left field” and is “nothing like the Brett that we know. At all.”
While the letter was written prior to the publication of the specific allegation, signatories to the letter stand behind it. Megan Williams, another of the women who signed the letter, told BuzzFeed that she was unaware of the details of Ms. Ford’s claim when she signed the letter, but was emphatic that her view of Mr. Kavanaugh remains unaltered. “I can’t even tell you how out of character” that would be. “The guy’s a saint.”
I have yet to encounter anyone who knows Brett Kavanaugh well that would not say the same.
Mr. Kavanaugh’s friends and colleagues from adulthood are equally resolute in their support. “Brett Kavanaugh is a good man who is incapable of hurting anyone,” Cathie Martin, who has known Mr. Kavanaugh for two decades, said. “I have seen him date friends, marry a good friend, mentor young lawyers and staffers, coach children and offer counsel to friends and family. He has the kind of moral compass, integrity, and humility that I hope my two young sons grow up to have.”
The high-esteem in which Mr. Kavanaugh’s friends hold him has been undiminished by Ms. Ford’s accusations. “I believe Brett Kavanaugh because I know him as a person and a close friend,” Laura Cox Kaplan, a White House colleague said. “In every setting and in every instance, his behavior has been honorable and above reproach…” Noting his efforts to mentor and promote the careers of women, Ms. Kaplan adds, “his record and his personal integrity speaks volumes. He stands up for what’s right, and does the right thing.“
Karen Keller, who also worked with Mr. Kavanaugh in the White House agrees. “I don’t necessarily believe that Dr. Ford is lying about what happened to her, however, I do believe based on what I know of Brett, that this is a case of mistaken identity,” she said. “Everything in my being knows that Brett is not the person she thinks did this to her. I’ve never met nor worked with someone as principled as Brett.”
Pamela R. Stevens, another White House colleague, describes Mr. Kavanaugh as “decent and kind — a man of true integrity.”
Elizabeth Bingold, who worked under Mr. Kavanaugh in the White House Counsel’s office also vouched for his character. “He was a great boss, a kind mentor, and is an incredible intellect. He is also very humble, respectful, and hard working,” she said. “He cared about the folks who worked for him and made even the lowest level staffer (me!) feel like a valued member of the team.”
NOTE: The full comments by Mr. Kavanaugh’s colleagues and friends are appended at the end of this post in their entirety.
Keith Hennessey, an economic advisor in the Bush White House who worked closely with Mr. Kavanaugh, says that while the allegations are serious and should be examined by the Senate Judiciary Committee, he continues to hold Mr. Kavanaugh in high-regard.
“I can’t speak to what Brett was like in high school. I can speak to my personal experience working with Brett as an adult,” Mr. Hennessey wrote in a Facebook post. “Judge Kavanaugh is simply one of the finest professionals with whom I have ever worked. His integrity, intellect, professionalism, and collegiality are unsurpassed. He is a role model for honorable public service, and just a good, solid guy.”
To be fair, Ms. Ford’s defenders say similar things about her.“She’s one of those people who teems with honesty and truth. She’s just that person,” Rebecca White, one of Ms. Ford’s close friends told The East Bay Times.
Alumnae of Holton-Arms, the private girls school in Bethesda, Maryland that Ms. Ford attended, put together a letter of their own. “We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” the letter said. “It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee now has the difficult task of reconciling the competing accounts of what happened. Two of the three people allegedly involved, Mr. Kavanaugh and Mr. Judge, strenuously deny that the incident Ms. Ford describes involving Mr. Kavanaugh — or anything like it — ever happened. Those who know him best are unanimous in their skepticism that the Brett Kavanaugh they know could be capable of such a thing.
Ms. Ford, now a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University, never revealed her allegation to friends at the time, although she did confide to Ms. White late last year that she was assaulted in high school by someone who is now a federal judge. Ms. Ford told The Washington Post that the first time she discussed the incident with anyone was in a couples therapy session in 2012, three decades after the fact. She didn’t identify the perpetrator then. But according to her therapist’s notes, which were reviewed by The Post, she did characterize him as someone who went on to be a prominent person in Washington.
The Polygraph Problem
Ms. Ford’s lawyer hired a former FBI agent to administer a polygraph test in early August. According to The Post, the results “concluded that Ford was being truthful when she said a statement summarizing her allegations was accurate.” But, as Ms. Ford, a clinical research psychologist would likely be aware, there is ample reason to be dubious of such results.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there “is little evidence that polygraph tests can accurately detect lies.” Polygraphs work by inferring deceptiveness from physiological indications of anxiousness, like elevated heart rate, skin conductivity and breathing rate. However, the APA notes that “an honest person may be nervous when answering truthfully and a dishonest person may be non-anxious…there are few good studies that validate the ability of polygraph procedures to detect deception.” So, a polygraph cannot be taken as dispositive proof of the accuracy of Ms. Ford’s allegations. “[T]he most practical advice is to remain skeptical about any conclusion wrung from a polygraph,” the APA cautions.
All this leaves Senators with the difficult task of sorting out fact from fiction among conflicting recollections of an event three decades in the past. “It is not unusual for elected officials to have to make tough decisions with imperfect, and even poor, information,” Mr. Hennessey says. “I expect the Senate will ultimately have to do so in this case as well.”
“Both Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should be treated with respect.” – Keith Hennessey
The lack of contemporaneous corroboration of Ms. Ford’s account and the denials of others involved does not disprove her allegations. But, it does suggest that Mr. Kavanaugh deserves the benefit of the doubt. “Both Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should be treated with respect,” Mr. Hennessey says, “and the demagogues (on both sides) should pipe down.”
What People Who Know Brett Kavanaugh Are Saying
Cathie Martin, White House Colleague and longtime friend
“I know Brett Kavanaugh. He is one of the most decent, honorable and good hearted people I know. He is respectful and humble and kind. For over 20 years, I have known Brett as a close personal friend and a professional colleague. I have seen him date friends, marry a good friend, mentor young lawyers and staffers, coach children and offer counsel to friends and family. He has the kind of moral compass, integrity, and humility that I hope my two young sons grow up to have. And he is the kind of compassionate, supportive and respectful man I hope my young daughter marries one day. Brett Kavanaugh is a good man who is incapable of hurting anyone.”
Karen Keller, White House Colleague
“Although I have always been reluctant to post anything remotely political on Facebook, I feel strongly enough to defend Brett Kavanaugh’s character that I will once again post about his unfailing integrity and decency. I don’t necessarily believe that Dr. Ford is lying about what happened to her, however, I do believe based on what I know of Brett, that this is a case of mistaken identity. EVERYTHING in my being knows that Brett is not the person she thinks did this to her. I’ve never met nor worked with someone as principled as Brett. He is a very good and decent man. I believe that to my core and I honestly think she’s got the wrong guy! It is incredibly upsetting that this is happening to him and his family. Of all people, they do not deserve this. PS. I’m NOT a Trump supporter, but #IStandByBrett”
Laura Cox Kaplan, White House Colleague and longtime friend
“I stand with Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and I believe him when he says the allegations made against him by Christine Ford are false.
“I have known Brett as a husband, a father, a friend, and a colleague for more than 15 years. In every setting and in every instance, his behavior has been honorable and above reproach. I am grateful to call him a friend and am thankful that he and his family are willing to endure a process that is by anyone’s measure is gruesome and barbaric, and where accusations from almost 40 years ago are taken at face value.
“I believe Brett Kavanaugh because I know him as a person and a close friend. I have had a ringside seat from which to watch his career, and to see his sound judgement applied to all aspects of his life. I’ve watched his treatment of and service to others, which includes among other things his support for women: his female colleagues, his female clerks, his female law students, his female friends, the young women on his basketball team, his wife and his daughters. When he saw a discrepancy in the number of women and minorities being considered for clerkships, he took action to address that inequity and has set a strong example for others. His record and his personal integrity speaks volumes. He stands up for what’s right, and does the right thing.
“Brett Kavanaugh is an honorable, decent, highly-qualified person who has done nothing to deserve the horrible treatment he has received. I stand with him. #IstandWithBrett”
Elizabeth Bingold, White House Colleague
“While I typically enjoy Facebook for the photos and updates you all share regarding you, your families, vacations, jobs, etc., I also appreciate when a friend shares some insight into an event or person that I would not have known about based on my personal experiences or worldview. In that light, I’m wading into the political arena to share my observations about Brett Kavanaugh. Brett was the person who interviewed me for my job in the White House Counsel’s Office. He was the person who would ask how law school was going and who would provide his advice and wisdom about a particular struggle or concern I had. He was a great boss, a kind mentor, and is an incredible intellect. He is also very humble, respectful, and hard working. He cared about the folks who worked for him and made even the lowest level staffer (me!) feel like a valued member of the team. Why am I sharing this now, as opposed to a few weeks ago? Because I’ve been reading about anonymous reports that run contrary to the character of a person I worked with for a number of years. Like all of the other women who signed the attached letter, I have nothing but the highest regard for Brett. #IstandwithBrett”
Pamela R. Stevens, White House Colleague
“I worked in the West Wing of the White House with Brett Kavanaugh for close to three years. I never observed him as anything other than a total professional and gentle soul. He was always kind and respectful to everyone he came into contact with. This allegation is totally out of character and inconsistent with the Brett Kavanaugh that I knew and worked with. During that time I was Assistant Press Secretary and Director of Broadcast television. It was an intense and stressful time as the nation had been attacked and we were at war, Brett was always decent and kind — a man of true integrity. I have not changed my opinion since signing my name to this letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Keith Hennessy, White House Colleague
“The accusation made against Brett Kavanaugh is serious and the Senate Judiciary Committee should treat it as such. Both Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should be treated with respect, and the demagogues (on both sides) should pipe down. This is serious work that demands lawmakers act responsibly, understanding that they will have different definitions of what that means.
“The committee should take all the time necessary to learn what they need to know before they vote. This means the majority should not rush the nomination, and the minority should not use this as an excuse for delay. So far Chairman Grassley is doing this right by following regular order. Ranking Member Feinstein, not so much.
“It is not unusual for elected officials to have to make tough decisions with imperfect, and even poor, information. I expect the Senate will ultimately have to do so in this case as well.
“I can’t speak to what Brett was like in high school. I can speak to my personal experience working with Brett as an adult, and I stand by what I posted here nine weeks ago:
“I worked with Brett Kavanaugh on a near-daily basis for three years, from mid-2003 to mid-2006. Part of my job was to write memos and prepare briefing memos for President Bush, and Brett was the coordinator and gatekeeper who made sure my work was ready for the president’s desk. I trusted Brett with the work I did for the president, and I trust him now for an even more important role.
“Judge Kavanaugh is simply one of the finest professionals with whom I have ever worked. His integrity, intellect, professionalism, and collegiality are unsurpassed. He is a role model for honorable public service, and just a good, solid guy. I urge the Senate to confirm him for the Supreme Court.”
President George W. Bush
“Laura and I have known and respected Brett Kavanaugh for decades, and we stand by our comments the night Judge Kavanaugh was nominated,” Bush told Politico in a statement. The former president had previously said of Kavanaugh: “He is a fine husband, father, and friend – and a man of the highest integrity. He will make a superb Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.”