The Entitled Rage of Brett Kavanaugh

During his testimony, Kavanaugh wore his résumé as a suit of armor, as if his affiliations, his past proximity to Important People were proof of his good character — evidence in and of themselves that he could not possibly, as a blind-drunk high-school student, have shoved a 15-year-old girl into an upstairs bedroom and placed his hand over her mouth so she could not scream.

When Senator Mazie Hirono asked Kavanaugh whether he was a “sloppy drunk” at Yale, he responded with disbelief.

“Senator, you were asking about college? I got into Yale Law School. That’s the No. 1 law school in the country.”

It’s a false correlation. You don’t need a Yale degree to know that prestige is no predictor of ethical or humane behavior. No Ivy League diploma, no appointment at Harvard (where Kavanaugh has “taught constitutional law to hundreds of students,” as he pointed out) — none of this inoculates a person against aggression, misogyny, or even criminality. Indeed, the opposite is true. Social science has proven again and again that elites are likelier to be cheaters and rule-breakers than non-elites, likelier to blow a stop sign at a busy corner and to lie in service of their own self-interest.

And yet, perversely, the privileged also tend to believe that they have earned their place at the top of the heap and that they deserve all their perquisites. “I worked my tail off,” Kavanaugh whined repeatedly when he perceived any Democratic effort to besmirch his good name. Shouldn’t a man who has accomplished all that he had be granted a few brewskis at that end of the day? “I like beer,” he said, defensively when Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asked him about his teenaged drinking. “Do you like beer, senator? Or not? What do you like to drink?”

This presumption, that elites are elite because they deserve to be, is something more pernicious that the self-mythology of the successful. It is an alternate reality — a high-walled fortress that preserves and protects the false correlation between status and good character — and worse, establishes an authority intolerant of dissent. No one who doesn’t live inside is allowed to criticize those who do, and all who do live there are bound, by a kind of frat-boy omertà, not to. This is not too far from the worldview of bishops who protect abusing priests and moguls who regard starlets as entitlements.

What seems to have triggered Kavanaugh most of all, the thing that evinced all his unmodulated rage — the twitchy sniffs and the pursed lips, the adolescent sarcasm and the hollering — is that a woman outside his tribe dared to challenge his vision of himself. “She and I did not travel in the same social circles,” he said, in a comment may have sounded merely like a denial but was, to Kavanaugh, something more like a denigration. Kavanaugh is the kind of man who believes he’s entitled to his luck, and considers outliers, those who live beyond the bounds of his self regard, as inferiors. He will let other people clean up the vomit he spread on his dorm-bathroom floor and he will insist he didn’t watch the testimony of the woman who says he tried to rape her when he was 17 — that he couldn’t be bothered — even though reporters saw him doing exactly that. Did you watch Dr. Ford’s testimony, Senator Kamala Harris asked him? “I did not,” he said. “I was preparing mine.”