"The drb sustains a level of commentary on Irish and international matters that no other journal in Ireland and few elsewhere can reach. It deserves all the support that can be given it." X
Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Getting Wasted

Daniel Geary writes: It is no wonder that Republicans in the US Senate confirmed a Donald Trump Supreme Court nominee who denies a woman’s right to choose, a worker’s right to bargain for fair wages and anyone’s right to protection from the national security state and yet believes that unlimited political spending by oligarchic elites is a protected form of “free speech”. The question is why they chose to stick with this particular creep, Brett Kavanaugh, despite Christine Blasey Ford’s convincing claims that he attempted to rape her while they were in high school. Even Fox News deemed Ford’s testimony before the Senate brave and credible. In contrast, Kavanaugh’s own testimony denying Ford’s charges was evasive, belligerent, and at times downright unhinged. Nevertheless, the Senate voted fifty to forty-eight to confirm Kavanaugh after a short pause to wait for a hastily conducted mockery of an FBI investigation into the allegations of Ford and another woman, Debby Ramirez, who claims that a drunken Kavanaugh thrust his penis into her face while the two were students at Yale University.

The sham FBI investigation provided political cover to key “moderate” Senators to vote for Kavanaugh. But anyone concerned with whether Kavanaugh was worthy of his new post already had all the evidence they needed. Among this evidence is a 1997 book, Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, written by one of Kavanaugh’s high school friends, Mark Judge, whom Ford claims was in the room when Kavanaugh assaulted her. Only a few days ago, the out-of-print book was so rare that it sold for nearly $2,000. But it has since been uploaded to the Internet Archive, where it is freely available to download.

Were it not for Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court, Wasted would hardly be worth a glance. But it is relevant today because of Judge’s stories of how he and his buddies used to get so drunk that they frequently blacked out, forgetting key details of what had happened to them during their benders. One of his partners in crime, he wrote, in a remarkably lazy effort to disguise his friend’s identity, was “Bart O’Kavanaugh”. O’Kavanaugh appears only once in the pages of Wasted, but tellingly so as having reportedly “puked in someone’s car” and “passed out on his way back from the party”.

Despite bizarrely stating repeatedly how much he liked to drink beer, Kavanaugh denied in his Senate testimony that he had ever drunk so heavily as to suffer memory lapses. Ford testified that Kavanaugh was so drunk when he tried to rape her that he was unable to do so (though this made her encounter all the more terrifying as she feared he would accidentally kill her by keeping his hand over her mouth to quiet her screams). Though Judge denies any memory of the incident recounted by Ford, the Senate chose not to subpoena him. Had they done so, senators would have had the chance to ask him about past times when he sought the sweet “vacuum of a blackout” through alcohol. The FBI did interview Judge, but turned away countless witnesses who were willing to testify to Kavanaugh’s heavy drinking. Wasted suggests that it is highly plausible that Kavanaugh often got so drunk as to suffer memory lapses. While it probably cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Kavanaugh attempted to rape Ford, it is a rather low standard for a Supreme Court candidate that they cannot be convicted in court for sexual assault. And a thorough investigation might have turned up enough evidence to convict Kavanaugh of perjury for lying about his drinking.


Other than the light it sheds on Kavanaugh’s character, Judge’s book is mostly a waste of time. A recent New York Times review held that it was “not even close to being a good book”. A memoir of Judge’s years as an alcoholic before he renounced drinking, it is meant to be a cautionary tale. But it is mostly nostalgic for past “bacchanalia[s] of drinking and sex”. It recounts with obvious pleasure a year in which Judge and his friends set themselves the goal of drinking one hundred kegs of beer. True to type, Judge takes no responsibility for his past actions, blaming instead a genetic disposition to alcoholism. However, Wasted tells us something about the elite Catholic School culture out of which Judge and Kavanaugh emerged, with its conservative social norms yet tacit approval of male drinking, hazing and aggressive pursuit of heterosexual sex (young women were the ones expected to preserve sexual morality).

Wasted offers a window into the world of privilege and toxic masculinity that defines Brett Kavanaugh, the perjurer and probable sexual assaulter that the Senate just railroaded to a place on the Supreme Court. One can only hope their arrogance will bring Republicans down in the end. For decades, conservatives have sought to capture the judiciary branch of the US government by nominating judges who believe that property has rights under the constitution but that people do not. They now have a solid five-four majority on the Supreme Court, which will issue right-wing rulings for years and years to come, enabling Donald Trump’s agenda while thwarting any efforts at progressive reform. But the face of that narrow majority is now Brett Kavanaugh, whose hasty confirmation despite the credible charges against him reveals in the starkest possible terms the nakedly political nature of the conservative project.

Should the Democrats win control of the US House of Representatives in November, they are likely to launch their own investigation into the Kavanaugh hearings.  

Expect that Mark Judge will finally have to answer in public some tough questions about his and Kavanaugh’s drinking. If so, Wasted might become more than a bizarre historical footnote of the kind political scandals inevitably seem to generate. It might just become one of the turning points when the American ruling elites revealed their true colours and Americans finally grew tired of being ruled by rich sexist frat boys who preside over an increasingly unequal and undemocratic society while expecting that they have the right to get away with anything. 

11/10/2018