According to New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's testimonial boasts about his athletic prowess and love of beer was an appeal to the Trump base who love what the writer called "happy-hour identity politics."
While many have mocked Kavanaugh's expansive answers about beer when asked whether he has a drinking problem, Bruni saw a carefully calculated self-portrayal of himself -- not as an elitist Yale-educated lawyer -- but a beer-swilling everyman who could appeal to President Donald Trump's "populist" base.
"He used to drink a lot of beer," Bruni observed. "He used to like beer a lot. He still liked beer. Didn’t the committee? Didn’t everyone? Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer."
"Christine Blasey Ford had swigged cola during her turn earlier that day. I half expected Kavanaugh to pop open a Bud Light. Or to wheel in a keg! Then there’d be plenty to go around, and he could tactlessly offer an ice-cold brewski to Senator Amy Klobuchar," he continued. "His outrage, his strategy, his fate: All of it was about beer. Beer as a symbol of his normalcy. Beer as an emblem of his all-American maleness."
According to Bruni, "He was painting himself as a martyr for that maleness, and he was using beer — along with weight lifting, football, flatulence jokes and what he mendaciously insisted were inoffensive yearbook high jinks — to do it."
"It was happy-hour identity politics, a sad hour for the country and probably inevitable, given the trajectory that Kavanaugh’s nomination had taken," he continued. "Like so many other battles in an age of turbocharged partisanship, it was about more than the events in dispute and the individuals in conflict."
In his testimony, Kavanaugh doubled down by saying his beer drinking -- reportedly to excess -- is not a sign of a man ( or teen) who is out of control.
“There is a bright line between drinking beer, which I gladly do, and which I fully embrace, and sexually assaulting someone, which is a violent crime,” he claimed. "If every American who drinks beer or every American who drank beer in high school is suddenly presumed guilty of sexual assault,” he added, we’re all headed toward “an ugly, new place in this country.”
Bruni wasn't having it.
"Never mind that every American who drinks beer isn’t being presumed guilty of sexual assault. He was picking up on the typecasting that some of his most impassioned detractors had done — a bit of bigotry on their part, and a tactical error — and converting it into a weapon of his own," the columnist explained. "He made beer a cornerstone of a masculinity that was suddenly suspect, suddenly toxic, a paradigm of privilege and entitlement. Thus he reached down and out from his ivory tower to Donald Trump’s supporters and, by extension, to Trump himself and to the Republicans in the Senate who have shown such profound reluctance to cross the president."
Bruni then took the judge to task for his abrasive answers to senators who pressed him whether he had a drinking problem to the point of alcohol-related blackouts.
"In contrast to him, I’m willing, to be honest, and admit that in the past, I occasionally drank so much that I later didn’t remember all that I’d said and done," Bruni confessed. "What I don’t like is his selective frankness and the red-faced righteousness with which he, the supposedly sober-minded jurist, rushed to the fault lines of gender, culture, and class. He made camp there and stoked the fire as high as it would go and as hot as it would burn. He brought a cooler of beer."
You can read the whole piece here.