OPINION: When the Abuser Plays the Victim
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh published an unprecedented letter of self-defense in the Wall Street Journal yesterday asserting that he is fit to serve.
While he admitted that he may have gotten overly emotional, and that he said some things he probably should not have, he still insists that his behavior during his hearing should not impact peoples’ decision to confirm him.
His statements embody the selfishness, arrogance, and exceptionalism that all abusers have in common and his attempt to play the victim is one of the oldest gambits in the book.
How many times have you read a book or watched a movie or listened to a story told by a friend about a woman whose abusive husband kept apologizing over and over, promising again and again never to lift a hand against his wife or children, only for him to repeat that same abusive behavior time after time?
This is a story as old as humanity itself, it would seem.
A man abuses a woman, and in a puddle of tears and feigned remorse, he swears that it wasn’t really him, that that isn’t who he is, and that he’ll be better moving forward.
The woman believes him, and the man does it again.
“Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good. As a judge, I have always treated colleagues and litigants with the utmost respect. I have been known for my courtesy on and off the bench. I have not changed. I will continue to be the same kind of judge I have been for the last 12 years. And I will continue to contribute to our country as a coach, volunteer, and teacher. Every day I will try to be the best husband, dad, and friend I can be. I will remain optimistic, on the sunrise side of the mountain. I will continue to see the day that is coming, not the day that is gone.” — Kavanaugh
This is a man who has spent his entire life under the belief that he deserves this nomination, that he deserves all the good that has come to him throughout his life.
It is this sense of entitlement that makes it so impossible for Kavanaugh to even conceive of — much less accept — the possibility that he may not get what he wants, what he believes he deserves.
“I know I behaved inappropriately, I know I displayed partisanship that is unfit for a justice on the highest court in the land, and I know that I let my emotions get the better of me, but I promise I won’t do it again as long as you give me what I want, what I deserve.”
That is the essence of Kavanaugh’s letter.
The very fact that he can put himself and his perceived suffering ahead of the pain and scrutiny that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has been subjected to is in and of itself a clear indication that Kavanaugh not only lacks empathy, but that he is unable to consider a situation that affects him personally from an objective standpoint — a quality that all judges must have.
If anything, Kavanaugh’s decision to write this letter shows how unfit he is to assume the position and responsibilities of a Supreme Court justice because it shows just how incapable he is of coping with this situation on a personal level.
Rather than absorb the criticism and take the high road, Kavanaugh is so affected by this situation that he has taken it upon himself to pen a defense of his behavior addressed to the entire nation.
And rather than take that misguided opportunity to apologize for sowing doubt in people’s minds, or to apologize for the harm he caused — intentional or otherwise — he took that opportunity to plead his own case, to get in the last word, and to protect his own interests.
This is a selfish man who is entirely oblivious to and unaffected by the pain he has caused other people, and who is so unfamiliar with the concept of personal accountability that he is incapable of recognizing or owning up to his own mistakes.
This is not a man who can be confirmed to the Supreme Court.