Ostensibly, Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, at which Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are expected to testify, is about Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982 when both of them were teens. Really, it’s about what kind of person Brett Kavanaugh was and is.
Ford, Deborah Ramirez (who accuses Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her during their freshman year at Yale), and Julie Swetnick (who says that Kavanaugh and friends routinely drugged women at parties and “gang raped” them) characterize Kavanaugh as a hard-drinking frat boy who disrespected women while palling around with his friends.
Kavanaugh has forcefully denied all the allegations. His defenders portray him as a notably upstanding young man who has always respected women and who shied away from the rougher behavior that some students at Georgetown Prep (the Bethesda private school Kavanaugh attended) engaged in.
Obviously, no one is nominating 17-year-old Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. But the defense that Kavanaugh is making isn’t just that he did some regrettable things and now regrets them, but that he didn’t engage in any serious misbehavior — nothing beyond a few “things that make (him) cringe” today, as his opening statement for Thursday’s hearing says. If he was the kind of person that Ford, Ramirez, and Swetnick describe, he’s now lying about it, repeatedly, in an effort to deny the allegations against him.
So teenage Brett Kavanaugh is a character witness for adult Brett Kavanaugh. And we have one first-person primary testimony from him: his senior yearbook from 1983.
Kavanaugh’s yearbook page has attracted attention as Ford’s story has gained steam, largely because it sure seems to portray Kavanaugh as a rowdy partier, not a straight-laced miniature adult.
It’s entirely possible that a person’s yearbook entry does not necessarily testify to what kind of person they are. But Kavanaugh’s yearbook page is illustrative — and might even come up in Thursday’s hearing — and not just because it shows the kind of person Kavanaugh wanted to be perceived as. It also helps understand the accounts that have come out from Kavanaugh’s classmates and friends.
Here’s the text of the yearbook entry, in full (with some names redacted). Annotations on particularly noteworthy elements are below.
Varsity Football 3, 4; J. V. Football 2; Freshman Football 1; Varsity Basketball 3, 4 (Captain); Frosh Basketball (Captain); J. V. Basketball (Captain); Varsity Spring Track 3; Little Hoya 3, 4*** Landon Rocks and Bowling Alley Assault — What a Night; Georgetown vs. Louisville — Who Won That Game Anyway?; Extinguisher; Summer of ‘82 — Total Spins (Rehobeth 10, 9…); Orioles vs. Red Sox — Who Won, Anyway?; Keg City Club (Treasurer) — 100 Kegs or Bust; [redacted] — I Survived the FFFFFFFourth of July; Renate Alumnius; Malibu Fan Club; Ow, Neatness 2, 3; Devil’s Triangle; Down Geezer, Easy, Spike, How ya’ doin’, Errr Ah; Rehobeth Police Fan Club (with Shorty); St. Michael’s…This is a Whack; [redacted] Fan Club; Judge — Have You Boofed Yet?; Beach Week Ralph Club — Biggest Contributor; [redacted] — Tainted Whack; [redacted]; Beach Week 3-107th Street; Those Prep Guys are the Biggest…; GONZAGA YOU’RE LUCKY.
“Varsity Football 3, 4; J. V. Football 2; Freshman Football 1; Varsity Basketball 3, 4 (Captain); Frosh Basketball (Captain); J. V. Basketball (Captain); Varsity Spring Track 3; Little Hoya 3, 4”
This is the straightforward part of the yearbook entry: listing Kavanaugh’s extracurriculars and the years he was involved with them (the numbers 1-4 refer to freshman through senior years). Kavanaugh was a jock, playing football and basketball (where he was team captain) for all four years at Georgetown Prep, as well as adding track in spring of his junior year. His only nonathletic extracurricular activity was the school paper, Little Hoya, which he joined for his junior and senior years.
“Georgetown vs. Louisville — Who Won That Game, Anyway?” and “Orioles vs. Red Sox — Who Won, Anyway?”
There are two yearbook references to sports games — one college, one pro — that at least one attendee didn’t know or couldn’t remember the result of. Are these jokes about being blackout drunk? Hard to say for sure, of course, but given the reference to alcohol consumption in the yearbook and accounts of the school’s party culture by people who were there, it’s certainly a possibility.
Whether Kavanaugh ever got that drunk at Georgetown Prep is a key question in judging Ford’s allegations — it raises the possibility that Kavanaugh, who Ford described as “stumbling drunk,” might have committed the assault but had been too drunk to remember it after.
But Kavanaugh swore to MacCallum that not only was it impossible that he attended a party with Ford while “blackout drunk,” he’s never been “blackout drunk” in his life.
MACCALLUM: … Was there ever a time that you drank so much that you couldn’t remember what happened the night before?
KAVANAUGH: No, that never happened.
MACCALLUM: You never said to anyone, “I don’t remember anything about last night.”
KAVANAUGH: No, that did not happen.
This is at odds with the accounts of some contemporaries — particularly some of Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates. James Roche, Kavanaugh’s freshman roommate, told the New Yorker that he remembers Kavanaugh “frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.” Another college classmate, who’s now a doctor, told the Washington Post that “there’s no medical way I can say that he was blacked out. … But it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess.”
Kavanaugh’s closest high school friend, Mark Judge, has said he got blackout drunk frequently while at Georgetown Prep. He wrote an entire memoir about his drinking during that time, which features episodes in which Judge doesn’t remember what he’s done.
Of course, Judge’s behavior doesn’t necessarily imply anything about Kavanaugh. One ex-girlfriend of Kavanaugh’s told the Associated Press that Kavanaugh “hung around with a group of guys that were maybe a little bit crazier than he was. He was one of the more responsible ones in the group.”
The “alcohol-soaked culture” of Georgetown Prep, and particularly Kavanaugh’s crowd, does not appear to be in dispute, however.
“Summer of ‘82 — Total Spins (Rehobeth 10, 9…)”
This entry is of note if only because the question of what exactly Kavanaugh was doing during the “Summer of ‘82” is one Kavanaugh himself has already tried to answer.
Christine Blasey Ford believes that Kavanaugh assaulted her at some point during that summer, though she doesn’t remember the date. On Wednesday, in an attempt to rebut this, Kavanaugh produced calendar pages from May, June, July, and August 1982 — showing a mix of organized activities like basketball camp, “grounded” weekends, and social events (including an entry to “Go to Timmy’s for skis” — a more likely reference to brewskis than hitting the slopes of Maryland in July).
Nothing in the calendar pages is an obvious reference to the party at which Ford claims Kavanaugh assaulted her. But nothing in them is an obvious reference to “spins” either. And the fact that Kavanaugh wanted to include a shoutout to his friends for the Summer of ‘82 in his yearbook might prompt senators to ask him what the calendar left out.
“Keg City Club (Treasurer) — 100 Kegs Or Bust”
This is the only explicit reference to alcohol in the yearbook blurb. But it’s a doozy.
In his memoir, Mark Judge talks about a group effort to drink 100 kegs of beer during their senior year of high school — in other words, a “100 Kegs Or Bust” campaign. Here’s how Judge discusses it (hat tip to Steven Portnoy for finding this passage):
“It was Sunday morning, and the night before we had polished off keg number sixty-two. For the past four months, we had thrown parties every weekend as well as after school, and had even snuck a keg into the parking lot during the basketball game. We were going to be graduating in May, and now that football was over, we had one objective: 100 kegs. The football team had gone five and four, but, more important, we had emptied more than sixty kegs, bringing us within sight of the magic number.”
Kavanaugh acknowledged to MacCallum that there was drinking at the parties he attended in high school — and he even implied that he might have engaged in it, or had too much to drink on some occasions: “People might have had too many beers on occasion and people generally in high school — I think all of us have probably done things we look back on in high school and regret or cringe a bit.”
But crucially, he characterized it as legal drinking: “Yes, there were parties. And the drinking age was 18, and yes, the seniors were legal and had beer there.“ Kavanaugh’s longtime friend Scott McCaleb told the Associated Press something similar: According to the AP, McCaleb “hung out with Kavanaugh ‘weekend after weekend’ when they were teens. He didn’t characterize the youthful alcohol consumption as anything out of the ordinary, noting the drinking age was 18 at the time.”
Here’s the problem: Any drinking Kavanaugh himself engaged in as a Georgetown Prep student would have been underage drinking.
In 1982, the year before Kavanaugh turned 18, Maryland raised the drinking age from 18 to 21. Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge might have been exempt, as the law allowed Marylanders who turned 18 before July of 1982 to drink legally. (Judge was born in 1964, though the date of his birth isn’t publicly known.) Kavanaugh, who wouldn’t turn 18 until February 1983, was not.
In his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, released Wednesday, Kavanaugh didn’t make any comments about the legality of his high-school drinking, noting only “I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many.”
But either the adult Kavanaugh is selling himself short — presumably one doesn’t become treasurer of the Keg City Club without consuming some large share of the 100 kegs — or the youthful Kavanaugh was engaged in a little light yearbook inflation.
Thanks to a New York Times article, the American public now knows that this is a reference to Renate Schroeder (now Renate Schroeder Dolphin) — a high school acquaintance of Kavanaugh’s who went to a Catholic girls’ school in the area, and who was one of the 65 women who signed a letter earlier this month attesting that Kavanaugh “behaved honorably and treated women with respect” during his high-school years.
Kavanaugh was one of 14 Georgetown Prep students whose yearbook entries made some reference to Renate. (Another student’s yearbook page featured a short poem: “You need a date/And it’s getting late/So don’t hesitate/To call Renate.”) There’s even a picture of “Renate Alumni” in the yearbook, featuring nine football players — including Kavanaugh.
Dolphin appears not to have known about the yearbook in-joke until recently — and when she found out, she was so upset that she withdrew her endorsement of the sign-on letter.
“I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means,” Dolphin told the New York Times. “I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way.”
The “insinuation” in question is spelled out by two classmates of Kavanaugh’s, who told the Times the yearbook jokes were a form of bragging about sexual “conquest.”
Kavanaugh and his lawyer Alexandra Walsh dispute that characterization — sort of. They say that “Renate Alumnius” is a reference to a single date that Kavanaugh went on with Dolphin, on which they (in the words of Walsh) “shared a brief kiss goodnight.” (Dolphin, for what it’s worth, has no recollection of kissing Kavanaugh and suggests he might have confused her with someone else.)
Kavanaugh told MacCallum that he remained a virgin “well into college.” That doesn’t directly rebut the allegations that have been made about him so far, neither of which involve actual sex. But it does speak to his efforts to portray himself as the opposite of the boorish partier depicted in both Ramirez’s and Ford’s accounts.
Let’s take Kavanaugh at his word. That means that he and 13 of his classmates all made jokes in a yearbook — complete with group photo — about having gone on dates with a particular girl. And the girl wasn’t in on the “joke.”
That account is consistent with Kavanaugh’s purported virginity. It still seems a little cruel — and maybe not the actions of someone who “behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”
Thursday’s hearing isn’t going to feature testimony from the other two women who have come forward with allegations about Kavanaugh — Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez and a apparent high school acquaintance, Julie Swetnick. But if Democrats want to bring up Swetnick’s explosive allegations that Kavanaugh, Judge, and friends routinely “gang raped” women after drugging them at parties, the “Devil’s Triangle” might be one place to start.
Gadfly attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents Swetnick, has alleged that both “FFFFFFFourth of July” and “Devil’s Triangle” are references to crude sexual behavior with women.
Brett Kavanaugh must also be asked about this entry in his yearbook: “FFFFFFFourth of July.” We believe that this stands for: Find them, French them, Feel them, Finger them, F*ck them, Forget them. As well as the term “Devil’s Triangle.” Perhaps Sen. Grassley can ask him. #Basta
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 24, 2018
Other observers have noted that “Devil’s Triangle” is slang for a sexual position involving two men and one woman. But it’s impossible to prove that’s what Kavanaugh meant by it — and neither Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley nor anyone else is likely to ask him under oath on Thursday to define the term.
Even if it is what Kavanaugh meant, it doesn’t mean that Kavanaugh lied to MacCallum about his virginity — a classmate of Kavanaugh’s told the New York Times that Kavanaugh’s crowd was full of sexual “braggadocio,” and it seems totally plausible that Kavanaugh would sneak in a reference to something he hadn’t experienced yet.
But Kavanaugh’s claim about virginity is inconsistent with Swetnick’s allegation. As weird as it seems, the debate over Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court may in part rest on whether he was an insecure late-bloomer who bragged about exploits he didn’t actually have, or whether he was sincere then and is now lying to cover up sexual activity — including, perhaps, the nonconsensual kind.
“(Rehobeth 10, 9…),” Rehobeth Police Fan Club,” “Beach Week Ralph Club—Biggest Contributor,” and “Beach Week 3-107th Street”
Rehobeth is likely a reference to (and misspelling of) ‘Rehoboth,’ a Delaware beach that’s a popular getaway destination for people in the DC metro area. That would be consistent with the two references to “Beach Week,” which the Washington Post describes as an annual Maryland prep school excursion to Delaware:
Every summer, the “Holton girls” would pack into a rented house for Beach Week, an annual bacchanal of high-schoolers from around the region. The prep schools that formed Ford’s overlapping social circles usually gathered at a Delaware beach town each year. Kavanaugh, in his senior-year yearbook, cited his own membership in the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”
Like Kavanaugh, Ford was part of that alcohol-fueled culture. But those unchaperoned parties, at beach rentals and Bethesda basements alike, frequently left the girls feeling embattled.
Again, Kavanaugh is spending a lot of yearbook space making references to environments that were notable for being alcohol-soaked. It’s possible that Kavanaugh himself didn’t witness any underage drinking — if, that is, Kavanaugh himself didn’t drink. But that raises questions about the “Beach Week Ralph Club,” to which Kavanaugh claimed he was the “Biggest Contributor” — “ralph” being a synonym for vomiting.
“Judge — Have You Boofed Yet?”
“Judge” is clearly Mark Judge. Even if this weren’t obvious given that the two were close friends, Mark Judge’s yearbook entry asks a parallel question: “Bart — Have You Boofed Yet?” (Judge’s reference to “Bart” is especially interesting as there is a character in Judge’s memoir named “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” who is mentioned once, in passing, for getting drunk and throwing up in a car.)
But what really needs explaining here is the meaning of “boofed.” There, I am afraid, I cannot help you.
Some people, such as Jia Tolentino of the New Yorker, seem to see “boof” as a clear reference to the practice of ingesting alcohol or drugs anally. (That’s definitely the top definition for the term on Urban Dictionary.) But, as with “Devil’s Triangle,” just because some people use it that way doesn’t mean Kavanaugh himself did.
There’s even more reason to be skeptical because Urban Dictionary is a repository of slang from the 2000s and 2010s — it’s not generally known for its ability to capture how a term might have been used by its users’ parents when they were high-school students.
One Daily Kos blogger, who claims to be of Kavanaugh’s generation, defines the term slightly differently:
I was a teenager in the 80’s, and “boof” was a little bit of slang we tossed around, thinking ourselves funny. I think “bufu” was also in somewhat common use. I don’t know what “boof” meant in Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge’s world, but I recall it to mean the act of having sex with someone in the “back door”, as we would have said.
It’s possible that “boofing” refers to something else. It’s a technical term in kayaking — maybe Kavanaugh, athletic as he was, was just immortalizing a bit of good clean outdoor fun. If so, it’s an outlier in Kavanaugh’s yearbook blurb, which on the whole is dedicated to immortalizing a scene of heavy drinking and occasional ralphing.