That the nominee revealed he is still haunted by the ghost of the Clintons was disturbing — and an extremely effective rallying cry to an aggrieved right.

Share story

Let’s set aside, if we can, the searing questions of whether U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh mistreated women when he was young or has been lying about it all.

A different mask slipped off in his testimony. As someone who covered one of Kavanaugh’s legal crusades decades ago, I couldn’t believe he brought it up because it alone ought to disqualify him from being on the high court.

I’m talking about his weeping, yelling battle cry about how the allegations brought against him were “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

Oh my god, I said to myself. All these years, Brett Kavanaugh is STILL obsessed with the Clintons.

More worrisome: Still inventing wild conspiracies about the Clintons.

Kavanaugh and I are the same age, 53. When he was an attorney on the infamous Kenneth Starr investigation of the Clintons in the 1990s, I was a reporter covering Congress and the White House back in D.C.

I have written before about the effect that time had on me. How in my home I keep an old copy of the Starr Report, which was co-authored by Kavanaugh and released 20 years ago this month. It’s a reminder, to me, of just how far off the rails we can go when prosecutors abuse their powers toward partisan ends.

Kavanaugh was one of the lead investigators who poured the police powers of the federal government into entrapping and trying to coerce a damning account from what turned out to be just a sex fling.

“The Starr Report is easily the biggest abuse of power I’ve seen,” I wrote this summer, when Kavanaugh was nominated. “Nobody involved in the total lack of judgment and perspective of the Starr Report should be allowed anywhere near the U.S. Supreme Court.”

But it turns out the Clinton saga for him isn’t some cautionary tale from the past. It’s an ongoing passion play — starring him carrying the cross.

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election … revenge on behalf of the Clintons … and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups,” an aggrieved Kavanaugh said.

If he’s been wrongly accused, he’s got a right to be upset. But he’s applying to be a judge, not a blogger for Infowars. There’s zero hint Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations have a thing to do with the Clintons, yet that’s the Machiavellian ghost haunting him.

But here’s the truly revealing thing: It worked.

Kavanaugh’s grievance-fest spoke to Republicans. The show “Fox and Friends” hailed his speech as “very Trumpian” — forgetting that partisan red meat like this is supposed to be a no-no for a Supreme Court nominee.

Look how it set off Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“I’m a single white male from South Carolina, and I’m told I should just shut up, but I will not shut up,” Graham began, before calling the questioning of Kavanaugh “the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.”

Oh my god, I said to myself again. This is the same Lindsey Graham I knew when he was a manager of the GOP impeachment trial against Bill Clinton in 1999 — which was his entire party refusing to shut up about a consensual affair.

Kavanaugh has channeled something visceral here. It’s the same nerve the president hits as he tweets on about Hillary. It’s resentment — of liberals and Democrats, sure, but more of how they supposedly are suffocating all that is traditional and right (see Graham’s intro above).

Being a victim like this requires some mental gymnastics when you also happen to control all the branches of the federal government (“I will not shut up” makes no sense when you run the committee). Still, when the hearing was over, fellow Republicans were so energized by Graham’s courageous stand against whoever or whatever had told them to shut up that they gave him a thunderous ovation.

So this isn’t about logic or facts anymore. It was the judicial nominee himself who injudiciously made that clear.

I was there in the ’90s, and for a Republican now to invoke that something is about the revenge of the Clintons, well, in GOP-speak that just means this is tribal, it’s war and it’s on.