Memoir About Brett Kavanaugh’s High School Portrays Culture of Aggression and Excessive Drinking

The Intercept
September 22, 2018

NOT LONG AFTER Mark Judge graduated from Catholic University, he attended the rehearsal dinner for a close friend’s wedding in Washington, D.C. The dinner was in a private room above an Irish bar, and as soon as Judge arrived, he downed a shot of bourbon — and another and another.

The next thing he knew, it was the morning and he was in a friend’s house. He woke up in his disheveled suit from the night before. His head ached, and he could barely open his eyes.

“I had blacked out again,” Judge recalled in a memoir about his troubled youth. “I didn’t remember anything after doing the shots.”

He asked his friend, Denny, what had happened.

“You put on quite a show,” Denny said. “After doing all those shots, you tried to get up on the table and started taking your clothes off, but Shane and I pulled you down. You also tried to make it with one of the bridesmaids.”

Judge was surprised.

“I tried to make it with a bridesmaid?” he said. “Please tell me I didn’t hurt her.”

Denny reassured Judge that he hadn’t harmed the bridesmaid, though he had made a “serious lunge” at her and started kissing her toes. His friends had pulled him off and got him out of the bar and took him to Denny’s home a few blocks away.

This passage from Judge’s long-forgotten memoir is newly relevant in light of the accusation that Judge was in the room when Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford in 1982, when she was 15 years old. Kavanaugh and Judge were about 17 years old at the time, classmates at the all-boys Georgetown Preparatory School. Ford, now a professor in clinical psychology in California, has accused Kavanaugh of drunkenly locking her in a room at a house party and trying to tear off her clothes while holding his hand over her mouth as she screamed in protest. According to Ford, a drunken Judge was also in the room, watching and laughing. Kavanaugh has denied the accusation, and so has Judge, who stated in a letter that “I have no memory of the alleged incident. … I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.”

But the wedding scene in Judge’s 1997 book, titled “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk,” amounts to a clear acknowledgement from Judge that he engaged in drunken acts he could not remember afterward, and that those acts involved aggression toward women, if not outright violence. The wedding scene is not the only one of its sort in his book, which is out of print and extremely hard to find.

Judge also wrote that about a week before the wedding, he went to his favorite bar, ordered a shot and a beer, and struck up a conversation with a woman who was there. “We bought each other several rounds of drinks, and when I looked at the clock it was after midnight,” he wrote. “Then, in what seemed like an instant, it was suddenly the next morning. … I couldn’t remember a thing after I had looked at the clock. I had blacked out.”

When he came to, he was back in his apartment, still dressed in the clothes he wore at the bar. “I started to panic, terrified of what I could have done during the blackout,” Judge wrote. “I could have done anything and not know it — I could have murdered somebody.”

Judge does not explain why, in that instance and after the wedding dinner, he was concerned about committing violence against a woman while he was inebriated. Did he have a history of that? While the wedding and the bar scenes are the only blackouts described in his book, he writes about verbally assaulting a woman he knew well.

During the Christmas break of his fourth year at college, he went to his favorite bar to drink with friends. One of them informed Judge that his high school girlfriend had gotten engaged. Even though Judge and the woman were no longer going out — they were attending different colleges —he wrote in his book that he viewed her engagement as “the most egregious betrayal imaginable.” He went to a pay phone in the bar and called her.

“Mary, what are you trying to do to me?” he asked.

“What?” she replied.

“I thought we were going to get married,” he said.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “You’re drunk. Are you at O’Rourke’s?”

She told him to go home and go to sleep. They could talk when he sobered up. But Judge wouldn’t have it; she was betraying him. His anger took over.

“Goddammit you bitch, fuck you and your fucking husband,” he snarled.

He wrote in “Wasted” that he understood what was happening – the alcohol had flipped a switch that led to him acting in a way that he wouldn’t if he were sober. As he wrote, “It was as though there was a different version of myself — Mr. Hyde — who had taken over my body, and I couldn’t stop him.”

His former girlfriend said he was an alcoholic and needed help. He replied that he hated her. He hung up and left the bar. Outside, police were arresting drunken revelers. Judge called the cops Nazis, and after one of them tried to warn him off, Judge replied, “Eat my shorts.” He fought as they arrested him, swearing and spitting at their shoes.

CAN THE DENIALS of Kavanaugh and Judge be trusted over the credible account from Ford, who in 2012 told her therapist and her husband about the assault, six years before Kavanaugh became a household name with his nomination to the Supreme Court? Judge’s credibility has come under particular scrutiny because he is an author and journalist who has flaunted his incendiary right-wing views, which his critics regard as sexist and racist (for instance, he described Barack Obama as “the first female president” in a 2013 article for the Daily Caller). In a recent story about Judge, the Washington Post noted that he had renounced his drunken past and repositioned himself as a conservative moralist, “albeit one who has written about ‘the wonderful beauty of uncontrollable male passion.’”

The Post was referring to a 2015 article Judge wrote in support of aggressive male behavior toward women. “Of course, a man must be able to read a woman’s signals, and it’s a good thing that feminism is teaching young men that no means no and yes means yes,” he wrote. “But there’s also that ambiguous middle ground, where the woman seems interested and indicates, whether verbally or not, that the man needs to prove himself to her. And if that man is any kind of man, he’ll allow himself to feel the awesome power, the wonderful beauty, of uncontrollable male passion.” This theme has been consistent in Judge’s life. On his 1983 Georgetown Prep yearbook page, he included a quote from playwright Noël Coward that condoned violence toward women — “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”

Until the sexual assault accusation, virtually no attention was paid to Kavanaugh’s early years at Georgetown Prep, from which both he and Judge graduated in 1983. But an enormous amount of interest is now focused on his conduct at the exclusive Catholic school, located in Bethesda, a wealthy Maryland suburb. A key piece of evidence that has gotten dissected in the past week is their senior yearbook, “Cupola,” in which the pages for Kavanaugh and Judge include shoutouts to each other and their connected lives. For instance, they each ask the same question of each other — “Have you boofed yet?” and they both mention “100 kegs,” which Judge’s book describes as the target for the senior class’s cumulative beer consumption.

While the yearbook pages are somewhat cryptic — there is now a cottage industry trying to figure out what Kavanaugh meant with the phrase “devil’s triangle” on his page — Judge’s book is explicit and provides a large amount of information about the booze-drenched life of male students at Georgetown Prep and their sexist attitudes toward women (for instance, the book refers to all-girls schools as “virgin vaults”). The book is not just a memoir of Judge’s early life, but also of other students in his social circle, which clearly included Kavanaugh. Although Judge has explained that names were changed in his book to protect privacy — Georgetown Prep is referred to as Loyola Prep — there is a reference in the book to a drunken “Bart O’Kavanaugh” vomiting and passing out in a car. On his yearbook page, Judge apparently refers to Kavanaugh as Bart.

The allegation against Kavanaugh is that he sexually assaulted Ford during a drunken house party while in high school. Is this a realistic scenario? According to Judge’s book, house parties were a central component of mixing between boys and girls who attended private schools in the well-to-do Maryland suburbs (Ford attended Holton-Arms School, about five miles from Georgetown Prep). These parties were uncontrolled.

“We took turns having parties,” Judge wrote. “The word would get out that someone’s parents were going away, and the other guys would pressure them into ‘popping,’ promising to help them keep things under control. This, of course, was a joke. I had seen houses destroyed by rampaging hordes of drunken teenagers.”

Some of the parties described by Judge took place during “beach week,” when school got out for summer and students went to resort towns on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware, such as Ocean City and Rehoboth. Judge describes his first “beach week,” in the summer of his sophomore year, as a “bacchanalia of drinking and sex, or at least attempts at sex.” He wrote that during one of the parties, “guys began slam dancing, tackling each other, and drowning themselves in beer. … We lit each other’s underwear on fire, had beer fights, and barfed in the sink. A couple of guys took pictures of their penises.”

Judge’s description of the chaos and aggression of beach week appears to solve a riddle on Kavanaugh’s yearbook page, where the future Supreme Court nominee cryptically wrote “Rehobeth Police Fan Club.” Judge made clear in his book that beach weeks took place at Rehoboth, and that beach interactions with the police were regular. “Growing up with Prep boys, I had grown accustomed to dealing with cops, whether they were trying to bust up a loud keg party or were kicking us off the beach,” Judge wrote. “Most of my friends had been hauled in at one time or another.”

There appeared to be an expectation that at these alcohol-filled parties, girls’ bodies were available to the boys.

“Most of the time, everyone, including the girls, was drunk. If you could breathe and walk at the same time, you could hook up with someone. This did not mean going all the way — for the most part, these girls held to the beliefs of their very conservative families but after a year spent in school without girls, heavy petting was a virtual orgy.”

By the time he was a senior, his drinking — and the drinking of his friends — was nearly limitless.

“I had reached the point where once I had the first beer, I found it impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated,” Judge wrote. “That first magical cold one seemed to set off a physiological need for more, like a morsel of food offered to a starving man. Once I felt the first lilting rise of buzz, I had to keep drinking until I could hardly walk. Many of the other guys were the same way … to us, being members of what I called ‘alcoholics unanimous’ was as natural as a swan drifting into the water.”

It is not clear how much of the Georgetown Prep experience described by Judge was shared by Kavanaugh. Other than his yearbook page, Kavanaugh has said and written very little about his time there. That cryptic page, however, mirrors Judge’s in consistent ways, mostly dedicated to celebrating a culture of partying that leads to blacking out, vomiting and, hopefully, surviving. Twice on Kavanaugh’s yearbook page, he wonders about the final scores of sports contests — “Georgetown vs. Louisville — Who Won That Game Anyway? … Orioles vs. Red Sox — Who Won, Anyway?” What’s known about Kavanaugh’s undergraduate years at Yale is also consistent with the scenes portrayed in Judge’s book — at Yale, Kavanaugh belonged to a fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, which the Yale Daily News described in a recent article as “notorious for disrespecting women.” The paper published a 1985 photo of the fraternity’s pledges marching with a flag woven of women’s underwear and bras; Kavanaugh was a sophomore in the fraternity at the time.

There has been at least one telling remark from Kavanaugh about his high school years. It came during a 2015 speech he gave at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. “Fortunately, we had a good saying that we’ve held firm to,” Kavanaugh said. “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.” There was a smattering of laughter as Kavanaugh continued, “That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”

Author: Peter Maass

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. In 1983, after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, I went to Brussels as a copy editor for The Wall Street Journal/Europe. I left the Journal in 1985 to write for The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, covering NATO and the European Union. In 1987 I moved to Seoul, South Korea, where I wrote primarily for The Washington Post. After three years in Asia I moved to Budapest to cover Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I spent most of 1992 and 1993 covering the war in Bosnia for the Post.