See what I did there? One of the more accidentally enlightening moments of last week’s circus in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing came during Sheldon Whitehouse’s questioning of Brett Kavanaugh. The Rhode Island Democrat focused like a laser on Kavanaugh’s credibility by grilling him on, er … entries from his high-school yearbook nearly forty years earlier.
That led to this exchange on the word “boofed,” a singular moment in the history of American jurisprudence:
WHITEHOUSE: … Judge, have you — I don’t know if it’s “boufed” or “boofed” — how do you pronounce that?
KAVANAUGH: That refers to flatulence. We were 16.
WHITEHOUSE: OK. And so when your friend Mark Judge said the same — put the same thing in his yearbook page back to you, he had the same meaning? It was flatulence?
KAVANAUGH: I don’t know what he did, but that’s my recollection. We want to talk about flatulence at age 16 on a yearbook page, I’m — I’m game.
For some reason, Kavanaugh’s critics have latched onto this boyhood slang as a lever by which Kavanaugh can be impeached as a jurist. Writing in today’s Politico, the two co-founders of the anti-Kavanaugh effort Demand Justice have now demanded a specific kind of justice. Brian Fallon and Christopher Kang want an in-depth investigation by the FBI into the meaning of “boofed,” arguing that “small lies matter” when you want to be on the Supreme Court:
As the Federal Bureau of Investigation reopens its background check investigation into Brett Kavanaugh, the scope of its review must go beyond the serious allegations of sexual assault made by Christine Blasey Ford and Debbie Ramirez.
For its investigation into Kavanaugh to be comprehensive, the FBI must also get to the bottom of what “boofing” means.
The term was one of several, raunchy references in Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook. When questioned at last week’s hearing about the exact meaning of these inside jokes, Kavanaugh conveniently had an innocent explanation at the ready for each. None, however, was credible. …
But in Kavanaugh’s case, the yearbook references are relevant. Since facing sexual assault allegations, Kavanaugh has tried to cast himself as a choir boy during his high school and college years, stressing his time spent attending church and performing service projects. But the yearbook offers a glimpse of the Kavanaugh that Blasey Ford and Ms. Ramirez remember – a young man who drank to excess and found humor in the disrespecting of women.
Fallon, it should be remembered, served as a key aide to Hillary Clinton. His argument of “small lies matter” seems to be of recent vintage, in other words. Clinton’s serial prevarications, especially regarding her unauthorized use of a private e-mail server to transmit classified data, seems a much better fit for the conclusion than does “boofed”:
After all, if Kavanaugh can’t be trusted to tell the truth about even the minor stuff, why should we trust him on anything else?
Tell us again about the Tuzla Dash, pal.
At any rate, all of this might be taken seriously if the dispute over terms had to do with, oh, a legal case Kavanaugh handled. With “boofed,” however, we’re being asked to take seriously the notion that a teenage boy’s attitude about sex has anything to do with a 53-year-old man’s approach to judicial review or even the opposite gender. And that assumes that “boofed” doesn’t actually refer to flatulence, as Kavanaugh testified, which Fallon and Kang argue isn’t “credible.” Nowhere, however, do they supply a credible explanation for their assumption about the term, let alone any evidence that Kavanaugh is deliberately lying about it.
Mollie Hemingway called the advocates of this pet theory “boofing truthers,” but I prefer the better meter of “boof truthers.”
I suspect that the confusion here involves a similar but separate slang prevalent during my high-school years, which overlap a bit with Judge Kavanaugh’s on the other side of the country: boffing. That definitely meant sex, at least on the West Coast in the late 1970s. For flatulence, we generally just used fart, but poot was in use too, which resembles boof a bit. Cut the cheese was even more popular. Like sex, though, adolescent boys had a whole range of slang for flatulence, at which we had lots more experience than with sex, and which we found even more entertaining. (Some of us still do, which explains the inexplicable resilience of “pull my finger” gags with children and grandchildren.)
However, this is all besides the point, even if it makes us all giggle. There is no connection between a high-school yearbook reference to boofing or boffing and Kavanaugh’s qualifications for the Supreme Court. It’s not a crime to joke about flatulence or sex, in high-school yearbooks especially, and the FBI has better things to do than to spring speculative perjury traps over teenage bodily-function slang. This is a despicable argument, setting up a standard for public service that no one could possibly meet: Did you ever joke about sex? How dare you!
The fact that this argument is being taken seriously, to the point of getting a platform at Politico, is all the evidence one needs to see that the politics of personal destruction has now been mainstreamed in American life. My advice to graduates next year: Burn your yearbooks, and protect yourselves from the Boof Truthers to come.