“The person that takes that position is going to be there for a long time,” the president continued, and then repeated: “I have a very open mind.”
Trump also waded into the debate over Kavanaugh’s drinking as a teenager and whether he mischaracterized or outright lied about how much he drank and how he acted when drunk. “I was surprised about how vocal he was about the fact that he liked beer, and he’s had a little bit of difficulty,” the president said. “I mean, he talked about things that happened when he drank. This is not a man that said alcohol was—that he was perfect with respect to alcohol.”
Trump’s musing about Kavanaugh’s beer habit was notable for two reasons. First, he gave his nominee too much credit about how forthright he was during his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. The president said Kavanaugh acknowledged that he “had difficulty as a young man” with alcohol. In fact, that’s not what Kavanaugh said; the federal appellate judge specifically denied allegations from multiple people that he drank to the point of incoherence or that he ever “blacked out” from too much alcohol. “I drank beer with my friends. Almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did,” Kavanaugh told senators. “I liked beer. I still like beer. But I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out and I never sexually assaulted anyone.”
Kavanaugh’s supporters have scoffed at the focus on his teenage drinking and whether he lied about how much he did. But the distinction is important, both as a matter of assessing his truthfulness under oath and because if he did drink to the point of incoherence, it’s possible he would not remember the incident Ford has described.
Trump, however, analyzed the issue through a different prism altogether—as a contrast between Kavanaugh’s “difficulty” with beer as a youth and his own self-discipline in abstaining from alcohol. “Look, I am not a drinker. I can honestly say I have never had a beer in my life,” boasted the teetotaler in chief. “It’s one of my only good traits, I do not drink,” Trump then joked in a rare moment of self-deprecation, drawing laughter from reporters and his aides alike. “Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I would be? I would be the world’s worst.”
He went on to mention his own experiences in high school, saying that while he did not partake himself, he watched plenty of his classmates drink to excess. “They would drink beer and go crazy,” Trump said.
It was a telling moment from a man who has spoken often of his older brother, Freddy, who died as an alcoholic at the age of 43. “He had a very, very tough life,” the president said of his brother during a speech last year. “But I learned because of Fred.” But Trump also reportedly looked down on his brother before he died. “Donald put Freddy down quite a bit,” a former girlfriend of Freddy’s told The New York Times in 2016.