Dissecting Brett Kavanaugh’s ‘Supreme Ambition’

Dissecting Brett Kavanaugh’s ‘Supreme Ambition’

The most interesting part of Marcus’s narrative is her discussion of why, in the end, the evidence mattered so little. Much of the credit goes to Kavanaugh, whose own Senate testimony was as effective, in its way, as Blasey Ford’s was. Kavanaugh’s proclamations about liking beer were widely mocked — including, memorably, in a “Saturday Night Live” skit, with Matt Damon as a semi-deranged Kavanaugh. But his angry insistence that he was the true victim — which took a page from Clarence Thomas’s response to Anita Hill’s sexual harassment charges decades earlier — shifted the momentum in his direction. His railing against “left-wing opposition groups,” and his charges that the attacks on him were “revenge on behalf of the Clintons,” skillfully rallied the Republican base.

Kavanaugh also had strong allies in his corner. The White House counsel Don McGahn kept the F.B.I. on a short leash, and its decision not to interview Stier — an “inexcusable lapse,” as Marcus notes — helped prevent a stronger case from being built against Kavanaugh. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, never wavered in his support, boasting, “I’m stronger than mule piss.”

The main reason the case against Kavanaugh failed, however, was that there simply was no audience for it in the Senate. Even if Republican senators could not bring themselves to believe the sexual misconduct charges, they witnessed with their own eyes Kavanaugh’s angry partisan rant against “left-wing opposition groups” and supporters of the Clintons. Given the ethical obligation of judges to act at all times in ways that promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, his outbursts should have been disqualifying. As Marcus shows, however, there were scarcely any Republican senators who would even consider breaking with their party on the vote.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation has profound implications for the court. If he turns out to be significantly more conservative than Kennedy, he could provide the fifth vote to end abortion rights or affirmative action. His arrival also means that two of the nine justices joined the court despite credible charges of serious misconduct toward women — something that has done incalculable damage to the court’s reputation.

As important as the Kavanaugh battle was for the court, however, there was something even more profound at stake: whether, on the most important questions, our nation is capable of putting the public interest ahead of partisanship, and whether the truth matters. The forces aligned for partisanship and against truth are stronger than ever. The week before this book’s publication date, President Trump told his 67 million Twitter followers that “the Ruth Marcus book is a badly written & researched disaster. So many incorrect facts. Fake News, just like the @washington post!” It would be hard to imagine a more persuasive endorsement.

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