In the days before President Trump announced that Judge Brett Kavanaugh (a former clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy) would be his choice for Kennedy’s Supreme Court seat, a handful of names were floated and Supreme Court watchers devoured any and all reports that emerged. Some likened the fanfare to that of TV shows like “The Bachelor.” As the Daily Beast reports, that was the plan.
A “plugged-in conservative movement source” told the Daily Beast, “At this point I think the president’s team is trying to stop anything from leaking by pushing shit out about Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Hardiman.” Political Twitter junkies saw conflicting reports popping up in their feeds from reporters and other influencers.
After one report suggested Judge Amy Coney Barrett was on her way to D.C. with her family, another reporter saw the judge at her home, where she reportedly said, “I can’t confirm nor deny anything, but you can see that I’m here.” Other reports noted that Judge Thomas Hardiman’s allies were told to begin promoting positive information about his record. Even Sen. Ted Cruz joked, “I’m told [Senator] Mike Lee has been spotted flying to Washington today.”
In fact, the former host of “The Apprentice” made an announcement intentionally reminiscent of a Hollywood twist. And this isn’t the first time Trump has milked a moment for all its drama.
White House leaks were already common early in his presidential administration when Trump announced Neil Gorsuch would be his pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. At that time, Hardiman was spotted in Pennsylvania, which fueled rumors he would be the pick. Those sitting behind their screens may remember Twitter was unsure whether it would be Hardiman, Gorsuch, or someone else.
Potentially because of the intense attention and speculation that these sightings brought, the White House went farther this time, truly indulging in the mystery.
Despite the excitement, Kavanaugh is a perfectly ordinary pick. In pop culture terms, he is “the girl next door” — not flashy, but there is a lot to like. While the conservative and libertarian legal communities are full of variation, Kavanaugh falls neatly within them. What unites many within these circles is both a commitment to applying the original meaning of the Constitution and opposition to Chevron deference — two things for which Kavanaugh is well-known.
Legal philosophy and application cannot be explained on a single-axis graph, and anyone curious about Kavanaugh as a jurist ought to take some time to parse through his opinions and work. Professor Jonathan Adler provides a plethora of resources here. When one does, she will see a judge not fit for the fanfare of Trump’s pre-announcement, but one of many textualist jurists.
Image credit: Erik Cox Photography