Who is the real Brett Kavanaugh?
Is he the brilliant and super-industrious star of conservative legal circles who was, in President Donald Trump’s words, “born for the U.S. Supreme Court?”
Or is he the brazenly partisan apparatchik, a Bill Clinton accuser and George W. Bush acolyte who one Democratic senator called the “Forrest Gump of Republican politics?”
Is he a hero to female law clerks who he’s mentored and promoted, a devoted husband and dad of daughters who lovingly coaches girls’ basketball teams?
Or is he the grown-up version of a high school and college frat boy who spent too many nights drinking too many beers, then drunkenly mistreated girls and young women?
The Senate that stands on the precipice of confirming Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court Saturday is split virtually down the middle on those questions. So, too, is the nation he would serve as the high court’s 114th justice.
What’s clear from a look back at Kavanaugh’s 53 years is that he has spent most of his adult life in public service, choosing modestly paid government jobs rather than the lucrative career he could have pursued in private law practice.
He was a devoted servant of Republican officials, whether it be independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation of Clinton in the late 1990s or President Bush’s administration in the early 2000s, when he was White House associate counsel and staff secretary.
But in 2006, Kavanaugh shed his partisan role for a judicial robe, joining the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a traditional steppingstone to the Supreme Court. By most accounts he has excelled as a judge, becoming widely quoted and acclaimed for the legal acumen displayed in more than 300 carefully written opinions.
Former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson, a giant in Washington legal circles, described Kavanaugh last month as “thoughtful, gracious, open-minded, respected by his peers, and widely praised by the lawyers who appear before him.”
And Akhil Reed Amar, a liberal law professor and constitutional scholar at Yale Law School, cited his “combination of smarts, constitutional knowledge and openness – and that’s the triple crown.”
Those were not the impressions Americans got during the final three weeks of the Senate confirmation process.
By then, the case against Kavanaugh already was strong for those inclined to oppose him. He was billed as a threat to abortion rights, civil rights, gay rights, workers’ rights – everything, it seemed, but gun rights. The left was alarmed.
Then they learned he was an outspoken defender of presidential power whose efforts helped lead to Clinton’s impeachment, but who later decided that presidents should not even be questioned about criminal investigations while in office. Such a view, if endorsed by a majority on the Supreme Court, could protect Trump in the probe of Russian meddling during the 2016 election.
And while it wasn’t Kavanaugh’s doing, the successful effort by Senate Republicans to keep three years of his White House documents secret created the impression that he had something to hide.
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Source: USA Today