President Trump announced his appointment of D. C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court a few minutes ago. Trump was joined at the podium by Kavanaugh and his wife and two daughters. The event was, I think, superbly staged. Some observations:
1) President Trump’s introduction of Kavanaugh was beautifully conceived and delivered. Was there a teleprompter that I missed? Trump’s announcement seemed to be extemporaneous, and it was done flawlessly. Barack Obama was never able to talk off the cuff like this.
2) Trump emphasized Kavanaugh’s establishment credentials. With a razor-thin one-vote margin in the Senate, this is a good approach, and it probably accounts in large part for Trump’s selection of Kavanaugh. His credentials for the job are unimpeachable. If Trump has another opportunity to name a Justice, the Republicans will probably have a wider margin in the Senate and he may be free to choose a more controversial nominee.
3) The President praised Justice Anthony Kennedy rather effusively, and the fact that Kavanaugh clerked for Kennedy was emphasized. This was smart: the implication was that Kavanaugh will continue Kennedy’s tradition rather than being a radical departure from it, as the Democrats will assert.
4) Trump highlighted not just Kavanaugh, but his family. That worked extremely well, and Kavanaugh took good advantage of the opportunity. The Democrats will try to demonize Kavanaugh, but it will be hard to sell that vision to anyone who was watching tonight.
5) Kavanaugh was visibly nervous and, unlike Trump, worked from a script. His references to his parents and his family were warm and genuine, and his judicial philosophy, as he described it, is one with which a large majority of Americans agree.
6) Kavanaugh shrewdly noted that Elena Kagan, now a Democratic Supreme Court justice, hired him to teach at Harvard Law School. Kavanaugh teaches, apparently, at Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, and someplace else that I missed. Again, it will be hard for the Democrats to question his qualifications in any traditional way.
7) On the whole, I thought the announcement was beautifully managed. The audience gave Judge Kavanaugh and his family a warm reception that must have impressed unbiased viewers. The road to confirmation may be bumpy, given the Democrats’ lunacy, but it got off to an excellent start tonight.