Donald Trump unloaded on Brett Kavanaugh during an interview with Michael Wolff, an anti-Trump author who has published a book about the final days of Trump’s presidency. Wolff isn’t the most trustworthy reporter around, but Trump’s criticism of Kavanaugh is in keeping with his attacks on other of his nominees and selections. In addition, some of Trump’s criticism of his nominee is valid.
According to Wolff, Trump said this about Kavanaugh:
Where would he be without me? I saved his life. He wouldn’t even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him.
This quotation is so Trumpian, it’s hard to imagine that the ex-president didn’t say it.
Here’s the answer to Trump’s question: Without him, Kavanaugh would be a judge on the second most important court in America.
And had Trump not nominated Kavanaugh, the age-old, dubious rape allegation never would have surfaced. Thus, Kavanaugh could have become a partner at almost any law firm, had he tired of being an appeals court judge.
The idea that what Trump did for Kavanaugh should influence the Justice’s rulings is also seriously misguided. Kavanaugh’s only obligation is to judge cases on their merit, to the best of his ability.
Trump also said (again according to Wolff):
In retrospect, [Kavanaugh] just hasn’t had the courage you need to be a great justice. I’m basing this on more than just the election.
This is certainly true. But Kavanaugh has never had that courage. He’s always been a careerist. There are people in Washington who could have told Trump that.
Some people may have told him. Kavanaugh didn’t make the list of jurists from whom Trump said during the campaign he would pick his Supreme Court nominees.
Kavanaugh joins a long line of key Trump selections, including both of the men he nominated for Attorney General, whom he has denounced (some with ample justification, some not). One of the qualities of a good president is the ability to select top-notch people for Cabinet slots, key advisor positions, and judgeships.
By his own admissions, Trump failed that test.
If you believed that under a Trump presidency America, in particular conservative America, would win non-stop, then you probably believed that Mexico would pay for Trump’s wall. Neither was going to happen in the real world.
But it was reasonable to expect that, with very few exceptions, Trump would select the brightest and the best conservatives for key positions. It was reasonable to expect that his Supreme Court nominations would come from the list he provided during the campaign or that, if he departed from the list, the non-listed nominee would be stellar.
This didn’t happen, either. Kavanaugh isn’t exactly a dud, though if he keeps “growing in office” he will become one. But he’s a suboptimal Justice from a conservative perspective.
And he was always going to be. It was unrealistic to have expected him to join the Alito-Thomas wing of the Court. The best one could hope for was that he would locate himself somewhere between those two and Justice Kennedy on the spectrum.
That’s where he is. He sits about where Chief Justice Roberts does, but without the years of strong conservative rulings Roberts made before he moved towards the center.
Let’s not forget that candidate Trump blasted George W. Bush for nominating Roberts. By the same token, it’s fair to blast Trump for nominating Kavanaugh — and a host of others.