Kavanaugh’s reputation destroyed in real time

Brett Kavanaugh is, as far as we can tell, a respectable and competent lawyer and jurist. He could have had a distinguished, or at least successful, career as a federal judge.  Now he’s the latest victim of Trump’s systematic, relentless, demolition of the honor and reputation of everyone within his reach.

He may well be confirmed, in which case he will find the appointment a thoroughly poisoned chalice.  Most important, he wears around his neck the stain, on both his character and his competence, that he was the first choice of a deliberately–obsessively–ignorant, hateful, narcissist. The guy who found him suitable for the job is a historically mendacious and malevolent fool, whose staff (what remains of the “best people”) spend half their time protecting the nation from his childish impulses and recklessness and the other half patching a bubble inside which he might float to the end of his term.  Trump’s understanding of the law and the constitution is well summarized by today’s whine that the criminal indictment of two Republican congressmen should have been put off until they were reelected this fall (or, I guess, forever).

He will also be the justice confirmed by the McConnell senate that cheated to substitute Gorsuch for Garland, and that was denied the documentation (i) necessary to evaluate his qualifications and competence (ii) that, when it comes to light during his lifetime appointment, is quite likely to throw serious shade on him (or why were those documents secreted?).  All we really know about him is that the reactionaries and troglodytes of the Federalist Society believe he’s just the guy to protect the rights of the richest to get richer and buy elections and policy, of industry to poison their neighbors and workers, and of Republican politicians to choose their voters. Not to mention, the guy to send women back to the coathanger era.

Poor Brett: if this comes out as it seems headed, he will forever be “the guy Trump nominated to fend off his impeachment”; one of his senate interlocutors wisely said “you will always have an asterisk next to your name”, which is right except that the asterisk will be an indelible and devastating blot. No respectable judge or lawyer will be comfortable citing his decisions; his influence will be restricted to hacks and stooges, and he’s smart enough that he will eventually realize this, but alas, too late.


Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

17 thoughts on “Kavanaugh’s reputation destroyed in real time”

  1. Sir, while I agree with you 100% about both Twitler and his toady Kavanot, does it even matter? I mean, he'll be
    on the Court, and his vote will count precisely the same as Justice Sotomayor (for example). And besides,
    Clarence Thomas, Alito, and Scalia, don't seem to have suffered for their evident ….. wingnuttiness.

    I can see some argument that posterity will not judge him kindly. I honestly question whether anybody
    really thinks about such considerations when making mundane decisions.

    Sure, we liberals will hate him. Hell, we hate Alito, and what good does it do us? We think Thomas is
    definitely a sexual harasser, and that plus $2.75 will get me a double espresso at Starbucks.

  2. I wholly agree with antiscience. I will name some other devastating blots that make no difference. Thomas is a perjurer as well as a sexual harasser; he lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings. In Herrera v. Collins (1993), Thomas and Scalia, in a concurring opinion lacking any basis, said that the Constitution permits the execution of a death row inmate whom the state, after the conviction, discovers conclusively to be innocent. That belief places Thomas and Scalia beyond the pale of decent humanity; how can one take anything they write seriously? How about Bush v. Gore? The justices in the majority effectively announced that their mission on the Court was to further the agenda of the Republican party, and they have reiterated that in numerous subsequent decisions whose legal "reasoning" is a facade. Yet every judge and lawyer will continue to cite their decisions and will continue to cite Kavanaugh's after he gets on the Court. All three branches of our government are, perhaps irredeemably, corrupt. No nation lasts forever.

  3. The next Democratic President, even if she enjoys a majority in both Houses of Congress, will be permanently at odds with a Supreme Court packed by McConnell and Trump to reflect an extreme version of American plutocratic conservatism. It's easy enough to think of longer-term reforms, such as fixed terms (see the German Verfassungsgericht), staggered so that every President will get to nominate at least one judge per term. But that doesn't fix the legacy of past abuse of the appointments process by the GOP. Any solution – retroactive term limits, counter-packing – will be extremely messy. Gillibrand and company should be reading up and chewing over FDR's fight with SCOTUS.

  4. If reports are true that Kavanaugh asked senate security to remove a Parkland parent from the hearing room rather than run the risk of shaking the man's hand, then Kavanaugh would appear to be the kind of person for whom a poisoned chalice is no problem.

  5. I wonder though. If Democrats had fought harder earlier, would we be in this position? I don’t know the Senate rules well. I don’t know if Alito could have been stopped, f.e. It always seems to me as if we hamstring ourselves trying to be the adult, which does not seem to work.

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  7. "he will forever be “the guy Trump nominated to fend off his impeachment”; one of his senate interlocutors wisely said “you will always have an asterisk next to your name”, which is right except that the asterisk will be an indelible and devastating blot."
    I'm not convinced the milk in his chalice is curdled, Mike – it has maybe gone to buttermilk. The closest analog is probably Thomas, who has had a long career on the Court and substantial influence. The left remembers his hearings, but I think his life goes okay. And Thomas had trouble because of claims about his personal conduct, where no one has made claims against Kavanaugh's probity. Certainly if he pulled out after having been announced he'd be another Carswell, so he had no better path to take than forward.

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