It was as certain as the sun rising in the east each morning that the Democrats and the mainstream media would harshly attack whoever President Donald Trump chose to nominate to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, but two Washington Post articles published last night about D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh are remarkably ridiculous in how they describe him, and in what they chose to highlight.
The first, titled “The elite world of Brett Kavanaugh,” describes Kavanaugh’s education at a Catholic boy’s prep school and then Yale for undergrad and law school, his work in the White House, as well as his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, “one of Washington’s most coveted neighborhoods,” which they describe as an “enclave” of “streets lined with million-dollar homes.”
Wow. That’s some fancy stuff. Private schools, Ivy League colleges, and million-dollar homes. Kavanaugh must be some fat-cat evil Republican guy who doesn’t care about the common people…wait, what’s this?
Also mentioned in the article: Kavanaugh frequents a local bar in his neighborhood, enjoys “Budweiser and a burger,” and never mentioned to his regular bartender that he was a lawyer, much less a judge on the short list for a SCOTUS nomination:
The Chevy Chase Lounge is a neighborhood joint where bartender Tim Higgins is accustomed to bantering with long-standing patrons, including a middle-aged guy named Brett who likes to pop in for a Budweiser and a burger after coaching his daughters’ basketball games.
As he watched the news recently, Higgins learned something else about Brett Kavanaugh: He was among the judges whom President Trump was considering to nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Most people in Washington tell you what they do,” Higgins said from behind the bar Tuesday, the day after Trump nominated Kavanaugh. “I never knew Brett was a lawyer. I expect we’ll be seeing him in here a lot less.”
Sounds like a very humble, down-to-earth guy. Ask yourself why “SCOTUS Nominee So Humble He Didn’t Even Tell His Favorite Bartender He Was a Lawyer” isn’t the headline. I think we all know the answer.
I love that WaPo’s lede in its story about Kavanaugh’s “elite DC life” is that his neighborhood bartender only knew him as Brett for years and had no idea he was a judge. Not really elitist behavior…
Most people in DC tell you what they do almost before they even ask your name
— James Hasson (@JamesHasson20) July 11, 2018
Then there’s this interesting tidbit about Kavanaugh’s mother: she was a lawyer herself, working as a prosecutor and judge:
Kavanaugh’s mother, Martha, 76, taught history at two D.C. public schools, H.D. Woodson and McKinley Tech. She went to law school, graduated from American University in 1978 and became a prosecutor in Montgomery County, Md., and then a circuit court judge.
“The president introduced me tonight as Judge Kavanaugh. But to me that title will always belong to my mom,” Kavanaugh said during his remarks Monday. “When I was 10, she went to law school and became a prosecutor. My introduction to law came at our dinner table when she practiced her closing arguments. Her trademark line was: ‘Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?’ ”
Just for kicks, let’s imagine how this anecdote might be framed if Kavanaugh were a liberal being appointed by a Democratic president.
The 1970s were a period where more women than ever before were attending law school, but they were still significantly outnumbered by their male classmates and faced additional barriers as they entered the legal profession, including law firms that openly admitted paying women less or refusing to allow them to make partner — not to mention the many firms that refused to hire women lawyers altogether (or, condescendingly, would offer women with law degrees jobs as legal secretaries).
It’s not hard to imagine articles cheering Martha Kavanaugh as a feminist trailblazer, setting an inspiring example for her young son to not only follow her into the law, but to seek a judicial career so he could humbly honor her struggle.
The second Washington Post article, titled “Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh piled up credit card debt by purchasing Nationals tickets, White House says,” gets its knickers in a twist because Kavanaugh’s financial disclosures showed that he “incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade.”
According to WaPo, Kavanaugh’s net worth is currently between $15,000 and $65,000 (the forms ask for assets and liabilities to be listed as ranges, rather than precise amounts), plus whatever his home (in that fancy-schmancy Chevy Chase ‘hood, remember) is worth, and a government retirement account that is worth nearly half a million dollars.
Unlike many other federal judges, Kavanaugh never spent substantial time in the private sector, where salaries for lawyers are far higher. Once confirmed, he will be among the least wealthy SCOTUS justices in modern times.
And here’s the scandalous bit about the baseball tickets:
White House spokesman Raj Shah told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh built up the debt by buying Washington Nationals season tickets and tickets for playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends. Shah said some of the debts were also for home improvements…
In 2016, Kavanaugh reported having between $60,000 to $200,000 in debt accrued over three credit cards and a personal loan. Each credit card held between $15,000 to $50,000 in debt, and a Thrift Savings Plan loan was between $15,000 to $50,000.
The credit card debts and loan were either paid off or fell below the reporting requirements in 2017, according to the filings, which do not require details on the nature or source of such payments. Shah told The Post that Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets and that the judge has since stopped purchasing the season tickets.
It’s important to note that Kavanaugh was not personally spending “$60,000 to $200,000” on baseball tickets, the tickets were not all for himself, and he was reimbursed by his friends for the tickets they used.
Anyone who has purchased tickets to sporting events or concerts lately knows that if you want to be able to sit with your friends, you have to buy tickets together, and the easiest way to do that is have one person buy the tickets in a bloc and then pay that person back.
The article notes that ticket packages in desirable lower-level areas of the Nationals stadium can be as high as $6,000 per ticket for the season. The Kavanaughs plus another three or four families buying tickets like that easily explains the amount of the debt showing up in 2016, as well as it being paid off by 2017. The article doesn’t mention it, but there are many credit cards on the market these days with lucrative travel rewards; I wouldn’t be surprised if Kavanaugh wanted to enjoy some free airline miles along with the baseball games.
How many articles will you see in the coming weeks mentioning Martha Kavanaugh at all, much less highlighting her career in the headline? Probably none. But we all know Kavanaugh spent a lot of money on baseball tickets, don’t we?
Omg! Add to this his love of baseball, kegs, and helping young daughters who lost their fathers, and I’m really beginning to think this guy is a monster.
— Ashe Schow (@AsheSchow) July 12, 2018
Credit to WaPo for including the positive details about Kavanaugh’s life in their articles; however, what they chose to highlight — specifically, what they put in their headlines — paints a far different, and slanted, portrait of the man.
This is an old and familiar game.
Remember the “luxury speedboat” owned by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that was no yacht, but a fishing boat he bought for his family to use after receiving an advance on his book? The original New York Times article was clearly trying to portray the boat as an extravagant purchase — “The elite world of Marco Rubio” could have been their headline — but Rubio’s use of his book advance to fulfill a longterm dream to own a boat was an eminently relatable move. He also used it to pay off his student loans, but again you know why that wasn’t the story.
Late last year, Senate Democrats seemed to need fainting couches after their hysterics about former Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett’s humorous tweets, attacking a joke about loving bacon so much he wanted to marry it as a bigoted comment, but in the end they could not block his nomination and Willett is now a judge on the Fifth Circuit.
That was a mere opening act for what is coming with Kavanaugh’s nomination, but the good news is that this circus will bring lots of shouting and fireworks and elephant-sized piles of dung, but it will ultimately be little more than a distraction.
The Democrats simply don’t have the votes, don’t have the rules on their side (Thanks, Harry Reid!), and don’t have any effective way to persuade moderate Republicans to risk political suicide by voting against a qualified and conservative nominee.
In the meantime, grab some popcorn, enjoy the show, then pour a Budweiser in Brett Kavanaugh’s honor and raise your glass to your next Supreme Court Justice.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.