Go on, wrinkle your brow, grit your teeth, try to dream up a better nominee for Supreme Court justice than Brett Kavanaugh, and you’ll struggle because he’s got it all. He’s a true constitutionalist with intellect, experience and solid character, but forget all of that because Democrats hysterically see grotesque peril in him and probably in a rose garden and a light blue sky.
It’s a peculiar time we live in. If President Donald Trump is around, critics will enumerate his myriad and sometimes serious faults and then outdo him. When he is getting things right, they are particularly distraught, given the political implications, and, in his nomination of Kavanaugh, he got a lot right. For as long as a generation or more, Kavanaugh and four other of his judicially wise colleagues could actually manage to keep the preciousness of our governmental system intact.
Right now, the different opinions about Kavanaugh are labeled liberal and conservative, but it’s judicial philosophy that counts, not politics or outcomes that are feverishly desired no matter what the law says. In too much of the past, the court’s judicial philosophy has been that the clear meanings of the Constitution should be reduced to vaporous, pick-and-choose ideals, that unmentioned rights could be invented, the content of laws contradicted, judicial limits exceeded and the other branches of government as much as replaced.
Whereas the founders thought the court would be the least powerful of the governmental branches, it became the most powerful, exercising not just judgment on individual cases but dictating the social norms of the nation. We came to have something smelling a lot like an oligarchy. The Constitution was believed to be outdated, an 18th century horse-and-buggy on today’s interstate highways, and instead of turning to an amendment process in which the whole nation is involved, the court has too often amended by means of what it has called interpretations.
The Constitution, crowded with much of the best that has been thought and said about law, actually holds up rather well. Obviously, there is room for vigorous, honest debate about many of its passages, but the text also often speaks loudly and clearly, and to ignore that is to ignore rule of law. The justices are not picked to be legislators, but to exercise deep, thoughtful, educated judgment, and, in Kavanaugh, we have someone who has demonstrated that capacity.
Early in his career, he was a clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom he will replace if he can evade attempted bites of his throat by bared-teeth Democrats as the Senate looks him over. For 12 years, he has been a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and has 300 opinions — many of them highly praised — in his pocket. For a decade, this guy from Yale Law School has taught at Harvard Law School, and professors there praise him, too, Yale background or not.
He is hardly shed of controversy, having worked on the Ken Starr probe of Bill Clinton, for instance. He now believes that particular to-do disrupted governance and says presidents should be free of such investigations if not from congressional probes and possible impeachment. But oh, wow, it is shouted, he will help overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, and look, while there can be a case against some precedents, to simply eradicate this deeply imbedded ruling would be cataclysmically divisive. It won’t happen. Kavanaugh has specifically said he is for nothing that far-reaching.
What he is for is the Constitution, as are four justices already on the court. As a fifth justice in that camp, Kavanaugh could help in keeping ours a free, fair, lasting and solid republic in which oppression is defeated and ideological idiocies are still voiced but not in charge.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.