President Donald Trump considers himself a master showman, having honed the ability to build suspense over 14 seasons of reality television, a convention-shattering presidential campaign and nearly 18 months in office.
His tightly orchestrated wind-up announcing Brett Kavanaugh as his latest pick for the Supreme Court, bore all the hallmarks of a matchmaking show, but, unlike some of his other staged events, the hype, the pageantry and the photo op Trump relishes is backed up by serious consequence.
If confirmed, Kavanaugh could solidify a conservative majority on the court for decades and with it likely advance efforts to strip power from regulatory agencies, slow the expansion of gay rights, strengthen gun rights, and, Democrats warn, open the door for states to chip away at access to abortions.
Before Trump walked out to make his prime time announcement Monday night, a parade of conservative luminaries and Administration officials filed into the East Room of the White House to sit on gilded folding chairs set out in a wide arch around a lectern. Melodies from a Marine Corps jazz ensemble could be heard coming from the room next door. As the audience took their seats, the music stopped. Two large wooden doors behind the podium slid open and Trump walked out
The press had spent the day chasing rumors of Trump talking to friends and aides about narrowing his picks. Reporters saw Kavanaugh leave the U.S. District Court of Appeals earlier in the day in what seemed to be a White House motorcade. As the day progressed, other potential nominees, including Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge were spotted in their homes out of state.
Taking the lectern Monday night, Trump went out of his way to praise Anthony Kennedy, who told Trump he was retiring twelve days before, and the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s widow Maureen for coming to the White House. It was Scalia’s death in 2016, and the Republican blockade that followed, that created the vacancy for Trump to nominate last year Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
“Both Justice Kennedy and Justice Scalia were appointed by a President who understood that the best defense of our liberty and a judicial branch immune from political prejudice where judges that apply the Constitution as written. That President happened to be Ronald Reagan,” Trump said, pausing to recognize Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese, who has been an architect of a decades-long effort to seed the federal judiciary with conservative thinkers
Trump then introduced Kavanaugh, gesturing to this right, where a heavy wooden door swung open and Kavanaugh, his wife and two young daughters took the stage next to Trump. The President dwelled on Kavanaugh’s Ivy League credentials, which were a focus of Trump’s during the selection process, and the fact that, like Gorsuch, Kavanaugh had also clerked for Justice Kennedy. Trump also praised Kavanaugh’s dedication to tutoring children in local elementary schools and coaching his daughters on their basketball team