Over the last few days, Kavanaugh has done everything he can to distance himself from his surreal, emotional, and deeply partisan testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which he blamed Democrats and the Clintons for the accusations of sexual assault that had been brought against him. In an editorial for The Wall Street Journal, Kavanaugh acknowledged that he “might have been too emotional at times” and that he “said a few things I should not have said.”
The editorial likely had two goals. The first was to win over senators who were concerned about his judicial temperament. In that, Kavanaugh succeeded. The second was to make the case that he was an “independent, impartial judge.” That was a more difficult case, given his testimony. But in a swearing-in ceremony on Monday night, Trump ensured that Kavanaugh will always be associated with Trumpism.
In his remarks, Trump took unprecedented partisan steps. “On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure,” Trump said, adding that the allegations against the judge were “lies and deception.” “You, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent,” he said, despite the fact that Kavanaugh was not proven innocent.
Kavanaugh, who seemed deeply uncomfortable during the ceremony, attempted to make the same case he made in the Journal. “Every American can be assured that I will be an independent and impartial justice,” Kavanaugh said. “I was not appointed to serve one party or one interest, but one nation.”
But Trump’s speech was determined to cast Kavanaugh in a central role in the midterm elections, because he believes the new justice’s divisive confirmation will galvanize Republican voters. That may or may not work out for Republicans in November, but it has further stained Kavanaugh’s reputation before he’s even heard his first case on the high court.