Negative pieces on a Supreme Court nominee under a Republican administration — in particular this administration — are an inevitability. Some are opinion pieces, some masquerade as objective journalism.
Few in either category, however, will be as ridiculously bizarre as Paul Schwartzman and Michelle Boorstein’s Washington Post piece on “The elite world of Brett Kavanaugh” — an elite world which, and I swear hyperbole is not being employed here, involves Kavanaugh’s visits to a local bar and his wife’s position organizing her neighborhood’s two-block Fourth of July parade, which ends in a BBQ.
For the second time in a week, I’m genuinely stunned that, at The Post a) one of their writers actually wrote a story so lazy and informed by careless bias and b) one of their editors looked it over and put their imprimatur on it. In the first instance, the writer and editor could at least use the excuse that neither was familiar with Clickhole, The Onion’s sister satire site, when they used “quotes” from Green Day’s frontman in an article without noticing it was fake news. This time, they somehow made jaws drop here by using the facts, which actually feels worse.
Take as an example the story’s opening vignette, which should have informed everyone involved they had embarked on one of the more ill-conceived exercises of Kavanaugh-related punditry.
“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,” Schwartzman and Boorstein write.
“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.'”
Yes, friends. I’m afraid to report the sad facts about Brett Kavanaugh: He coaches his daughter’s basketball team. The guy at the local bar didn’t know he was a judge on the second most-powerful court in the nation and was a prospect for being called up to the SCOTUS. The man drinks Budweiser, America. We’ve all been fooled into supporting a Beltway elitist.
This actually sounds even worse if you’ve spent some time in the District of Columbia, as writer James Hasson pointed out on Twitter:
The story then tries to redeem itself slightly, pointing out that Kavanaugh went to a selective, expensive D.C. prep school and then Yale, resides in the high-end Maryland suburb of Chevy Chase and goes to church in an elite Catholic parish. (I didn’t know there was a country club membership committee for Catholic parishes, but OK, I’ll bite.) And then it bounces back to the thoroughly inexplicable “wait-you-published-this?” vibe that the first few paragraphs set.
“For more than a decade, Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley, whom he met when she was Bush’s personal secretary in the White House, have lived on the Maryland side of Chevy Chase, an enclave at the center of establishment Washington, with streets lined with million-dollar homes, most of them inhabited by accomplished Democrats,” they write.
“Yet, at a time when the country is defined by its polarized politics, Kavanaugh’s deep Republican ties — he drew up the grounds for impeaching President Bill Clinton and was part of the legal team that handed Bush the presidency — have not stopped him from blending in with his neighbors. Their comity evokes an earlier era when the two parties could socialize even as they fought ferociously over policy.” (Emphasis mine.)
Ignoring the claim that Bush’s lawyers “handed him the presidency” — that’s honestly the least dumbfounding lapse in impartiality one finds in this piece — they actually find it a sign of elitism that Kavanaugh doesn’t bicker with his neighbors over politics. Apparently, Schwartzman and Boorstein have encountered conservatives so rarely they expect them to meet any ideological disagreements with rage and gunfire.
But wait, his elitism gets worse: His wife plans a parade.
“Politics is not what comes up when Ashley Kavanaugh, the town manager for their section of Chevy Chase, organizes their neighborhood’s Fourth of July parade, a procession that lasts for all of two blocks and ends with a barbecue,” they report.
“Her husband, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, has been known to help direct traffic at the parade, ready to banter with neighbors about the Washington Nationals, whose games he regularly attends.” (Emphasis again mine.)
For reasons that ought to be obvious to everyone under the sun, I mentally checked out on the article on this point. Apparently his church has been home to a diverse array of prominent Washington Catholics, from Ted Kennedy to Pat Buchanan (there are few parishes in Washington’s suburbs that wouldn’t lay claim to a few political heavyweights over a long period, but whatever) and did they mention Chevy Chase is a tony suburb? Oh, well, they do it again.
And then one of his neighbors, apparently a Democrat from his quotes, says he talks “about baseball or Springsteen” with Brett, and notes that Kavanaugh is “no different than any dad in the neighborhood” and that he’s familiar with “how eminently qualified he is to do this. He’s the type of Republican you would want the Republicans to nominate.”
Then they move onto his wife’s $66,000-a-year job with the town and how “(s)he is the antithesis of the name-dropper” from the same guy they got quotes from before. Then his parents being from Washington. Oh yes, did we mention he went to D.C. prep schools before? Well, we mention it again (a consistent throughline for the piece), and Yale makes another appearance, and they talk about how he was studious. (The arrant privilege of studying!).
Then they note how his “reputation for rigor endured into adulthood as Kavanaugh built a résumé brimming with elite Washington titles” (had to work the word elite in somehow to remind you that, yes, you were reading an article about how a man who drinks Budweiser and listens to Springsteen is in fact the archetypal Washington elitist), then a long spiel about how he loved sports (do you know George W. Bush and Charles Krauthammer liked sports, too? Again, totally elite) and how he coaches middle-school basketball for his daughter’s team. Then a pithy quote from the bartender about how he’s a Democrat and the piece mercifully ends.
In closing, I’d like to draw attention not to Kavanaugh’s behavior, but instead a piece that didn’t make the pages of The Washington Post regarding the behavior of Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.
Even though Rep. Jackson Lee is one of the most influential members of the liberal side of the Democrat caucus, The Post declined to report on 2011 allegations that she repeatedly verbally abused staff members, including handing one the nickname “you stupid mother******.”
In Jonathan Strong’s piece in The Daily Caller, one employee “remembers requesting a meeting early on in her tenure to ask how best to serve the congresswoman.”
According to the employee, Rep. Jackson Lee responded, “What? What did you say to me? Who are you, the congresswoman? You haven’t been elected. You don’t set up meetings with me! I tell you! You know what? You are the most unprofessional person I have ever met in my life.”
This hasn’t merited coverage in The Post’s pages in the seven years since it was first reported. But please, let’s hear more about how Kavanaugh’s life of Budweiser and barbecues and coaching basketball merits what amounts to a hit piece about his elitism, even though his behavior speaks to a demeanor far removed from the ostentatious ladder-climbing and casual power-tripping germane to the District.
It’s one thing to write a hit piece under the aegis of actual journalism. But if you’re going to do it, don’t miss the target so wildly. Insulting objectivity is bad enough, but do you need to insult the reader in the process?
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