Republicans began plotting their takeover of the Supreme Court thirty years ago. Brett Kavanaugh set his sights on the court right out of law school. Washington Post journalist and legal expert Ruth Marcus goes behind the scenes to document the inside story of how their supreme ambition triumphed.
Marcus’s book is impressively reported, highly insightful and a rollicking good read. It also adds another dispiriting data point—as if one more were needed—that the American Republic is seriously ailing ... The most interesting part of Marcus’s narrative is her discussion of why, in the end, the evidence mattered so little.
... extraordinarily detailed and highly insightful ... With Kavanaugh replacing Kennedy, who was perceived as a moderate on some of these issues, the Supreme Court would have five justices who would form a majority that would be more politically conservative than at any time in living memory. This is the most dramatic meaning of supreme ambition. Marcus does a superb job of explaining and setting forth the details of this part of the story, including the often fascinating conflicts among Republicans about how best to proceed ... As in the rest of Supreme Ambition, Marcus does a terrific job of unpacking the complex conflicts and interactions within the Senate Judiciary Committee and the FBI to present a fair-minded and evenhanded account of what went on behind the scenes ... Marcus’s take on all this is instructive. She knew Kavanaugh for a quarter-century before his nomination and had always found him to be 'open and gracious' ... Although Marcus believes that the Senate Republicans were irresponsible in not investigating the other allegations against Kavanaugh that came to light, the central point for her is that, unlike a criminal defendant, who has a presumption of innocence, a nominee to serve for life on the highest court in the land 'shoulders the burden of persuasion,; and 'Kavanaugh did not meet this test.' That he was confirmed amid such circumstances, she concludes, will be 'a blot on Kavanaugh' and on the Supreme Court that is 'indelible.'
... a deeply reported, hour-by-hour account of the partisan battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination and the fallout, using her Washington sources to weave a political page-turner ... But more than a story about the court, her book is also about what a career in law did to Kavanaugh—how at each stage of advancement, the institutions he passed through made him an inexorably more partisan figure ... In Marcus’s story, the most striking thing about the confirmation process that ensued was its ever-escalating partisan logic ... Marcus ends her book by wondering whether the neutral ideal of the court can survive the bruising battle of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. [Adam] Cohen’s history [Supreme Inequality] asks how such an ideal has lasted as long as it has. Yet neither book quite satisfactorily explains why the court has been so susceptible to polarization—or why Republicans have benefited from it so disproportionately.