Whose “supreme ambition” is Ruth Marcus referring to in the title of her extraordinarily detailed and highly insightful new book, “Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover”? There are several possibilities.
The first and most obvious, of course, is Kavanaugh, who won a seat on the Supreme Court. Throughout his career — as a law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, as an assistant to special counsel Kenneth Starr, as a lawyer for the George W. Bush campaign during the 2000 Florida recount, as White House staff secretary during the Bush administration, as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — Kavanaugh kept his eye on the ultimate goal: the highest court in the land.
Another candidate is Kennedy. When candidate Donald Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees during the 2016 presidential campaign — a list prepared by Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society — Kavanaugh’s name was not on it. After Trump’s election, Kennedy made clear to the new president that if he were to retire, he would like to see his former law clerk Kavanaugh succeed him. This caused bitter disagreement between the White House and Leo, whose Federalist friends worried that Kavanaugh was too much of a “Bushie” and might not fulfill their hard-line right-wing ambitions. After a struggle in the White House, Trump and his advisers rejected Leo’s concerns and settled on Kavanaugh, delivering on Kennedy’s ambition.
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