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Supreme Court nominee is 'pure Washington'

Mr Brett Kavanaugh is a product of Washington's most prestigious addresses, including the White House, where he was deputy counsel to President George W. Bush.
Mr Brett Kavanaugh is a product of Washington's most prestigious addresses, including the White House, where he was deputy counsel to President George W. Bush.

WASHINGTON • The Chevy Chase Lounge is a neighbourhood joint where bartender Tim Higgins is accustomed to bantering with longstanding patrons, including a middle-aged guy named Brett who likes to pop in for a Budweiser and a burger after coaching his two daughters' basketball games.

As he watched the news recently, Mr Higgins learned something else about Mr Brett Kavanaugh: He was among the judges whom President Donald Trump was considering to nominate to the US Supreme Court.

"Most people in Washington tell you what they do," Mr Higgins said from behind the bar last week , the day after Mr Trump nominated Mr Kavanaugh. "I never knew Brett was a lawyer. I expect we'll be seeing him in here a lot less."

Washington is a city rife with stars of politics, government and the judiciary, many of them migrating to the nation's capital after growing up and establishing their reputations in far-flung realms.

Yet Mr Kavanaugh, 53, is that rare high-profile appointee who is pure Washington, a product of its most prestigious addresses: the all-boys Georgetown Preparatory School, where he was taught by Jesuits before attending Yale; and the White House, where he was deputy counsel to President George W. Bush. For more than a decade, Mr Kavanaugh and his wife, Ashley, whom he met when she was Mr Bush's personal secretary in the White House, have lived on the Maryland side of Chevy Chase, an enclave at the centre of establishment Washington, with streets lined with million-dollar homes, most of them inhabited by accomplished Democrats.

Yet, at a time when the country is defined by its polarised politics, Mr Kavanaugh's deep Republican ties - he drew up the grounds for impeaching President Bill Clinton and was part of the legal team that handed Mr Bush the presidency - have not stopped him from blending in with his neighbours. Their comity evokes an earlier era when the two parties could socialise even as they fought ferociously over policy.

Mr Kavanaugh's father, Mr E. Edward Kavanaugh, 77, spent more than two decades in Washington as a top lobbyist for the cosmetics industry, courting Congress and combating regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. His mother, Martha, 76, taught history at two Washington public schools. She went to law school at night, graduating in 1978 before becoming a prosecutor in Montgomery County and then a Circuit Court judge.

"The President introduced me tonight as Judge Kavanaugh. But to me that title will always belong to my mum," Mr Kavanaugh said last Monday. "When I was 10, she went to law school and became a prosecutor. My introduction to law came at our dinner table."

WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2018, with the headline 'Supreme Court nominee is 'pure Washington''. Print Edition | Subscribe