November 15, 2018
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Did you hear Brett Kavanaugh is a great dad? And a great coach!

Cliff Owen | AP
Cliff Owen | AP
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before meeting with Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 12, 2018.

Whatever you think of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court nominee — brilliant jurist, threat to Roe v. Wade, spawn of the Federalist Society — you can be sure of this: He’s a great dad and a great coach.

So says Julie O’Brien of Chevy Chase, Maryland, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

She writes:

“Brett’s older daughter and mine have been classmates at Blessed Sacrament School, a small Catholic school in the District, for the past seven years. On evenings and weekends, you’re likely to find Brett at a local gym or athletic field, encouraging his players or watching games with his daughters and their friends. He coaches not one but two girls’ basketball teams. His positive attitude and calm demeanor make the game fun and allow each player to shine.”

But wait! There’s more:

“In the summer, Brett is the ‘carpool dad,’ often shuttling students to and from practices, games and activities.”

Democrats might see this as an attempt to humanize a controversial Republican figure. But Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s ill-fated Supreme Court nominee, got the same treatment in the Washington Post two years ago in a staff-written profile that revealed that the judge had been a volunteer tutor at a school in Washington for 18 years.

Here’s a sample:

“‘When I have problems with my math homework, he’ll help me with that,’ said Vernell [Garvin], a fifth grader at J.O. Wilson Elementary School in Northeast D.C. ‘He’s a very good person. He never does anything wrong. He deserves the job.’”

Aww. It seems that the U.S. District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, where Kavanaugh and Garland sit, should be renamed the Court of Nice Guys.

You might ask why it matters that a Supreme Court nominee is a doting father or caring volunteer, but newspapers long have been in the business of showcasing the “human” side of public figures. And the human-interest factor has its political uses as well: It wasn’t an accident that Kavanaugh’s photogenic family was with him at the White House when Trump introduced him as his nominee.

Sometimes presidents have to reach to make the point that a nominee is a regular guy. When Obama introduced Garland, he noted that “he put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and, in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection.”

And when President George W. Bush introduced the future Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Bush mentioned that Roberts “worked summers in a steel mill to help pay his way through college.” (Bush didn’t add that Roberts’ father had been the general manager of the Bethlehem Steel plant.)

Is it important that Supreme Court justices be good fathers and volunteers or that they worked their way through school in a humble occupation? Probably not. Was Justice Louis Brandeis a Little League coach? Did Harlan Fiske Stone ladle soup for the poor? Did John Marshall drive the horse-and-carriage equivalent of carpool? But considering how tough the confirmation fights have become, the nice-guy factor can’t hurt.

Michael McGough is the Los Angeles Times’ senior editorial writer, based in Washington.

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