SUPREME COURT Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh just finished with a tense, divisive confirmation process in which he stoked concerns that he is an instinctual partisan Republican. One would think the last thing he and his fellow members of the court would do at such a moment is serve as set pieces in President Trump’s midterm campaign. Yet that is what they did on Monday, participating in an unnecessary White House ceremony celebrating Mr. Kavanaugh’s elevation to the high court.
Though ceremonial swearings-in like the one Mr. Kavanaugh received are not unheard-of, President Barack Obama’s two court picks, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor, wisely eschewed such spectacles after they were confirmed, asserting their independence from the president who chose them. Mr. Kavanaugh, unwisely, did not follow their example, dragging his fellow justices to an event that at times felt like a Trump victory lap. “The White House ceremony, which included cocktails and a band, in some ways felt like a cross between a campaign rally and a wedding reception,” The Post’s Ashley Parker and John Wagner reported. Also in attendance were Fox News’s poisonous conservative provocateur Laura Ingraham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Mr. Trump once again rubbed salt in the wounds of the Americans still distraught that the accusations of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Mr. Kavanaugh of sexual assault, were not taken more seriously. The president apologized to Mr. Kavanaugh “for the terrible pain and suffering” he was “forced to endure.” Mr. Trump not only dismissed Ms. Ford’s allegations against Mr. Kavanaugh but also argued she was part of a partisan conspiracy, “a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception.” This comes after the president mocked Ms. Ford at a campaign rally a week earlier.
The president’s behavior can only discourage sexual assault victims from coming forward for fear that they will be disbelieved and ridiculed by powerful men. That may be a benefit, as far as Mr. Trump is concerned. He also clearly believes he has found a useful campaign issue. Republicans’ debt-ballooning tax bill has not resonated with midterm voters. Nor has their determined assault on the Affordable Care Act. Lacking a record of accomplishment, Mr. Trump and his party have reverted to amping up the culture wars, hoping to juice turnout among those uncomfortable with the #MeToo movement.
Mr. Kavanaugh surely knew before Monday that he had become a Republican midterm campaign icon. After his modest official swearing-in Saturday evening, he should have taken every step to separate himself from Mr. Trump and his ever-flowing bile. If it did not occur to him, his fellow justices should have clued him in. “The Supreme Court is an institution of law. It is not a partisan or political institution,” Mr. Kavanaugh said. But his participation conveyed a different message.