POLITICAL SCIENCE

Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover

S. & S. Jan. 2020. 496p. ISBN 9781982123864. $28. POL SCI
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In this compelling tale of political strategy and suspense, Washington Post columnist Marcus details the selection and nomination process that led to Brett Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court justice, and the tumultuous confirmation hearings that followed. The “ambition” of the title refers to both Kavanaugh’s personal goal, and conservatives’ desire to control federal courts. Marcus explains how Kavanaugh’s selection process was guided by recommendations from the Federalist Society amid worries that he would not be a reliable conservative vote. Intense lobbying by White House counsel Don McGahn, and a recommendation by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy pushed Kavanaugh to the top of the list. Marcus also briefly covers Kavanaugh’s performance at Yale Law School, his work with Kenneth Starr, and his controversial nomination to the DC appellate court at age 38. Riveting chapters cover his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, with the author writing at length about Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and taking care to address other accusations against Kavanaugh, though much of this is similarly presented in Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly’s The Education of Brett Kavanaugh. Marcus concludes with a lengthy assessment of the impact of Kavanaugh’s confirmation on the Court and an analysis of his first term.
VERDICT An essential book for followers of the Supreme Court and anyone interested in American politics during the Trump years.

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