This week, shortly after Donald Trump announced his nominee for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the retirement of Anthony Kennedy, a joking hashtag began trending on Twitter. #BrettKavanaughScandals, building on his public introduction at the White House—“For the past seven years, I have coached my daughter’s basketball teams,” Kavanaugh said; “the girls on the team call me ‘Coach K’”—reveled in the notion of Kavanaugh as a family man and a man of faith and an all-around nice guy. A man, in other words, for whom real scandal would be unthinkable. “Brett Kavanaugh,” one entry went, “agrees with the 5th dentist who advises AGAINST chewing Trident.” And: “Often wore robes to work. Even on casual Fridays.” And: “Claimed Ben Affleck was the most authentic Batman.” And: “When his daughters begged for Oreos, Kavanaugh bought them Creme Betweens thinking they’d never notice the difference.”
Brett Kavanaugh, dadjoke incarnate: It’s a series of punchlines that doubles as political argument—a case made, tweet by lighthearted tweet, about the constitutional goodness of the man who has been selected to interpret the Constitution on behalf of all Americans. But there is another series of punchlines lurking in the main one—these at the expense of the American press. The jokes of #BrettKavanaughScandals soon expanded to include specific jabs at CNN, at newsrooms, at journalists in general. The reporters who have been investigating the background of Brett Kavanaugh, the jokes go—reporters who have been, the jokes further go, searching for scandals that are simply not there—are revealing their own silliness, and their own silly bias. The reporters, in this vision, are not reporting on Brett Kavanaugh, a man who stands to have an outsized impact on literal lives and deaths for decades come, because it is their job to do so. They’re doing it because they are determined. They’re doing it because they are voracious. They’re doing it because they are partisan.