There’s an episode in the fifth season of the classic TV sitcom Happy Days in which one of the main characters jumps over a shark while waterskiing.
This implausible scene, which marked a turn in the show toward farce and signaled its impending decline, spawned the phrase “jumping the shark.” To jump the shark is to descend from seriousness to absurdity in a desperate attempt to retain relevance and attention.
President Trump nominated widely respected D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court on July 9. It took less than 24 hours for Judge Kavanaugh’s opponents to jump the shark.
Protesters who had gathered outside the Supreme Court before the announcement was even made held up posters with Judge Kavanaugh’s name hurriedly scribbled in. Liberal interest groups blasted out emails to “oppose Judge XX,” forgetting to insert Judge Kavanaugh’s name in their pre-cooked releases before hitting send. Others sent out releases with pictures of the wrong judge. Judge Kavanaugh, it turns out, is such a threat to the Republic that his opponents didn’t even know who he is.
But that was only the tip of the iceberg.
The next day, a group of Yale students and alumni—Yale is Judge Kavanaugh’s alma mater—published an open letter prophesying that “people will die if he is confirmed.” In measured tones, these clairvoyants called Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination an “emergency—for democratic life, for our safety and freedom, and for the future of our country.”
Never in the history of the nation, or perhaps the world, has one person posed such a threat to everything we hold dear. The letter does not detail how Justice Kavanaugh will slay his victims, or what nefarious means he will employ to destroy our way of life. But we can be assured that he will be very, very bad. Because the letter authors tell us so.
Over the next few days, Judge Kavanaugh’s opponents continued to go from strength to strength. The Washington Post breathlessly reported that the judge once had credit card debt, and that he had paid it off. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the credit card debt was for baseball tickets. The horror. Surely no self-respecting judge would involve himself in something so unseemly as sports.
The Post continued to land body blows on Judge Kavanaugh with a follow-on exposé entitled “The Elite World of Brett Kavanaugh.” The Post’s crack reporting revealed that the blue-blooded, aristocratic judge enjoys coaching basketball and sharing a burger and beer with friends. He’s also a pretty good carpooler. His house has four bedrooms. He attends church services. He likes to banter with neighbors about baseball. (Oh no! Baseball again!) Can we really allow a person who leads such a cloistered, elitist existence to serve on the Supreme Court?
And then of course there’s his name, Brett. In the words of noted political commentator Stephen Colbert, “That sounds less like a Supreme Court justice and more like a waiter at Ruby Tuesday.”
Judge Kavanaugh might as well throw in the towel. When your opponents start making fun of your name, you know you’ve lost. Anyone who’s been through third grade knows this.
The hyperbolic rhetoric of Judge Kavanaugh’s critics should surprise no one. Truth be told, liberals jumped the shark on Supreme Court nominations thirty years ago. When President Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court in 1987, liberal interest groups called Kennedy a “sexist” and said his record was “troubling.” Of course, those very same groups are now saying the sky is falling because Kennedy is retiring.
Not to be outdone, three years later, liberal groups excoriated David Souter, whom President George H.W. Bush had nominated to the Supreme Court, as a threat to the “lives, health, and livelihoods of millions of women and their families.” In somber tones, they warned that Souter’s confirmation would be “a step backwards into dark ages we will no longer accept.” As everyone knows, Souter went on to be a stalwart liberal on the Court.
We’re now seeing the same playbook with Judge Kavanaugh, except with perhaps an even higher note of desperation. Judge Kavanaugh is not just “troubling”; he will actually kill you. He threatens not only our health and livelihoods, but our entire system of government. Truly, he is Voldemort.
Having jumped the shark decades ago, liberals have left themselves no real option when it comes to the Supreme Court. Every (Republican) nomination is a crisis. Every (Republican) nominee is a threat to everything we hold dear. The volume must always be turned up to eleven. Anything less would be an admission that it’s always been hyperbole on their part.
And so, liberals embarrass themselves with paint-by-numbers press releases, hilariously mundane “scandals,” and prose so purple it would make even the most histrionic high schooler blush.
Judge Kavanaugh is an eminently qualified, widely respected court of appeals judge well within the judicial mainstream. But of course liberals can’t say that. They’re stuck screaming he’s evil incarnate.
Good luck with that. It’s going well so far.