I listened live to Judge Brett Kavanaugh's remarks after being introduced by the president at the ceremony announcing his nomination. Something struck me right out of the gates -- an expression not just of gratitude for the nomination but of praise for the president. It was more than just praise, actually. It was a factual assertion about how the president had performed better than any president in the history of ever.
Here's what he said:
Mr. President, thank you. Throughout this process, I have witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary. No president has ever consulted more widely or talked with more people from more backgrounds to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination. Mr. President, I am grateful to you and I am humbled by your confidence in me. Thank you.
This struck me as a very uncharacteristic thing for a nominee to say, so I went back and looked at all of the announcements since Reagan's first term. I pulled out the words the nominees directed to, or stated about, the president who made the nomination. Those little excerpts are below.
My instinct was right: Kavanaugh's words were highly unusual, arguably unique. (Only the loquacious Stephen Breyer is in the ballpark with Kavanaugh, and his comments didn't compare Bill Clinton to other presidents.)
Does this reveal anything meaningful about Brett Kavanaugh? Hard to say. This is a big moment in people's lives and they craft their words with great care. I don't think we can say it means nothing. To me, it faintly suggests a desire to stroke the president's ego, a hint of kowtowing. You may see it differently.
Time will tell whether (what I see as) the genuflecting ends with his (presumed) confirmation.
Thank you. Mr. President, thank you very much. Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, you and your team have shown me great courtesy in this process, and you’ve entrusted me with a most solemn assignment.
… Mr. President, I am honored and I am humbled. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. President. This is the greatest honor of my life -- other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago. It’s also the greatest gift I’ve ever received except -- and there’s another caveat -- the birth of our daughters, Jessie and Becky.
… Mr. President, it’s a great privilege to be nominated by a fellow Chicagoan. I am grateful beyond words for the honor you have bestowed upon me. (Applause.)
Thank you, Mr. President, for the most humbling honor of my life. You have nominated me to serve on the country's highest court, and I am deeply moved….
Mr. President, I greatly appreciate the honor you are giving me, and I look forward to working with the Senate in the confirmation process. I hope that as the Senate and the American people learn more about me they will see that I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Today is one of those experiences.
Thank you, Mr. President. I am honored and I am humbled by this nomination and by the confidence you have shown in me.
…I have had the opportunity to serve under two remarkable presidents who have devoted themselves to lifting the lives of others and who have inspired a great many more to do the same.
… Mr. President, I look forward to working with the Senate in the next stage of this process, and I thank you again for this honor of a lifetime.
Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am deeply honored to be nominated to serve on the Supreme Court, and I am very grateful for the confidence that you have shown in me.
… I look forward to working with the Senate in the confirmation process. Mr. President, thank you once again for the confidence that you've shown in me and for honoring me with this nomination.
John G. Roberts, Jr.
Thank you very much. It is both an honor and very humbling to be nominated to serve on the Supreme Court.
…I am very grateful for the confidence the president has shown in nominating me, and I look forward to the next step in the process before the United States Senate.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Mr. President, I am grateful beyond measure for the confidence you have placed in me, and I will strive with all that I have to live up to your expectations in making this appointment.
I really am very grateful to you, and not only for the honor of this nomination but also for having honored the judicial branch of government, of which I am a part, by your deep personal involvement in making this choice. The effort that you put into this, Mr. President, testifies to your profound respect for the Constitution that you were sworn to uphold. I am also honored to be have been in the company of those you considered for this post, especially Secretary Babbitt and my colleague and very good friend, Judge Richard Arnold, whose talent and integrity have been made him the finest of judges.
… Once again, Mr. President, I am honored and humbled by this nomination. Joanna and I are grateful to you and Mrs. Clinton and for your warmth and hospitality.
Thank you, Mr. President. I am honored and humbled by your nomination of me to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
… Thank you again, Mr. President.
David H. Souter
Thank you, Mr. President... If it were possible for me to express to you the realization that I have of the honor which the President has just done me, I would try, and I would keep you here as long tonight as I had to do to get it out. But I could not express that realization, and I'm not going to try to do the impossible. Beyond that, I hope you will understand that I think I must defer any further comments of mine until I am before the Senate in the confirmation process.
Anthony M. Kennedy
Thank you, Mr. President. By announcing your intention to nominate me to the Supreme Court of the United States, you confer a singular honor, the highest honor to which any person devoted to the law might aspire. I am most grateful to you. My family,, Mary and the children, also express their deep appreciation for reposing this trust upon us.
… I share with you, Mr. President, an abiding respect for the Supreme Court, for the confirmation process, and for the Constitution of the United States, which we are all sworn to preserve and to protect. Thank you, Mr. President.
Douglas H. Ginsburg
(did not speak)
(did not speak)
(couldn’t find video or transcript of ceremony)
Sandra Day O’Connor
(did not speak; indeed, was not even present)