Kavanaugh's baseball debts: Why the nominee's opponents are striking out

Stormy Daniels has been arrested, but I digress.

The Peter Strzok hearing degenerated into a circus, but never mind.

President Trump claimed that NATO allies have agreed to boost defense spending, only to be contradicted by France's president and called a liar by MSNBC anchors. But put that to the side.

The really big story is that Brett Kavanaugh loves baseball.

Loves it so much, in fact, that he blew a whole bunch of money on Washington Nationals tickets and went into debt.

When I first heard that The Washington Post had reported this, I figured it was a few paragraphs in the middle of a profile piece. But no, it's the lead.

The Supreme Court nominee "incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets," the paper said.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said explained that Kavanaugh "built up the debt by buying Washington Nationals season tickets and tickets for playoff games for himself and a 'handful' of friends," plus home improvements. He ran up debts in 2016 between $60,000 and $200,000 on three credit cards and a loan. Shah said some of the debts were also for home improvements.

But the debts were either completely or almost completely paid off last year, as "Kavanaugh's friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets," according to Shah.

Big deal, right?

Now the paper reported this as a straightforward review of his financial disclosure forms without touting it as some kind of scandal. Still, it's drawing plenty of ridicule online.

For one thing, it makes Kavanaugh seem more like an average American who was living a bit beyond his means. And he's a big baseball fan. Which you have to be to have season tickets to the Nats, who keep choking late in the season.

For another, if Kavanaugh had joined a big law firm, he could afford all the Nationals, Redskins, Wizards and Capitals tickets he wants. But he's been in public service for the last two decades and living on a judge's salary for the last 12 years.

The Atlantic asks how Kavanaugh paid off the debts so quickly, and that seems like a fair question—though the answer may be far from nefarious.

So by and large, the story feels a big whiff.

A better piece in the same paper, in my view, leads off with Kavanaugh regularly having a beer and burger at a joint called the Chevy Chase Lounge, but never telling the bartender what he does for a living. One neighbor, a Democrat, says they talked about "baseball and Springsteen," not politics.

Kavanaugh's wife is a village manager within Chevy Chase, a job that pays $66,000, who also doesn't mention what her husband does. At Georgetown Prep he listed himself as treasurer of the "Keg City Club—100 Kegs or Bust." He coaches girls' basketball at the local Catholic school, Blessed Sacrament, and even attends other coaches' basketball games.

This down-to-earth portrait is a sharp contrast to the ridiculous NARAL comment attacking him as "some frat boy named Brett."

The media are filled with stories about Kavanaugh's past writings and rulings on abortion, presidential power, impeachment, health care and other issues. But something has struck me in the past 48 hours.

Having lived through various firestorms over nomination battles—from Robert Bork to John Tower, from Clarence Thomas to Harriet Miers—this doesn't feel like it is rising to that level.

There is emotional intensity, to be sure, given the enormous stakes and the virtual certainty that Kavanaugh's confirmation would significantly shift the high court to the right.

But I've seen the Kavanaugh story slip down the lineup on many MSNBC opinion shows, and that seems to me to reflect a grudging recognition that he is extremely likely to be confirmed. There will be plenty of sound and fury, but given the supportive comments of Susan Collins and Joe Manchin, the Republicans look like they'll get to 50 votes.

If the opposition is down to stories about baseball debt, they're going to strike out.