The Supreme Court donnybrook is on.
Senators are staking out positions on the Hill. All 49 Democrats have to hang together to win, plus one Republican pro-choice woman.
Don't even call the nominee a "conservative stalwart." Call Brett Michael Kavanaugh a hard-right partisan warrior.
President Donald Trump sure knows how to pick them, like raspberries on a vine.
With showmanship, Trump presented Kavanaugh to the nation as his high court nominee, as if he were the next "Apprentice." Which, in a way, he is. Trump likes picks who "look the part."
Yet under the Ivy veneer, Kavanaugh is the meanest Republican in town, second only to Trump. And I mean, mean.
Washington remembers his ferocious pursuit of President Bill Clinton in 1998 and 1999 as staff for Kenneth Starr's investigation into an affair that didn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
Kavanaugh, author of the shamelessly salacious report in his early 30s, made a name for himself in the Starr chamber.
Judges are meant to have some measure of mercy. Kavanaugh showed none to Clinton nor, for that matter, to young Monica Lewinsky. Starr's lawyers accosted, threatened and interrogated her for nearly 12 hours.
Well, that was show business in the late '90s. But Kavanaugh had only just begun his take-no-prisoners stride. In late 2000, he joined the George W. Bush legal team, to make sure a man who lost the popular vote would become president. Compliments of the Supreme Court's 5-4 Bush v. Gore ruling. That's what Republicans mean by "one man, one vote."
Justice Anthony Kennedy, for whom Kavanaugh clerked, was one of the five. His place is the empty seat Kavanaugh aspires to fill. It's sweet when things work out.
Then Kavanaugh polished his White House resume by working in the Bush White House, rubbing elbows with the president. Did they banter about their wives both coming from West Texas?
As I write, Kavanaugh is descending on the Senate to meet Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, losing no time after the announcement. A shrewd general on the Hill, McConnell, R-Ky., is expected by experts to prevail.
But don't count out the canny Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The Democratic leader has Kavanaugh's number. He knows who he is. This can be a small town, where people know the good and bad on both sides.
Schumer will stake his party's ground on affordable health care and reproductive rights, each on the line.
Kavanaugh deftly reworked his stand on presidential power over time, in the White House and as a federal judge. He who would have happily driven a popular president out of office in times of peace and prosperity now says a president should be left alone to interpret the Constitution as he sees fit. They should not be sued, investigated or even questioned while in office, as Clinton was.
Kavanaugh's championing vast presidential power makes him Trump's darling -- or apprentice -- in the face of Robert Mueller's Russian investigation.
How cleverly he tailored himself for Supreme Court robes. And he's only 53.
Once again, Trump proves the master of distraction. Remember family separation on the border and Scott Pruitt's resigning as head of the Environmental Protection Agency in disgrace? Old news now.
Ahead, if you thought June was hot, July will burn. Trump could tear up the NATO summit over small change. He may say something gauche over tea with the Queen, like asking what Buckingham Palace is worth.
Then there's a little love fest set in Helsinki, Finland. If Trump treats Russian President Vladimir Putin better than NATO allies, then our world will be turned upside down.
But the ratings! And don't forget to watch "President's Apprentice: Supreme Court Season."
Jamie Stiehm writes for Creators Syndicate.