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In an odd, 11th-hour op-ed, Kavanaugh expresses regret (sort of)

When a Supreme Court nominee is publicly doing damage control just hours before a big vote, it's evidence of a problem.
Image: Brett Kavanaugh
President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, gestures over his notes as he testifies on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee...

One of the reasons Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination is so controversial is the sheer volume of controversies. Obviously, there are serious questions about alleged sexual misconduct, about which the Republican jurist has been accused of lying. And while this may be at the top of the list, this does not stand alone.

Kavanaugh's critics have raised questions about his judicial philosophy and his position on shielding the president from scrutiny. His opponents have also pointed to multiple examples of dubious claims Kavanaugh has made under oath.

And then there was last week's testimony, when the judge added questions of judicial temperament to the mix. Overnight, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed from Kavanaugh in which he expressed some regret.

I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said. I hope everyone can understand that I was there as a son, husband and dad. I testified with five people foremost in my mind: my mom, my dad, my wife, and most of all my daughters.Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good.

Kavanaugh's piece did not specify which of his comments he regrets.

If the opinion piece is intended to reassure his skeptics, it's hard to imagine how or why it would succeed. Kavanaugh's argument, in effect, is that he responded to heightened pressure by becoming partisan and conspiratorial -- which senators should overlook by putting him on the Supreme Court for the next several decades.

What's more, as a factual matter, Kavanaugh's argument is difficult to believe. Remember, the nominee didn't blurt out partisan comments in response to confrontational questioning; Kavanaugh shared a conspiracy theory about a revenge scheme "on behalf of the Clintons" while reading from his pre-written opening remarks.

He's asking senators to excuse an emotional outburst he wrote the day before?

Even the chosen venue for the op-ed is of interest. When Kavanaugh's nomination first ran into real trouble, he sat down for an unprecedented interview with Fox News, a network closely aligned with Republican politics. As NBC News' First Read noted the day after, "[H]ow impartial can a Supreme Court nominee be when he goes on Fox News – of all possible platforms – to defend himself?"

It's against this backdrop that Kavanaugh wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, which has one of the most Republican-friendly editorial pages in all of American print media.

But let's also not miss the forest for the trees: Kavanaugh's nomination will face a key procedural vote on the Senate floor this morning, and if the votes were in place to confirm him, the judge probably wouldn't have felt the need to write an op-ed defending his temperament, demeanor, and independence.

When a Supreme Court nominee is publicly doing damage control just hours before a big vote, it's evidence of a problem.