Let’s All Speculate Wildly About Brett Kavanaugh

Today’s agenda

The Kavanaugh Konundrum

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Supreme Court nominees are usually Rorschach blots onto which observers project their hopes and fears. Even Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s plainly conservative choice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, is no exception.

Make no mistake: Kavanaugh is very conservative – by one measure, just slightly to the left of Clarence Thomas, who is extremely conservative. He’s not that hard to read, in other words. Still, some aspects of his record have conservatives worried he’s the second coming of Chief Justice John Roberts, who has been more of a swing voter than they would have liked.

But Kavanaugh isn’t really much like Roberts, writes Ramesh Ponnuru: “When offered a choice between a narrow ruling with a broad majority and a broad ruling with a narrow majority, Roberts has tried to go for consensus and even unanimity. That hasn’t been Kavanaugh’s style as an appeals-court judge.” (Click here to read the rest.)

Liberals, meanwhile, worry some Kavanaugh writings seem to suggest presidents can’t be indicted and shouldn’t be hounded by special prosecutors (Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr, but later had a change of heart). But Noah Feldman suggests a close reading of Kavanaugh’s statements suggests Trump shouldn’t count on him as anti-Mueller insurance: “Properly understood, Kavanaugh’s expressed views actually support the opposite conclusion: that the president can be investigated and maybe even indicted unless Congress passes a law saying he can’t – which Congress has not done.” (Click here to read the rest.)

Cass Sunstein argues the “conservative vs. liberal” dichotomy doesn’t get at the real question we should ask: Will Kavanaugh be restrained, or will he be a “movement” judicial activist? 

And that gets at what Bloomberg’s editors worry about: Will Kavanaugh add to the Supreme Court’s growing reputation as an increasingly partisan Fight Club? “How does Kavanaugh propose to preserve the court’s integrity when so many of its decisions are issued as red team versus blue team? How would he help construct a bridge across the court’s expanding partisan chasm?” (Click here to read the rest.)

More Kavanaugh Reading:

Brexit Blowback

Boris Johnson may consider his departure from Theresa May’s cabinet yesterday a principled response to an unacceptable Brexit compromise. But it also leaves him powerless over the future of his signature issue, making him just the latest European populist to suffer such a a humiliating comedown, writes Ferdinando Giugliano

Johnson’s retreat also gives May a chance to make her “soft Brexit” plan work, writes Clive Crook. It may not be the best plan, but it beats the freefall of a hard Brexit. And European Union negotiators would be wise not to stand in her way, however tempting that might be, add Bloomberg’s editors: “Abruptly dismissing May’s plan could spell the end of her government and make a no-deal Brexit more likely. That would hurt Europe as well as Britain, and could poison future U.K.-EU relations for years.”

Meanwhile, Brexit has London’s rivals slowly carving out chunks of its financial business, writes Mark Gilbert

Bonus editorial: Why don’t we let student borrowers declare bankruptcy?

Do Not Congratulate: Tesla Edition

Tesla Inc. stock jumped this morning after Bloomberg News reported the electric-car maker plans to open a giant factory in China. (CEO Elon Musk visited Shanghai to sign the deal after stopping by Thailand, where he didn’t get the chance to pack those cave-trapped soccer kids into his homemade sub.) But Tesla goes to China in a position of weakness, needing fresh sales and capital, writes Anjani Trivedi: “As China encourages private industry to up its game in automobiles, the nation may provide a helping hand for Musk. This time, any deal would be on Beijing’s terms.”  

And jacking up Tesla’s stock price on the news made no sense, seeing as it already reflected the best-case scenario for Tesla sales in China (and many other markets) deep into the future, writes Liam Denning

China Has Yet Another Trade-War Weapon

In its trade war with the U.S., China may not be able to match American tariffs dollar-for-dollar. But targeting one key U.S. export – liquefied natural gas – would sting quite a lot, writes Meghan O’Sullivan : “In imposing tariffs on this trade, China could not only deprive the U.S. of a lucrative trade, but also have lasting effects on the development of American LNG trade – something the Chinese likely correctly assess matters a great deal to Trump.”

Maybe NATO Doesn’t Even Need America

This week’s NATO summit should be a fraught affair, with Trump demanding more from allies and threatening to leave the alliance altogether, just before jetting off to Helsinki to schmooze with Vladimir Putin. But maybe NATO shouldn’t worry too much about losing the U.S., suggests Leonid Bershidsky. It's plenty strong on its own, even without America's contributions, and might not have to worry about being dragged into conflicts like the Iraq War.

Bonus NATO Reading: Trump, please don’t give the farm away to Putin. – James Stavridis

Chart Attack

Taking Iran’s oil off the market will raise prices, but Saudi Arabia can help merely by moving some oil around, writes Liam Denning:

Uh-oh: Mom & Pop are sniffing around the collateralized loan obligation market, warns Brian Chappatta:

Speed Reading

Corporate bonds keep getting junkier. – Danielle DiMartino Booth 

There are reasons to be skeptical of offering a federal job guarantee. – Noah Smith

Labor shortages are making employers – and voters –  warm to all kinds of workers, including immigrants. – Conor Sen 

The wealth of descendants of the rich may eventually revert to the mean – but only over the very, very, very long term. – Stephen Mihm 

Erdogan has made Turkey basically uninvestable. – Marcus Ashworth 

ICYMI

All 12 kids, and their coach, got out of that Thai cave. The Trump administration couldn't get an extension on reuniting immigrant families.

Kickers

Justin Fox explains everything you could possibly need to know about the England football song “Three Lions.”

You can buy “Handmaid's Tale” wine now.

Why are young billionaires so boring?

Are artists hard-wired to be poor?

An oral history of “Stepbrothers.”

Note: Please send suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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