President’s unfit picks
Brett Taley is no household name, but his nomination to the federal bench should get the notice it deserves. He’s never tried a case, and, oops, he forgot to mention his wife is chief of staff to the White House’s top lawyer. He’s blogged about “Hillary Rotten Clinton” and accused gun foes of exploiting mass shootings.
His nomination sounds far-fetched: a hard-right lawyer with zero trial experience and blessed with inside connections. But he’s also an apt indicator of the course of President Trump’s judicial overhaul.
The direction couldn’t be clearer. Despite his lapses and losses, the president is striding toward a remake of the federal judiciary that could last for decades. He’s rubber-stamping a list of candidates supplied by conservative legal groups who prize ideology above diversity or balance.
Trump is cashing in at a prime moment. Majority Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nominees during his final year in office, swelling the numbers of unfilled vacancies. Democrats had weakened their hand by dumping debate rules once used to block controversial names.
An Associated Press survey found the Trump is appointing white males at the highest rate in 30 years. Though Obama moved to diversify the bench, Trump is heading in the opposite direction, picking fewer women and nonwhites than even prior GOP presidents. He’s also ignoring the role traditionally played by the American Bar Association in vetting nominees. The Trump team isn’t including bar ratings in measuring appointees, claiming the group is too liberal to matter.
To the winner go the spoils, Trump defenders argue. Voters are getting the change promised by a successful presidential campaign.
But that argument won’t paper over the schism the president is building into the court system. By inserting scores of ideologues, he’s creating a war zone akin the deep trenches that divide Congress. Public trust is diminished when the bench doesn’t mirror society or a broad range of beliefs.
Democrats are left in a bind. The minority party in the Senate could once filibuster a nominee from winning approval. But that power ended, leaving Trump opponents with the power to only denounce a pending judge. Some of Trump’s appointees demonstrate contempt for the notion of a qualified and independent judiciary.