January 31, 2017

Trump could and should double down on SCOTUS nominee

Donald Trump has been president for less than two weeks and the opposition - the media and the Democrats - have tried every way to gin up opposition to every single thing he has done. For the most part he has been immune to the pushback.  He wants to be president for all Americans, whether they are political opposition or not.  But with the Obama-administration-driven partial, temporary immigration ban he is facing a mock firestorm of opposition.

This is a fire that is easily put out by a factual rebuttal of the histrionics involved.  Yes, this was done far less smoothly than other president Trump executive orders and it is definitely a learning opportunity for the neophyte administration (not a teachable moment - a phrase I detest and thankfully one that will slowly fade with it's principal, former president Obama).  President Trump wants progress and he wants it quickly.  There's a happy medium to be found between speed and forethought.  That balance has yet to be fully realized. 

Nevertheless, there is another learning opportunity at work here that president Trump has already realized - he is going to shift the conversation quickly away from the awkwardness to which the media is now bitterly clinging and towards his next action - his SCOTUS nominee.  The immigration firestorm will fade as the facts about the Obama actions that led to this limited ban become more and more of the conversation.  Shifting the conversation to new ground is an quick win, and president Trump knows it.

What is less clear is whether president is going to double down by selecting Neil Gorsuch over Thomas Hardiman as his first nominee. Gorsuch is better nominee as a rock solid conservative.  Hardiman is likely a good choice but less so.  The advantage towards Hardiman is he is likely to be more easily confirmed than Gorsuch, less likely to face a filibuster.

Indications are that Trump is leaning towards Hardiman.

But here's the thing - if Trump does appoint the less conservative nominee it will look to supporters and foes alike that he's buckled.  That will embolden his political enemies that he was able to crack so easily and disenfranchise his supporters that he isn't going to drain the swamp and instead caved at the first sign of trouble.

You can't drain the swamp without facing stiff resistance.  Fierce resistance is to be expected throughout the Trump presidency regardless of what he does right now.  So why buckle? Instead president Trump should continue to be bold, very bold.  Maybe even bolder than Gorsuch like surprising everyone by pivoting back to William H Pryor. 

Why?  In addition to agitating his political foes to the point of apoplexia, heartening his supporters, he will be sending a signal that he's made of sterner stuff than his predecessor - domestically as well as abroad.  And that's an important point to establish early.  If the president is the dealmaker-in-chief the last thing he needs to do is inform those he will be dealing with that he's sitting at the table in a position of weakness (i.e. that he can be pushed around).  If Mexico or Russia or China see president Trump as negotiator Obama 2.0 this is going to be a slow, painful and unproductive four years for the president.

Furthermore, president Trump would avoid the nepotistic charges that he's listening to his sister on Hardiman.  Fiercely independent and not willing to give the media the ammunition to strike at his nominee on the grounds of their choosing. 

And should a Trump nominee face a filibuster, let's get that done now rather than wait and face a more fierce, organized opposition from Democrats in a few years with a second nominee that might not even come during president Trump's first term.

President Trump was elected to clean up Washington.  Now is the time to go big or go home - literally - because tomorrow will be too late when all the momentum is gone.  It's the reason the left is trying so hard with the fierce urgency of now to stop Trump in his tracks before he even gets started.  Hopefully president Trump sees that and acts accordingly.

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