The Big Announcement
Justice Kennedy has announced his retirement. In the following days, many will express the stakes and meaning of this earth-shattering news. Political predictions for the next two years will be manifold. The Supreme Court list will be reexamined. All I have to say is this: Mr. President, stick to your list.
The Supreme Court List
The White House’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees, spearheaded by Leonard Leo, is wonderful. The twenty-five jurists currently on the list are good for various reasons. Young age, consistent conservative interpretive schema, and winsomeness abound.
It isn’t that those on the list are the only good jurists. Jeffery Sutton is not on the list but would be a great pick for the Court. On the other hand, not everyone on the list is the best pick for confirmation in this political climate. Still, Trump should stay true to his list.
There were reasons why Trump needed to stick to the list the first time around. The filibuster was still around, and Trump was making his first pick. The filibuster is dead now, and Trump has less reason than ever not to pick whomever he wants. Even a “normal” president might be tempted to pick someone because of personal connection. George W. Bush proved that with the Harriet Miers debacle.
Can Trump be trusted not to make the same mistake? He reassured us that he was just joking when he said he considered his sister for the court. And we should all hope we do not end up with a Justice Jeanine Pirro. But even these stories, as absurd and unserious as they are, remind us that Trump is not a predictable person. He will always do what he wants, and without the constraints he had when he made the safe Gorsuch pick, Trump is free to be Trump.
High Stakes for the High Court
If the President chooses someone random or ridiculous, we risk more political polarization, more distrust in our political institutions, and more breakdown of civil discourse in this country. This confirmation process has the potential to rent our political divide even further asunder. The nominee must be able to go before the country and present themselves as an impartial jurist with the good of the country, not their personal policy preferences, as their primary concern. Fortunately, the White House’s current list is filled with people that can do this, with perhaps one or two exceptions. Justice Kennedy has had his input, and hopefully he stuck to the list as well.
Mr. President, you will do what you want. You should want to confirm a good, consistent, thoughtful, conservative judge. Stick to the list.