Friday, December 15, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He doubled down on an embarrassingly unqualified judicial nominee.

Yesterday, Trump's nominee for the federal district court in the District of Columbia, Matthew Petersen, had an exchange with the Senate Judiciary committee that quickly went viral. In it, Petersen--who has a law degree but has effectively never practiced law--was forced to admit his ignorance of basic legal terms and courtroom procedures.

Trump was apparently unable to let this embarrassment go unchallenged, and sent a spokesperson to defend Petersen. Hogan Gidley issued a statement arguing that Petersen was qualified because actual practicing lawyers worked for Petersen in his previous job. He added, "It is no surprise the President's opponents keep trying to distract from the record-setting success the President has had on judicial nominations."

The Trump "opponent" who humiliated Petersen was Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican who votes overwhelmingly with Trump's positions and has rarely if ever directly criticized Trump.

Given Trump's refusal to back down, it's not clear whether Petersen will join the similarly unqualified Brett Talley (whose hobbies included investigating "paranormal activity" and writing anonymous internet comments that praised the Ku Klux Klan) and Jeff Mateer (who called transgender children "part of Satan's plan") on the list of recently rejected Trump court picks. 

Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • A president who promised to appoint "the best people" should at least try to appoint qualified people.
  • It's bad if the president's first instinct when caught in a mistake is to deny that he's made a mistake.
  • Federal judges should know at least something about how law is practiced.