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  1. Opinion

Column: Pence's presidential pet

Published Feb. 2, 2017

The world was a-swoon over Donald Trump's nomination to the Supreme Court. And the way Trump announced it.

"How normal!" enthused a CNN commentator.

Yes! Trump managed to introduce Judge Neil Gorsuch to an audience of supporters without bragging about the size of the crowd. However, he did suggest he's "studied" Gorsuch's work. Since the judge does not have a history of either tweeting or writing about Donald Trump, serious presidential perusal seems highly unlikely.

Gorsuch is what they call an originalist, a judicial breed that cynics define as people who believe that if the founding fathers were around today, they would be best friends and agree on everything. He's extremely conservative.

Colleagues say he's pleasant and thoughtful, which will do you no good whatsoever if you're worried about reproductive rights or federal regulation to reduce climate change. But it had the Republicans in Congress doing happy dances all over the Capitol. Really, they were afraid Trump was going to nominate Don King.

Democrats, meanwhile, were bitterly remembering that last year Barack Obama had nominated an intelligent, well-spoken moderate in the form of Judge Merrick Garland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn't even hold a hearing. Now Trump was expecting them to roll out the welcome mat for his guy.

What to do? The Democrats could filibuster, but then McConnell might try to change the rules so it would only take a simple majority to push a Supreme Court nominee through.

The Gorsuch nomination is important, but there could be an even more critical one later if either Justice Anthony Kennedy or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves the court. Kennedy is 80 and Ginsburg turns 84 next month. She once told me that she does the Canadian air force stretching and warming exercises almost every day at home, along with a more strenuous workout with a trainer twice a week. Say a prayer for the Canadian air force.

Meanwhile, about Gorsuch. Do you think the Democrats should:

A) Fight! Fight! Fight!

B) Save their ammunition. Things are just going to get worse.

C) I don't want to talk about it. I'm going to crawl back under the bed.

I'm sorry, you cannot pick C. We've had the discussion about not crawling under the bed many times already. A lot of people are probably going to go for A, given the Trump administration's genius for generating fear and loathing. The other day I attempted to blot out the world by playing an online game called Two Dots, but instead of the dots, I got an announcement asking me to support the American Civil Liberties Union.

"In 48 hours we sent 500,000 people to the ACLU's donation page," said Paul Murphy, the CEO of Dots. "It's pretty awesome."

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On Wednesday, Gorsuch was starting his visiting-the-senators rounds in the company of Vice President Mike Pence. Do you think this is all Pence's work? The judge seems way more Pence-like than Trumpian. And there are other signs — like all this anti-abortion fervor — that Trump might be in his veep's thrall.

Query: If Trump is really the vice president's lap dog, do you think we should call him:

A) Pence's Poodle.

B) Pence's Pomeranian.

C) Pence's Pekingese.

Feel free to go any way you want on this. Just be sure to consider the matter of elaborately combed blond hair.

Some wise minds have wondered if the guy pulling the strings is Steve Bannon, the president's alt-right, sharp-elbowed chief strategist. There have been a lot of Bannon-ish moves coming out of the White House — the anti-immigrant anti-Muslim shutdown, the decision not to mention Jews in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The fact that the president of the United States calls people "dudes."

Others think it's chief of staff Reince Priebus, or son-in-law Jared Kushner. But nobody sees the hand of Donald Trump behind the screen. For sure not on judicial nominations. Trump, you'll remember, once said he thought a great Supreme Court justice would be one who would put on the robe, sit down and begin investigating Hillary Clinton's email practices.

There are, admittedly, some things the president does that are definitely his own. On Wednesday he was promoting Black History Month by praising the great 19th-century abolition leader, writer and activist Frederick Douglass. Trump called him "an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice."

Take that, dudes.

© 2017 New York Times

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