From Our Future
The 45th President of the United States just handled one of his gravest responsibilities, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice, with his trademark vulgar and vaudevillian vapidity. Only 11 days into his presidency, Donald Trump's shtick has become as boring as it is dangerous. If a president's only duty were to entertain his audience, Trump would already be facing impeachment.
Despite his best efforts, there was no suspense in Trump's announcement. As predicted, he nominated someone for the Supreme Court whose right-wing notions of "originalism" would suspend our living Constitution in ancient prejudices of race, ethnicity, religion, class and gender.
But cheap tricks like Trump's live, prime-time Supreme Court announcement do serve a purpose: They distract the public from everything else he's doing. It's government by three-card monte, and in this case it draws attention away from the most important fact of all about this Supreme Court seat: The Republicans stole it from former President Barack Obama.
Meet the Finalists
According to unnamed and presumably well-placed sources, Trump asked two finalists to come to Washington, DC. Multipleoutlets carried the story, which was presumably crafted to keep the public in suspense about his final choice. CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny even tweeted that the "White House is setting up (the) Supreme Court announcement as a prime-time contest" by creating "@JusticeGorsuch and @JusticeHardiman identical Twitter pages."
This routine is common in the world of beauty pageants, which is undoubtedly more familiar to Trump than that of governance. It's a ritual there: The lucky winner, having survived the final swimsuit and evening gown competitions, accepts her crown as the runner-up offers stoic congratulations.
This is just the beginning, so get used to it: Donald Trump will make every historic moment look like a cheap animatronic re-enactment of itself.
But we're talking about a seat on a divided Supreme Court, not a year as a "goodwill ambassador," and the nation is entering a period of chaos and challenge. Trump's erratic behavior, his sweeping and ill-framed executive orders, and the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates have provoked a crisis of confidence and governance; a full-blown constitutional crisis is probably not far behind.
As Law360 reports, Trump told Breitbart News last June that his judicial nominees would be "all picked by (the) Federalist Society," the far-right legal group that has worked for decades to populate the judicial system with anti-government extremists. Even before we knew the nominee's name, we knew a lot about him.
And the Winner Is...
The theatrics should have worked. The crowd murmured expectantly as the hour approached. Flags flanked the entranceway where a gold-trimmed red carpet led to the presidential podium. Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, the twin lobes of Trump's Republicanism, gave the appearance of chatting amiably until the new president took his place before the cameras.
"This may be the most transparent selection process in history," Trump boasted.
In an echo of Steve Harvey's Miss Universe blooper last year, Trump then mangled the actual announcement, saying that he was "nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch of the United States Supreme Court to be of the United States Supreme Court." (Gorsuch currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.)
"Was that a surprise?" Trump asked, trying to drum up enthusiasm like the toastmaster at a junior high school spelling bee. "Was it?"