On Wednesday, the Trump campaign released a list of eleven prospective Supreme Court nominees Trump would consider to replace recently deceased conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia. The Trumpian press release states:
Today Donald J. Trump released the much-anticipated list of people he would consider as potential replacements for Justice Scalia at the United States Supreme Court. This list was compiled, first and foremost, based on constitutional principles, with input from highly respected conservatives and Republican Party leadership.
Then, in a quotation clearly not written by Trump, Trump said:
Justice Scalia was a remarkable person and a brilliant Supreme Court Justice. His career was defined by his reverence for the Constitution and his legacy of protecting Americans’ most cherished freedoms. He was a Justice who did not believe in legislating from the bench and he is a person whom I held in the highest regard and will always greatly respect his intelligence and conviction to uphold the Constitution of our country. The following list of potential Supreme Court justices is representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value and, as President, I plan to use this list as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices.
Conservatives are gushing over the list. And the list is just fine, for what it’s worth: nearly nothing. Did anyone truly think Trump incapable of having a lackey fill out a list of judges conservatives could get behind? Does anyone think Trump can name a single one of these justices or describe what they have done if asked off the cuff? For that matter, does anybody think Trump knows what the Supreme Court does? (Hint: he definitely, definitely doesn’t.) Does anybody think that Trump even knows what courts do, aside from field his frivolous lawsuits? (Nope.)
All of that would be beside the point – encouraging, even! – if Trump were just an ignoramus we could trust to delegate responsibility to an actual conservative, or a legal neophyte with the right principles. He is neither. Trump has not yet identified a policy area in which he will not meddle; he has never issued a major policy proposal he hasn’t abandoned for the sake of political convenience, from high-tech immigration to Muslim migration. Even when he has experts like Senator Jeff Sessions write his immigration policies, he’s likely not to read them or to abandon them mid-debate if doing so serves his purposes.
Furthermore, Trump has not demonstrated that he would stand up to Democratic opposition on any major policy issue. He says forthrightly that he takes hard-line positions as opening bargaining ploys. He’s said as much on tax rates and yes, immigration. Does anybody believe that if the Republicans lose the Senate, Trump will have the heart for a serious battle with Senate Democrats rather than cutting a deal with them? Even if Republicans maintain the Senate but refuse to invoke the nuclear option to stifle a filibuster, does anyone believe Trump will keep up the fight for months on end just to appoint a conservative justice, even as the media batter him?
Trump’s promises on court nominations are about as worthy of serious contemplation as Barack Obama’s promises to work across the aisle with Republicans were.
So, is it a good thing that Trump released this list? Sure. Pro forma conservatism is better than no conservatism at all. But anybody who treats this list as a milestone unifying moment has been ignoring the flip-flopping anti-conservative lies of the Trump campaign for the last year.