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Trump's judges list creates more problems than it solves

JACK OHMAN/SACRAMENTO BEE
JACK OHMAN/SACRAMENTO BEE

On Wednesday, Donald Trump's campaign released a list of 11 judges, including familiar conservative favorites, whom Trump said he would use "as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices." Even for Trump, who now dubs every policy position a "suggestion" and changes them almost hourly, that is pretty weak tea. In fact, the list only underscores a number of problems plaguing Trump.

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First, no one really imagines he knows who the judges are, what cases they've decided, and why they would be better or worse than others. (Does he ever read an opinion? This was the man who said his sister the judge "signs" bills.) If he is ever asked about the judges -- or why someone is not on the list -- it will be painfully obvious he knows very little. Moreover, as soon as he learns that some or all of them do not favor the untrammeled exercise of executive power he might want, they are likely to disappear from consideration. As conservative legal scholar John Yoo put it, "I am thrilled by this list. But that being said, I cannot trust Trump to keep his word. He has already flip-flopped on so many issues, before, during and after the primary campaign. How do we know he would not start wheeling and dealing on judicial appointments if he were to win the Oval Office?"

Second, imagine Trump being asked about legal issues. Do you want a judge who thinks there is a right to privacy in the Constitution, Mr. Trump? The results would likely be cringe-worthy. You cannot choose judges -- or Cabinet members -- without knowing your own principles. Because Trump has none, he might as well throw darts at a board -- or more likely, pick cronies because they are "terrific people" (i.e., loyal to him).

Third, the identity of those who crafted the list is unknown -- and that is a problem. Who are really choosing the judges for Trump, and why don't we know who they are? Because Trump is so ignorant on so many fronts, he in essence becomes a prisoner to advisers. Those advisers may or may not have conflicts of interest, biases of their own and questionable backgrounds. They may be experienced in judge-selection or may have made horrible goofs in the past. If any of them favorably comment on the list without revealing they contributed to it, that is another sign this is a thinly disguised sham. (And if any of them are practitioners, think tankers or in other capacities that might be affected by their dabbling in presidential politics, that is a problem as well.)

Fourth, whoever came up with the list forgot to check Twitter. It turns out: "One of the judges on the list, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, is also a prolific tweeter. Many of his tweets about Trump over the past year can be described as mocking at best, while others are clearly denunciatory. Trump University, a sore spot for the Trump campaign, appears to be a common target." Oops, another staff failure. That now becomes fodder for Democrats to taunt Trump rather than evidence of his solid judgment about judges.

Fifth, it reminds us you cannot run the presidency by auto-pilot or simply by consulting with aides. What if a judge who might be better comes along -- how would Trump even know? What if new information comes out about one of the judges, or his views change? Trump would still have his little list, but it would be of minimal use.

Sixth, it is a useless exercise. Those who have drunk the Trump Kool-Aid were already willing to trust a man who has proved to be habitually untrustworthy. Those who have figured out he is unfit to be president won't be impressed with this stunt. And the vast majority of voters who have no idea who any of the judges are don't care.

If Trump wanted to learn about issues, get himself up to speed on conservative ideas and prepare himself to be president, he would have done so long ago. He is now trying to fake his way through the process, betting the press and voters are too lazy or dumb to realize he is dangerously ill-equipped for the presidency. It would be a shame if he is proved right.

Jennifer Rubin, who writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offers reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

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