Neil Gorsuch Fulfills an Important Trump Campaign Promise

Campaign promises matter — especially when they concern areas of lasting impact, like the Supreme Court.

During the 2016 presidential campaigns, #NeverTrump conservatives often sounded the alarm at the more unconservative or insensitive things that Donald Trump said, while at the same deriding his supporters who continued to back him because he claimed that he would do things like cut spending and taxes or nominate originalists to the Supreme Court.

Somewhat inconsistently, #NeverTrump believed he would only keep the unconservative campaign promises and fold on the conservative ones. (I hate to admit this, since I said this myself, though in defense of #NeverTrump, he had started speaking conservative in limited degrees only about five minutes before entering the presidential race.)

At the same time, and equally inconsistently, some of Trump’s fans argued that he would of course drop calls to halt Muslim entry in the United States or to stop taking in refugees from Syria, while he would be trustworthy on the conservative promises. In the end, both were wrong. Though we have only a couple weeks from which to judge, Trump appears prepared to keep all of his campaign promises — the good and the bad.

Trump’s recent executive order does indefinitely stop in the entry of refugees from Syria into the United States, and, though not technically a Muslim ban, it does temporarily suspend immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries that he fears could be sources of surreptitious Islamic terrorists.

This week: the good news. Trump has announced his Supreme Court nominee to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s old seat. Whereas conservatives were nervous that he might select moderate Thomas Hardiman — who has not made a significant ruling, for example, on abortion and is a wildcard who might ultimately vindicate #NeverTrump concerns — Trump instead selected the solidly conservative and eminently qualified Judge Neil Gorsuch.

FiveThirtyEight called him a “Scalia Clone.” Sounds good to me, but if you’re still unconvinced, Gorsuch laid out his judicial philosophy in a lecture at Case Western University School of Law early last year.

USA Today quotes his own words:

“Judges should… strive (if humanly and so imperfectly) to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be — not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.”

“Judges should be in the business of declaring what the law is using the traditional tools of interpretation, rather than pronouncing the law as they might wish it to be in light of their own political views.”

“Throughout my decade on the bench, I have watched my colleagues strive day in and day out to do just as Socrates said we should — to hear courteously, answer wisely, consider soberly, and decide impartially.”

Judges should “regularly issue judgments with which they disagree as a matter of policy — all because they think that’s what the law fairly demands.”

“Though the critics are loud and the temptations to join them may be many, mark me down too as a believer that the traditional account of the judicial role Justice Scalia defended will endure.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has “serious doubts” about whether Judge Gorsuch is within the mainstream of judicial opinion, because of course he does. Obviously, Schumer is ready to fight tooth and nail against someone whose legal philosophy differs from his — unironically; he had a problem with the Republican Congress doing the same to President Obama’s nominee. But one line of criticism he cannot follow is to argue that Gorsuch is unqualified.

As FiveThirtyEight noted:

He attended Harvard Law School, as well as Columbia and Oxford, and clerked for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy of the Supreme Court….. It’s the sort of gleaming ivory C.V. that was largely absent from the rest of Trump’s shortlist.

Gorsuch’s experience is sufficient (and his judicial philosophy sufficiently mainstream) that, as Ted Cruz pointed out, he was confirmed by a unanimous voice vote to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is an excellent development. While many of Trump’s previous nominees and appointments have been conservative, their qualifications for their respective positions have been such as one might expect of a president choosing his picks from a list of guests on the Sean Hannity Show. Not Gorsuch. His conservative bona fides and his resume appear unassailable.

More campaign promises like this kept, please, President Trump!