Democrats and the liberal media are slamming President Trump for packing federal courts with "unfit" judges. Nonsense. Trump's nominees have impressive credentials. What's the left's real gripe? These judges will decide cases based on what the U.S. Constitution says, instead of rewriting law to suit a progressive agenda.
Look for fireworks in the U.S. Senate Wednesday, when the American Bar Association tries to justify rating several of Trump's nominees "not qualified." ABA ratings are a political hit job masquerading as high-minded objectivity.
Consider the ABA's "not qualified" rating of Leonard Steven Grasz, a Nebraska attorney nominated to the appeals court. The ABA claims Grasz is unfit because of his "deeply held social agenda." During his 11 years as Nebraska's chief deputy attorney general, he defended many of the state's laws, including a ban on partial birth abortion. Defending that law was his job.
Opposing any limit on abortion is enough to outrage pro-choice activist Cynthia Nance, the law professor who led Grasz's recent ABA review. She stooped to grilling him on why he sends his children to religious schools — an out-of-bounds question — instead of sticking to probing his legal philosophy. Apparently, being religious is disqualifying.
Grasz reiterated his "solemn obligation" to put aside personal views and "faithfully apply" Supreme Court precedent. Astonishingly, that's an assurance the left rejects. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D. R.I., argues "there's simply no way to prevent a judge's ... personal beliefs from influencing" rulings. The conclusion is obvious. To Democrats like Whitehouse, only nominees with left-wing agendas are acceptable.
Another nominee rated "unqualified" by the ABA is Brett Talley, Trump's nominee to a federal district court in Alabama. Last Thursday, Talley won Senate Judiciary Committee approval despite the ABA's claim that Talley lacks "requisite trial experience."
In truth, Talley is superbly qualified — with a law degree from Harvard, clerkships at the trial and appeals court level, litigation experience in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and a stint as Alabama's deputy solicitor general. He's got about as much trial experience as Justice Elena Kagan, rated "well qualified" by the ABA when President Obama nominated her to the highest court.
What's Talley real problem? His political views and Trump connections. (His wife is chief of staff to the White House counsel, a fact he should have disclosed sooner.) Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., grilled Talley about abortion, gun control, gay marriage and his disdain for Hillary Clinton — whom he once dubbed "Hillary Rotten Clinton" on Twitter.
Imprudent maybe, but hardly in the league with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's comment to The New York Times that she couldn't "imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president."
Talley assured senators he would "never allow personal opinions or experiences to justify a departure from the law." When Whitehouse said courts need judges who empathize with what it's like to be a teenage mom, African-American, gay or poor, Talley shot back that everyone appearing in front of a federal judge deserves empathy.
Back in 2013, Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., chastised Senate Republicans for opposing Obama's female nominees, arguing the court needs more women. But hypocrisy is on display now, with Warren and fellow Democrats attacking Trump's female nominees.
Amy Barrett, nominated to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, got hammered for her Catholicism. Feinstein suggested Barrett's religion "lives loudly within" her, making her unfit. The University of Notre Dame's president warned that "it is chilling to hear from a United States Senator that this might now disqualify someone from service as a federal judge."
Millions voted for Trump because he pledged to appoint judges who would uphold the Constitution, not invent law to advance a social agenda. Twenty-one percent of Trump voters called it their highest priority. But the ABA and other activists aren't surrendering their grip on the courts without a fight. Remember that when you hear the smears about "unfit" nominees.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a former lieutenant governor of New York State. Contact her at [email protected] To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.