Good lord, Maverick. This is one of the few subjects on which we can be reasonably sure Trump really would be a major improvement over Clinton. The worst you’re going to get from him is a center-right judge willing to give the president a wide berth on executive power. Which would be bad, but not as bad as a far-left judge willing to give the president a wide berth on executive power. The answer to the question of why Trump isn’t obviously preferable to Clinton given the certainty of his court appointments being superior is, just for starters, this. There are various ways a strongman president might undermine the Constitution that don’t involve judicial rulings. Although I can also imagine him ignoring adverse judicial rulings altogether on the theory that they were somehow “rigged.”

That wasn’t the line from this interview that got McCain into trouble today, though. This was:

“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” McCain said. “I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered.”

Please. John “Gang of 14” McCain is going to be some unmovable stone wall in the Senate against Clinton’s judicial appointments? He’ll be 80 years old, newly reelected, and in his final term. There’ll be nothing holding him back anymore from indulging his every bipartisan Maverick-y whim, starting with being the “reasonable” aisle-crossing Republican on SCOTUS nominations. This show of Cruz-ian bravado is obviously just an empty pander to Republican voters to try to convince them to turn out for downballot races next month. No one except the left is taking it seriously today, and they’re exercised about it only because they think they can use it to score a point on McCain in his Senate race. When he breaks this promise next year, no one will blink. It falls into the same category as “complete the dang fence”: McCain the campaigner and McCain the legislator are two very different birds. No one expects the latter to cash the checks written by the former’s mouth anymore.

In fact, his campaign’s already walking it back. Exit quotation: “Sen. McCain believes you can only judge people by their record, and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees. That being said, Sen. McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications, as he has done throughout his career.”