Via Mediaite, I hope the next five months of Trump attacks on Kelly produce an even more treacly softball make-up interview than the one we got a few weeks ago. Maybe he’ll even be president-elect this time. Sneak preview of their sitdown in November: “How great do you expect your presidency to be?”
As Kelly notes, the “Mexican” judge in the Trump University case was born in Indiana. He’s of Latino ancestry, though, and Trump seems to find that fact worth mentioning — repeatedly — when he brings up the case on the trail before quickly noting that “that’s fine” or whatever. Why do that, Kelly wonders rhetorically? Simple: Trump’s suggesting that the judge has a racial bias against him owing to Trump’s stance on immigration and rhetoric about “Mexican rapists.” He’s nudging his followers to discount anything discouraging they may hear about the case on grounds that this system is “rigged” too. Although he’s doing more than that:
It’s easy to imagine what will happen to [Judge] Curiel now. Like the journalists Trump has publicly slammed, he’ll receive an avalanche of personal, bigoted abuse from Trump’s supporters, including, quite possibly, death threats. This may, in and of itself, give future judges second thoughts about incurring The Donald’s wrath.
Were Trump president, he’d have other methods of intimidation at his disposal. Instead of merely suggesting that, “they ought to look into Judge Curiel,” he could order his Justice Department to do it. To be sure, Democrats, liberal journalists, and principled conservatives would howl. But given the partisan consolidation around Trump since he locked up the nomination, it’s likely that many Republicans would look the other way, or suggest that what Obama did was worse. Already, pro-Trump Republicans like the CNN commentator Jeffrey Lord are echoing Trump’s attack, calling the Trump university trial “rigged,” and suggesting that Curiel, because he received a reward from a Latino lawyers’ group, has a “serious ethnic axe to grind.”
If Kelly’s sensitive to Trump demagoging the judge, that’s because she knows what it’s like when Trump turns the mob on you. It’s the same strategy at base as his approach to Republican pols who haven’t endorsed him yet. Instead of ignoring them or reaching out to encourage party unity, he attacks, knowing that that means they’ll lose votes from Trump fans in their own races this fall at a minimum (advantage: Democrats) and, at worst, that they’ll have to deal with the same abuse and threats that Kelly and undoubtedly now Curiel are dealing with. Make an example of one critic via intimidation tactics and a dozen others will cower. Obama was pounded by conservative media for his comparatively more mild criticism of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision a few years ago at the State of the Union but Trump’s attempt to leverage his cult of personality to pressure the judge presiding over his own civil suit will go largely unremarked upon.
What might this mean for President Trump’s Supreme Court appointments, the linchpin of the argument that he’s preferable to Hillary no matter what his other faults may be? Nothing good, says law prof Orin Kerr:
When Trump realizes that judges can block a President’s actions, but that he gets to nominate judges, he’ll put two and two together. He’ll nominate cronies who would rubber-stamp whatever Trump does. That’s not a conservative position or a liberal position. It’s just a pro-Trump position.
If Trump has a choice between an originalist conservative with sterling credentials who would often block Trump, and buddy of his who hasn’t read the Constitution but would let Trump do what he wants, who do you think Trump would pick?
I’d add something to that: If he picks his unqualified crony buddy for a vacancy, how likely is it that a Republican Senate — most members of which have already rolled over for nominee Trump — would risk the wrath of a victorious populist president by Borking the nominee? You think Senator Marco Rubio, who’s already volunteering to speak on Trump’s behalf at the convention because he has his eye on another run for office someday, would dare oppose him? Who wants to volunteer for the Megyn Kelly/Judge Curiel treatment from the demagogue by voting no?
And by the way, in regards to Trump’s complaining about the Trump U suit and complaining about things in general: Has anyone as privileged as him, one of the most fantastically fortunate people on planet Earth, ever whined as much about how “unfair” everything is? Four or maybe even eight years of this, day in and day out, on every cable news channel, huh?
I was going to write a post about the newest revelations in the Trump University suit, with former staffers claiming they were pressured to convince the sort of working-class people who make up Trump’s base to take on debt to pay for the “scheme” even if they realistically couldn’t afford it, but no one who might plausibly read that post will care. (Hillary’s worse!) Go read the Times story if only for a bit of extra insight into your nominee. Two clips for you here, one of Kelly laying into Trump and the other of Hannity being very Hannityesque indeed just a few minutes later on the same network. One last point in parting: Kelly is agitated that Trump’s defenders, having slammed Obama in the past for trying to intimidate SCOTUS, would now shift to defending Trump’s use of the same tactic. But … that’s the point. The whole point of Trumpism, I thought, from entitlements to identity politics to intimidating judges, is that the right is done arguing that there’s a better way and now is all-in on simply getting its fair share of things it previously derided as destructive. Muscling Curiel isn’t hypocrisy, it’s just seizing an advantage via the left’s own rules. Weird that the Trump advocate in the segment felt obliged to dodge that instead of making the case forthrightly.