President Donald Trump’s appointments are certainly a mixed bag, from Michael Flynn, the reckless and short-lived national security advisor who flirted with Russian intelligence, to Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, a cranky right-wing publisher.
Others, like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or Defence Secretary James Mattis, give every sign of being more competent and thoughtful than the man who chose them. President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court is another example.
If confirmed, Neil Gorsuch, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, will be on the bench for a long time. Given that American judges sit for until death, he’ll be a leading player in public life long after Mr. Trump’s has been moved to the history books.
Judge Gorsuch is a legal thinker similar to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, an “originalist” or “textualist,” who believes that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted strictly according to its wording. Canadian and American constitutional law have diverged from each other and their English beginnings, and this continuing American debate is less well understood in Canada.
In the U.S., judges like Justice Scalia and Judge Gorsuch articulate quite distinct understandings of the Constitution. There’s a legitimate place for them on the Supreme Court, expressing important principles and freedoms. In America, this debate will and should continue.
President Trump did better than he knew when he nominated Judge Gorsuch. Democrats are going to disagree with his principles, and in many cases they should. But he’s not a Donald Trump in judges’ robes. In fact, his principles and his record suggest that he’s likely to question any presidential action that he views as an overstretch of the constitutional grant of executive power – regardless of whether the occupant of the White House is a Democrat or a Republican. And in early, closed hearings with some senators, Judge Gorsuch deplored Mr. Trump’s absurd attacks on the judiciary.
His independence is real, and to his credit. Democrats may feel ideologically unable to vote for his confirmation. But in private, honest moments, they will have to acknowledge that the nominee is no Trump toady.Report Typo/Error
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