The contest for the presidency is down to two choices: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Conservatives might wish they had more options, but the reality is we don’t. In golf we have an expression, “play it as it lies.” That means you hit your ball from the spot where it is, not where you wish it was. This, of course, is a rule honored much more in the breach than the observance, as is true with many of the rules of golf.
But nevertheless, it is a rule. As much as you’d like to, when you are playing tournament golf you are not allowed to improve your lie by kicking it out of the rough or from behind a tree.
The rules of politics are much the same. We have to play things as they are, not as we wish they were. Donald Rumsfeld famously said that we have to go to war with the army we have, not the one we wish we had.
Many conservatives - myself included - would have preferred a different candidate other than Donald Trump to carry the Republican banner. But the stubborn reality that everyone must face head on is that we are truly faced with a binary choice. Our next president will either be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Trump, as readers of my columns well know, is a flawed candidate, politically as well as personally. But it is what it is, and the question that must be faced next is a simple one: is there a simple way to distinguish between Trump and Clinton that would shine the light on the electoral path for conservatives? And the answer is yes.
Trump yesterday released a list of 11 judges he would “likely” nominate to the Supreme Court. Of course the word “likely” means that it is certainly possible that this list will become simply a “suggestion” like a number of other Trump campaign promises.
But be that as it may, his list by all accounts is a stellar list. It includes three judges who clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and two who clerked for Antonin Scalia. While Justice Scalia is literally irreplaceable, judges who share his judicial philosophy are on this list.
Critics may say the chances of any one of these judges being actually nominated are slim, but what they are conceding is that there is a chance.
That chance does not exist with Hillary Clinton. While Trump has included judges who revere Antonin Scalia, every nominee on Hillary’s list will revere Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
One positive implication, that almost no one is talking about, is that the publication of this list will likely stiffen the resolve of the Senate leadership to refuse even a hearing for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Trump is ensuring that the next president will be the one who nominates Scalia’s replacement.
The next president will also likely nominate three additional replacements to the Supreme Court, which means quite simply that the Court will be his legacy. Now the Supreme Court was never intended by either the Founders or the Constitution itself to have the kind of dictatorial and legislative power it has assumed. But until the Republicans develop enough intestinal fortitude to start impeaching renegade judges, we are forced to play it as it lies. The only realistic way to rein in an out-of-control judiciary, other than states ignoring unconstitutional edicts, is through Supreme Court justices who believe in applying the Constitution rather than re-writing it.
Can I give you any assurance that Mr. Trump will actually wind up nominating even a single name on his list? Nope. Nobody can. But I can give you the guarantee that if Hillary Clinton is in charge of nominations whatever chance we have of recapturing our constitutional republic will be gone forever.
Bottom line: the worst judge on Donald Trump’s list is far better than the best judge on Hillary Clinton’s list. Let the voter beware.