President Trump has so far faceplanted on every legislative initiative — and even tax reform is not going very well, due to Republicans' extremely weird insistence on raising some middle-class taxes instead of just blowing up the deficit like George W. Bush did.
But Trump has had one big success: nominating judges. He is getting his federal bench nominees — mostly nutty extreme-right people, some of whom are ludicrously unqualified — approved much faster than Barack Obama did early in his presidency.
If nothing else, it should be a political lesson for Democrats to not be so fussy about vetting when they next occupy the presidency. The point is to get your people in place, and a scandal or two is well worth enduring.
Last year, I predicted that if Trump won the presidency, the federal judiciary "would no doubt be stuffed full of reactionary 30-year-old phrenologists from Taki Mag." It turns out that, as usual, even my most ludicrous exaggerations were not nearly extreme enough.
The latest, most controversial nominee is Brett Talley, a 36-year-old guy who has never tried a case in his life, only practiced law for three years, and was unanimously rated as "not qualified" by the American Bar Association (for only the fourth time in its history). Naturally, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination in a party-line vote.
What's more, he is married to Ann Donaldson, chief of staff of Donald McGahn, the White House counsel who is helping oversee the judicial nomination process. Oddly, Talley did not disclose this massive conflict of interest in his filings. (Of course, everyone involved insists family connections had nothing to do with the nomination.)
Oh, and he's written a bunch of horror novels, worked as a "paranormal investigator," and as BuzzFeed News reports, apparently had an extensive history as an anonymous commenter on a University of Alabama sports fan forum. After the Sandy Hook shooting, a poster who had previously identified himself as Talley wrote: "My solution would be to stop being a society of pansies and man up."
Compare that to the glacial slowness of President Obama's nomination process. After Tom Daschle's nomination to run the Department of Health and Human Services was derailed in early 2009 due to discoveries that he owed $140,000 in back taxes over the use of a personal driver, the administration dramatically stepped up the vetting scrutiny, for all nominees. It took months to get the executive branch staffed up, and months longer to find nominees willing to undergo the exhaustive personal examination the administration demanded. Making matters worse, through 2012 Obama kept trying to nominate moderates who would not raise Republican ire, only to discover systematic obstruction of them anyway.
Things sped up a bit in 2013, when Senate Democrats finally got rid of the filibuster for judicial nominations (allowing them to be confirmed by a simple majority vote). But in 2015, when Republicans took over the Senate, confirmation all but stopped. Obama's "insane" vetting process for the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Antonin Scalia was once again completely pointless, as Republicans refused to even hold a hearing on the nomination. They stole that seat so Trump could fill it.
Fight fire with fire, I always say. The next time Democrats win the presidency, they should stop being gormless chumps about bipartisanship, and simply ram through as many of their ideological co-partisans as possible. A scandal or two over some missed taxes (it's amazing how quaint Tom Daschle's minor ethical lapse looks today, in the age of a for-profit Trump presidency) is simply the price you might have to pay to get good people in as quickly as possible.
Of course, that doesn't mean nominating unqualified 30-something hacks who self-publish dinosaur porn on Amazon or whatever. But Democrats have little incentive to do that anyway. Republicans want people who will bleat about "constitutional originalism" while cooking up ultra-tendentious arguments that Social Security is forbidden by the Third Amendment. Democrats just need people who will generally support solidly constitutional lefty views on taxes, spending, and regulation (especially anti-trust). There are no shortage of such people with good qualifications.
So by all means, give their record a once-over and make sure they know the law. But don't waste month after month making sure they never smoked pot 40 years ago. The stakes are too high.