Friday, September 22, 2017

Steve Forbes Rocks U of L

This is out of sequence -- it happened a week ago --but worth mentioning nonetheless.  Publisher Steve Forbes spoke to several hundred University of Louisville students at the Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise, in the U of L College of Business (jointly sponsored by the Young Americas Foundation).

Given the lunacy that we have seen on college campuses like Berkeley and Middlebury, it was striking to see how polite the U of L students were to Forbes -- an unabashed defender or capitalism.

This is the second time in a matter of months that the Schnatter Center hosted a prominent conservative to a large and respectful crowd.  (And as noted below, the McConnell Center hosted Justice Neil Gorsuch to standing ovations yesterday).

Not surprisingly, Forbes spoke out in favor of  a flat tax.  He's been relentless on the topic over the years, correctly so.

One new thought (or at least new to me):  Forbes challenged the concept of "giving back."  As in the virtue signaling demand that we must turn over our money to the less fortunate, either voluntarily or through the coercion of the tax system.

The problem with "giving back," Forbes observed, is that it assumes that our earnings were not ours to begin with and therefore must be returned, at least in part. That's a fallacy. It also diminishes the act of charity by grounding it in guilt.

Forbes gave some advice to the students that also struck me:  sometimes it is best not to wait until you are ready. He gave the example of Chris Christie, who was urged to run for president in 2012 but declined because he was not ready; when he was ready in 2012, his time had passed and he lost badly.  Barack Obama, in contrast, ran for president while still brand new in the Senate. Many said that he was not ready, but he disregarded the advice and pressed on.

Forbes would have made a really good president. He is still consequential, however, sharing his wisdom with college students who are more interested in hearing and analyzing than protesting.

L'ville Loved Justice Gorsuch

The McConnell Center at University of Louisville hosted Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch yesterday and he surpassed everyone's expectations.

It was a packed crowd of 550 or so, mixed with students, lawyers, faculty.  No protests -- to the contrary, both Gorsuch and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell received standing ovations.

Gorsuch's line that appeared to resonate the most with people referred the the limited institutional competence of the judiciary and it's constitutional limitations for fixing bad statutes:  justices wear robes, not capes.  That is, we cannot expect the judiciary to fix Congress' bad policy choices. That's for the elected branch.

Gorsuch explained originalism in a way that was clear enough for non-lawyers to understand but nuanced enough to those who had been reading for thinking about it for years. He made a good argument that it is constitutionally mandated by the doctrine of separation of powers, and also supports that doctrine (and hence liberty).

My favorite moment: Gorsuch addressed a group of 40 army soldiers who have been spending the month at the McConnell Center as part of a Strategic Broadening Seminar. Gorsuch thanked the group for their service, and noted "if you don't do your job, I can't do mine."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Truth About Trump's Judges

Finally, a piece that is not, how to put it, defamatory.  As usual, Scott Jennings nails it for CNN.

Sitting atop the Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville on Monday morning was the who's who of Kentucky's legal community, all gathered to witness the investiture of John Kenneth Bush, President Donald Trump's latest appointee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Overlooking the banks of the Ohio River, 6h Circuit Chief Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr. pointed out that the limited number of cases taken by the Supreme Court each year makes appointments to the circuit court -- the level just below the high court -- among the most important any president makes.
Scott Jennings
On that score, President Trump has hit home run after home run by appointing conservative lawyers to the various circuit court vacancies. In Bush, he found a highly qualified, Harvard-educated lawyer dedicated to the US Constitution and the nation's founding principles (he even named his dogs after Founding Fathers). During his confirmation, liberals expressed outraged that Bush had once written that America's two "greatest tragedies" were "slavery and abortion."Imagine that -- a pro-life, Republican president nominated a pro-life judge.
    A few weeks before Bush was nominated, the 6th Circuit received from Trump another Kentuckian, Amul Thapar, previously appointed federal district judge by President George W. Bush. My advice: take Thapar in the first round of your fantasy future Supreme Court Justice draft. You won't regret it. Thapar is a rock solid conservative judge whose name is on the lips of every Federalist Society member in Washington. He's close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and well-thought of by key White House lawyers.
    Trump is driving liberals nuts with his circuit court nominations. Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett, nominated by Trump for the 7th Circuit, was pilloried in a committee hearing by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein for being -- gasp -- a Catholic. Feinstein has come under criticism (including from the presidents of both Notre Dame and Princeton) since she had a melt down over Barrett's faith, further exposing just how out-of-touch today's Democratic Party is with Americans who still take their faith seriously.
    I suspect Feinstein was just as worried about Barrett's age and resume as she was her Catholicism. Barrett is in her mid 40s and counts a clerkship with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia among her past jobs. She's a strong conservative who will fill an important seat for a very long time. The same can be said of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who Trump nominated to yet another vacancy in the 6th Circuit.
    Young, Scalia-trained additions to the federal bench have Democrats pulling their hair out.
    President Trump has made 14 nominations for current or future circuit court vacancies, with three already confirmed (Kevin Newsom of Alabama, another strong conservative, was confirmed last month). Trump is outpacing President Barack Obama in circuit court confirmations and overall judicial nominations at this point in their presidencies. Sources in the White House tell me to expect more waves of conservative judicial nominations this fall.
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    While Trump faces trials and tribulations on other policy matters, he's absolutely nailing his judicial appointments. Obama appointed about 40% of the federal judiciary by the time he left office, while Bush 43 appointed just over one-third of it. Obama's appointees were, in many cases, extremely liberal, ideologically driven people who dragged their circuits drastically to the left. Presidents have enormous impact on the judiciary, especially if their party controls the Senate for some part of their term.
    If President Trump's first year in office is any indication, conservatives should be very happy with this reshaping of the federal bench, particularly at the appellate level. Undoing the damage done to the appellate courts by Obama is a key reason why Trump must do everything he can to maintain Republican control of the US Senate in the 2018 midterm election.
    If Feinstein's reaction to Barrett is any indication, Democrats would love nothing more than to shut down the Trump Train's drop-offs at the federal courthouse.