Incompetent Trump nominee withdraws

Recall Matthew Petersen, nominated by Donald Trump for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge who at a hearing last week was unable to answer a single question about the law that was posed to him by Louisiana senator John Kennedy, a very conservative Republican. Well, it appears that after being at the receiving end of a storm of ridicule, he has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Sam Stein explains the background to this bit of kabuki theater that Kennedy was putting on for TV.

Political humiliations like these don’t often happen in public view, let alone at the hands of a member of the same political party of the nominating administration. And, sure enough, the video went viral. By Monday, Petersen had decided to withdraw his nomination. Kennedy, it appeared, had got his man.

Except, Petersen wasn’t the one he was truly after. Indeed, the real subject of the senator’s ire appears to have been the person who delivered Petersen to the committee in the first place: White House Counsel Don McGahn.

But this tiny victory should not make us forget that Trump has managed to get many poorly qualified but highly ideological people on to positions in the federal judiciary, some simply by virtue of being close to McGahn. As Stein documents, the bar for approval is really low and only a few like Petersen could not clear it.


  1. Raucous Indignation says

    He was not incompetent so much as unqualified to assume a position as a federal trial judge. There is a difference. His law practice is very far afield from the federal trial bench, but he may actually be good at what he does. I am experienced and qualified to practice in my specialties. That doesn’t mean that I should ever be allowed to perform neurosurgery.

  2. John Morales says

    Poor point. He was not being interviewed about what he does, but about what he wanted to do. And he exhibited remarkable ignorance of applicable legal doctrine.

    I am experienced and qualified to practice in my specialties. That doesn’t mean that I should ever be allowed to perform neurosurgery.

    So you hold you are competent at neurosurgery, but merely unqualified?


  3. lanir says

    It’s probably worth keeping in mind that this really has very little to do with Trump. In particular this was a long game the Republicans began playing in 2009. They blocked nominees for the judiciary so there would be a ton of openings for them to fill as soon as a one of their guys got into office to nominate all the people that smoke their brand of kool-aid. Gorsuch was only the most blatantly high profile example of this. They did it all throughout the federal judiciary.

    I’d also bet Trump only personally cares about the judges near him because the rest aren’t going to hear cases he’s invovled in and these appointments aren’t the sort of attention grabbing thing he’s into. So the ones that can’t affect his bottom line? Quite possibly not even on his radar.

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