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 Well, it appears that after being at the receiving end of a storm of ridicule, he has withdrawn his name from consideration.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.