Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., in a letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal blasted the paper’s editorial board for dismissing concerns about Thomas Farr, a judicial nominee with a track record of support for voter suppression schemes:
“I am saddened that in the editorial ‘Democrats and Racial Division’ (Dec. 1) you attempt to deflect the concerns regarding Thomas Farr’s nomination to the federal bench. While you are right that his nomination should be seen through a wider lens, the solution isn’t simply to decry ‘racial attacks.’”
(As an aside, it is quite a statement about an editorial page that has become more akin to Fox News apologists than a defender of conservative principles.)
Scott makes a key point that should go well beyond Farr or judicial nominees: "(W)e should stop bringing candidates with questionable track records on race before the full Senate for a vote."
That raises a broader question: Why is the Senate bringing and confirming candidates with questionable track records - on race or otherwise - to a vote on the floor?
Consider the people brought to the floor and confirmed: Judges rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association; an oil executive, Rex Tillerson, with no government experience as secretary of state; a lawyer, Alex Acosta, whose supervision of DOJ's civil rights division was roundly criticized and who participated in the atrociously lenient plea deal for serial child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein; Ben Carson, a man utterly lacking in government experience of housing expertise, as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; former congressman Tom Price for HHS despite his record of trading "shares worth more than $300,000 in about 40 health-related companies" while sitting on the House Ways and Means Committee and "working on measures that could affect his investments" (according to USA Today) ; Steven Mnuchin, who had no government experience and had failed to disclose $100 million in assets, as treasury secretary; Wilbur Ross, who also lacked government experience and had been (according to CNN) "forced to pay fines to the government several times, including as recently as August of 2016 to the SEC for failing to disclose fees his firm was charging. In 2013 ... (and had) sat on the board of a company that agreed to pay over $2 billion in a settlement over its handling of subprime loans"; Scott Pruitt, who repeatedly had sued the EPA and collaborated secretly with private industry to defeat federal regulations; and a hodgepodge of unqualified cronies for ambassadorships (a sin other administrations have been guilty of as well).
Now, when Trump nominates Heather Nauert for ambassador to the United Nations - a woman who was until a year ago a Fox News personality and as a spokesperson had zero experience in diplomacy - we can expect that once more the Republican-controlled Senate will issue its stamp of approval.
We shouldn't be surprised that the least qualified president in history - with a history of bankruptcies, refusal to pay his bills and schemes like Trump University - should select unqualified and ethically challenged advisers and/or keep on those whose ethical misdeeds and incompetence become apparent once in office. However, we cannot blame Trump alone for lousy appointments and staffing the government with unfit characters. The Constitution provides a check on the president's ability to put shady characters in position of power. It's the current Republican Party that rejects that role and decides its job description is to enable his worst instincts.
The GOP would do well to heed Scott’s advice not only with regard to judges and not only with respect to race. It shouldn’t be so hard to reject unqualified nominees and those whose records suggest they’ll be poster boys for corruption in government. Moreover, if they started dinging just a few of the lousy nominees the White House would get the message and be compelled to find more qualified people. They’d do themselves a favor (diminishing the perception they are invertebrates) as well as Trump if they started saying “no” once in a while.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.