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Tipsheet

Analysis: President Trump Can Help Cement His Legacy on Day One With Excellent SCOTUS Pick

In case the spate of lefty protests across the country and the rollout of his official transition process weren't sufficient reminders, Donald Trump will actually be president starting in late January. To that end, Katie and I were asked yesterday about what conservatives might expect from him over the first 100 days of his term. A few answers came to mind, including the immediate cancellation of President Obama's worst executive order and regulatory excesses, across a wide array of policy areas. He should also serve notice to the Iranians that they should no longer expect servile capitulation at every turn, in the name of protecting a terribly flawed legacy-serving nuclear deal. Good luck telling this president what he can and cannot do:

The re-imposition of the Mexico City policy is also a common-sense move, to prevent US tax dollars from being used to promote or fund abortions abroad. And the first discussions about the mechanics of repealing and replacing Obamacare should get underway. There's a blueprint to follow for uprooting almost the entire failing law, but there needs to be a replacement passed in tandem, which Democrats could possibly derail with the legislative filibuster. In any case, most policy battles can be launched and waged over a span of months, and it bears repeating that Republicans would be foolish to squander a single day of united control of the federal government's elected branches.

But in truth, the earliest days of the Trump administration need to be about the installment of excellent people to serve in the administration.  Regardless of what one thinks of Trump, this is about the country now, which is why I'm concerned about reports that his transition team is struggling to recruit top-caliber talent to fill important national security roles.  Ferociously opposing his candidacy was everyone's right; I did so myself, particularly during the GOP primary.  But now that Donald Trump will be commander-in-chief and leader of the free world, he needs the best people around him, even if that's been a challenge for him in the past.  For the good of the nation, strong, seasoned people shouldn't rebuff invitations out of a personal distaste for Trump.  He's not a theoretical proposition anymore.  This is real.  And the duly-elected president deserves the best and brightest on his team.

First and foremost, however, Trump must fulfill his promise to replace the late, great Antonin Scalia with a Supreme Court nominee who will be faithful to his proper and faithful interpretation of the US constitution.  This action is crucially important in both the short and long term.  The value of a strong originalist on the bench over many years is self-evident.  The future of the federal judiciary was the number one reason to defeat Hillary Clinton in many conservatives' minds.  Indeed, among the cohort who listed the Supreme Court as the top factor in their vote, Trump won their votes by 15 points.  Much is at stake.  As President Trump seeks to assuage recalcitrant conservatives of their concerns about his ideological unpredictability, handing them a hugely important, reassuring win early on would generate a lot of trust and goodwill.  The list his campaign produced of potential candidates is quite strong overall. Yesterday on Twitter, I made the case for one of those names:

Beyond those important qualities, Lee is also a prominent 'Never Trump' figure.  If Trump selected him in spite of that 'strike' against him, that statesmanlike gesture would send a powerful signal that personal pettiness won't color big presidential decisions -- and that Trump is willing to elevate someone who isn't personally indebted or beholden to him.  Such a signal would probably help soothe many people on the Left, too, even as they loudly object to many of Lee's strong conservative views.  As an added bonus, the Senate tends to confirm members of 'the club' to appointments, and Lee's Senate seat is as safe as they come.  He'd be replaced by Utah's extremely conservative governor, perhaps with an exciting figure like Rep. Mia Love.  And God willing, Lee is young enough that he could help shape American jurisprudence for three or four decades.  

Senate Republicans, especially Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, deserve quite a lot of credit for withstanding immense pressure from Democrats and the media and holding fast on the 'Biden Rule.'  They prevented the lame duck president from replacing Scalia with a liberal justice, arguing that voters had a right to determine the direction of the country first.  The people spoke, and the guy promising to honor Scalia won.  It's rare that a president is presented with an immediate opportunity to cement a crucial element of his legacy on day one.  Trump has that chance.  If he seizes it, all conservatives of every stripe should stand and applaud.

UPDATE - I reiterated this point on Fox:

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