One week after President Trump won the election, some Washington residents protested against him on the Capitol grounds. One sign, illustrated with an outline of the District of Columbia, read, “Don’t Drain my Swamp.”
The federal capital's incestuous network of revolving-door cronies and entrenched bureaucrats have so protected and increased their own power in recent years that the five wealthiest counties in America are all within commuting distance of Capitol Hill.
These swamp creatures complain that Trump is bringing in too many outsiders. Beltway insiders consider it a crime that the president has nominated critics of agencies to head those very agencies — see Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency and Scott Garrett at the Export-Import Bank — when in truth, it's praiseworthy. Trump should wear those criticisms as a badge of honor.
But he seems in some areas to have confused the value of bringing in outsiders with a disregard for expertise. On more than one occasion, the president has hired or nominated people clearly unqualified for the job.
We’re not talking only about Trump’s "Apprentice" co-star Omarosa Manigault Newman, who was run out of the White House last week, but she is a fine example. She has a Ph.D., and is ordained as a minister, but how she was qualified for a top job in the Office of Public Liaison was never explained. She seemed to lack the relevant networks, personality traits, and experience to do the job well. She was blasted as having “absolutely no standing in the Black community, nor any institutional knowledge of Black Republicans or the Republican Party.”
Personal loyalty and name recognition are no substitute.
Of more consequence have been Trump’s nominees to lifetime appointments requiring Senate confirmation. Matthew Spencer Petersen, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, put on an embarrassing performance last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He admitted under Republican questioning to having no courtroom experience — as in, none — and to a glaring ignorance of common principles of legal doctrine.
This sort of nomination is damaging, first and most simply because the country needs qualified judges and administrators.
Second, filling a district court slot with a subpar conservative shrinks the high-caliber conservative bench for higher court openings in the future.
Third, it gives ammunition to the Left. Liberals assert speciously that any judge disapproved of by the left-leaning American Bar Association shouldn’t be confirmed. They even tried to say this year that devout Catholicism disqualifies a nominee. Putting up unqualified nominees makes it easier for the Left to confuse the friendly mainstream media that a good nominee is similarly not up to snuff.
Ideology or personal loyalty aren’t enough. The Trump administration needs to demand relevant experience and knowledge before hiring or nominating anyone. Until the administration starts maintaining such standards, it will be up to Republicans in the Senate to enforce them.