Crunch time is here, and Judge Thomas Hardiman is finding out who his friends are. Unless I’m very mistaken, he’s just found out who a prominent conservative opponent of his nomination is, too.
Last night, Jennifer Hansler wrote this ABC News story, headlined “Trump Supreme Court Adviser Praises Judge Neil Gorsuch as Potential Heir to Scalia’s Legacy,” featuring the following comments by Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo:
“He [Gorsuch] has very, very distinguished background,” Leo said. “He has probably 200 or so published opinions as an appeals clerk judge. They are extremely eloquently written, they’re incisive, understandable, clear, opinionated.”
The president values clarity and eloquence — qualities he admired in the late Justice Antonin Scalia — in his potential nominees, according to Leo.
“If you want to move the country’s jurisprudence in the right direction, you need people who are clear in their thinking and in their writing and who are going to be in the position to educate the broader legal community and the public at large about what’s at stake in these cases,” he said.
Among other traits Trump wants in a potential justice: someone who is “extraordinarily talented,” who is “going to be respected by all” and “who’s going to stick to his guns.”
Hardiman is nowhere mentioned. That alone is telling. But I read the substance of Leo’s comments, with their focus on eloquence and clarity and extraordinary talent, as a concerted effort to help Gorsuch’s prospects and hurt Hardiman’s [that is, to help Gorsuch’s prospects of being chosen over Hardiman].
If you thought Hardiman’s own long Federalist Society track record would keep its leaders at least neutral now, I’d say you were mistaken.
UPDATE: Two days after this post, on Saturday, Leo praised Hardiman to CNN:
“Tom Hardiman is an interesting mix of two worlds,” said Leonard Leo, an adviser to Trump on the Supreme Court search. “On the one hand he is very much in the mold of Justice Scalia, well-schooled on the doctrines of originalism and textualism, and he is very experienced. And yet, at the same time, Judge Hardiman hails from a family of relatively modest means, from an industrial working class city in Western Pennsylvania.”