I kind of feel bad for Judge Thomas Hardiman, who apparently got used by the President, and was paraded out to Washington D.C. (or at least made to look like he was) only so Trump could reveal to the public that he didn’t get the rose after all. In a rather unprecedented move, Trump reportedly summoned both Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman to the Capitol on Tuesday in anticipation of his Supreme Court announcement. A CNN crew even caught up with Judge Hardiman in Bedford, Pennsylvania as he stopped for gas “just hours” before the big announcement. “Are you the potential Supreme Court pick?” the producer yelled as Hardiman put his hands over the the camera.
To create even more suspense, the White House sent out two packets of briefing materials to Senators with biographical information about both Hardiman and Gorsuch. However, when Trump made his big announcement this evening, he didn’t have both men by his side. No rose. Instead, Trump gave a brief introduction and Neil Gorsuch made his way to the podium. What is particularly maddening about all of this is that Hardiman apparently was a pawn in Trump’s little media scheme to deflect coverage from the other scandals of the week. Either that or Trump was just flat out lying. Here’s why I say that.
I have made my decision on who I will nominate for The United States Supreme Court. It will be announced live on Tuesday at 8:00 P.M. (W.H.)
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
Trump sent out this tweet on Monday morning at 8:43 a.m. It clearly says, “I have made my decision on who I will nominate.” That seems pretty straightforward. The decision was made. So why make it look like you are sending for both men and create a situation where news crews are following them around? Why make such a spectacle? Well, there are two plausible explanations. 1) Trump really hadn’t made up his mind, and that tweet was a fib (otherwise known as a lie). He may have wanted to interview both one more time just to be sure. Or 2) He knew all along that it was Gorsuch but he just wanted to build intrigue and get all of the talking heads to opine about how both men are “strong conservatives.” My bet is on #2. Although, late Tuesday evening, CNN’s Jim Acosta reports that Hardiman actually knew what was going on and agreed to play along with Trump’s scheme to build suspense.That sounds hard to believe, but either way the good judge was used as a P.R. tool. The ploy didn’t go unnoticed by the pundits:
Wonder if Judge Hardiman gets a box of White House M&Ms and the Celebrity Apprentice home game for playing decoy on SCOTUS PRIMETIME?
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) February 1, 2017
The nice thing about this for Thomas Hardiman is that for finishing second by tradition he gets to be the suitor next season.
— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) February 1, 2017
Congratulations to Thomas Hardiman on winning a set of steak knives
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) February 1, 2017
It’s a shame that Hardiman, a respected federal judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit — and apparently highly recommended by Trump’s federal judge sister– had to be part of this circus. One report on CNN shortly after this announcement said that Hardiman had no idea that he wasn’t the pick until just before the announcement. Another report said he played along with it to fake out the media. I can’t imagine he would have willfully submitted to what happened but maybe he did. With that said, there are still several other spots on the Supreme Court that may open up very soon. So perhaps, he was hoping to play along for next time.
This post was updated at 10:29 to include information from CNN’s Jim Acosta who reported Hardiman was “playing” along with the ploy, so to speak.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.