Can We Trust Donald Trump to Replace Scalia?

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump seemed out of his league when Hugh Hewitt asked the question that Hewitt said was keeping him up at nights: “Churches, Catholic and Christian colleges, Catholic adoption agencies — all sorts of religious institutions fear that Hobby Lobby, if it’s repealed, it was a five-four decision, they’re going to have to bend their knee and provide morning-after pills. They fear that if Bob Jones is expanded, they will lose their tax exemption.”

Let me pause a moment in my gratitude to Hugh that the question was raised to quibble a bit about this framing. The Little Sisters of the Poor don’t want to dispense contraceptives, but they also do not want to dispense chemical abortion pills. Mandatory participation in abortion in every employer health plan and in every health care institution: that is what is at stake in the next Supreme Court.

But a deeper issue emerges: to make our case to the American people, we have to get beyond “institutions” — as important as they are — and name the face of the victims who are being stripped of their livelihoods, and in some cases their pensions — by our own government — for the crime of being unwilling participate, directly or indirectly in a gay wedding. (This is what John Kasich demeans and disparages as being ‘unwilling to bake a cupcake’, but more on that in another post.)

David French has a great piece on Kelvin Cochran, the black son of a poor single mother who rose to become Atlanta’s fire chief, a truly great American story. Cochran was fired for the new thoughtcrime of writing for his Bible study group an 80-page book that contains one paragraph truthfully naming homosexual acts as one of the sins of the flesh the Bible warns us against.

I wish that when Kasich had demeaned the cupcake makers one of the candidates or Hugh Hewitt had stepped in to defend Barronelle Stutzman or Melissa Klein by name and asked whether Kasich is going to side with the government punishing them, or with liberty and, yes, tolerance for all. I would like to see Kasich have to admit his view is: Yes, they have to lose their livelihood if they don’t want to bake a gay wedding cake. Yes, the government was right to confiscate Barronelle Stutzman’s pension for the crime of not wanting to make a gay couples’ wedding bouquet. I would ask John Kasich: Is standing with Kelvin Cochran’s persecutors really standing up for the American Dream?

Fighting through the left wing frame (endlessly repeated by Kasich) is going to require commitment, communication, talent, and, above all, relentless focus on the face of the victim — on the actual damage government is doing by punishing real people.

But I digress.

Here’s the fight between Trump and Ted Cruz on whether we can trust Trump to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who will respect our rights:

Trump virtually admitted he can’t be trusted to appoint another Scalia:

I do have to say something, and this is interesting and it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s not Ted’s fault. Justice Roberts was strongly recommended and pushed by Ted. Justice Roberts gave us Obamacare. Might as well be called Roberts-care. Two times of the Supreme Court, Justice Roberts approved something that he should have never raised his hand to approve. And we ended up with Obamacare. That is a rough thing. And I know Ted feels badly about it. . . .Now, with that being said, these are the things that happen.

You appoint a judge; these things happen. Trump is giving himself ample room to appoint a Sandoval or a Souter to the Supreme Court. Or a Ted Olson.

Cruz pushed back:

It’s interesting now that Donald promises that he will appoint justices who — who will defend religious liberty, but this is a man who, for 40 years, has given money to Jimmy Carter, to Joe Biden, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer, to Harry Reid.

Nobody who supports far-left liberal Democrats who are fighting for judicial activists can possibly care about having principled constitutionalists on the court.

And what Donald has told us is he will go to Washington and cut a deal. . . he’s going to look to cut a deal, rather than fight for someone who won’t cut a deal on the Constitution, but will defend it faithfully.

Here’s where Trump got weird. Hewitt asked Trump if he can be trusted on religious liberty. This time, Trump just punted and decided now was the time to defend his sister.

Hewitt interrupted to ask Trump if he would make a deal as Cruz charged rather than stand for religious liberty. Trump ignored it and defended his sister some more, suggesting Cruz apologize for criticizing his sister’s judicial record.

Cruz finished strong:

Let me tell you right now, Donald, I will not apologize for a minute for defending the Constitution. I will not apologize for defending the Bill of Rights. And I find it amazing that your answer to Hugh and to the American people is, on religious liberty, you can’t have one of the these crazy zealots that actually believes in it. You’ve got to be willing to cut a deal.

And you know, there is a reason why, when Harry Reid was asked, of all the people on this stage, who does he want the most, who does he like the most, Harry Reid said Donald — Donald Trump.

Why? Because Donald has supported him in the past, and he knows he can cut a deal with him.

I have no idea if this kind of exchange is going to hurt Trump or help Cruz. I just think it has the advantage of being true: Donald Trump is quite likely to cut a deal with the Democrats and nominate a moderate Republican who supports gay marriage and shares Kasich’s views on religious liberty.

Last night, Trump said as much. Let’s hope the voters of Texas heard it loud and clear.

Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.