Trump Unhinged: Senseless Attacks on Sitting Judges Do Not a President Make

 

Trump-CurielIt seems in some sense pointless to say anything more against Donald Trump’s venomous personal attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who has the unenviable task of presiding over a law suit that calls into question the moral probity, intellectual rigor, and economic soundness of Trump University. Ironically, for all his talk about Curiel as “hater,” he has yet to ask Curiel to recuse himself from the case, knowing full well that a vicious personal assault is better than a groundless legal motion.

Before Trump began his ugly tirade against Judge Curiel, I was prepared to have an open mind about the merits of a law suit about which I knew, and continue to know, absolutely nothing. But now that Trump has decided to double-down on these scurrilous attacks, the easiest thing to do is to presume that a man who can so badly misbehave in public matters is likely to engage in the same dubious practices in his private business dealings. If Trump thinks that he has found a new way to run a presidential campaign, it speaks poorly to his own personal integrity and political judgment. His behavior against Curiel is the kind of onslaught that makes him unfit to govern. The entire episode is a nonstop travesty and should be condemned as such.

The situation is only worse because Trump, it appears, has decided to double-down on his offensive strategy in the face of huge amounts of criticism from all sides of the political spectrum, including key leaders in the Republican Party who have had to eat more than a modest amount of humble pie in order to remain loyal to the party. But his coarse speech that treats the merits of this case as self-evident shows that he has become a caricature of himself, willing to engage in the worst form of pyrotechnics in support of a vain and inglorious cause. He has become unhinged and perhaps delusional.

His sins on this matter go beyond monumentally bad taste for several reasons. The first is that there is absolutely nothing in Curiel’s background that merits this kind of harsh rebuke. Curiel has had extensive experience in private practice and government service. He was both a state and a federal court judge. The one item on his résumé that attracts immediate notice was that in his role as prosecutor, he was first Deputy Chief (1996-1999) and Chief (1999-2002) of the Narcotics Enforcement Division. This position was no sinecure, for as the Wikipedia account of his life notes, “Curiel prosecuted the Arellano Felix cartel in Tijuana, Mexico, and was targeted for assassination by the drug cartel.” It is nothing short of a disgrace to tar any person who took after Mexican cartels as unfit for office because of the “inherent conflict” of being Mexican. If anything, his willingness to stand up to a Mexican cartel is a strong point in his favor.

The institutional implications in this case, however, go far beyond the particulars of this dispute, for if Trump’s warped views on judicial behavior are accepted, it becomes impossible to run a decent system of justice. Trump of course regards himself as a figure above reproach. It would never occur to the ruffian that his own biases do not rest on any inherent, i.e., unavoidable, conflict of interest, but on the openly mean-spirited way in which he speaks of other people. Does he really think that he is fit to appoint people to serve on the federal bench or indeed in any office? Do white people have conflicts so that they cannot deal with litigation in which Mexicans or African Americans or Muslims take place?

Speaking generally, it is an exceedingly important feature of a successful legal system that everyone understands that there are places where identity politics are welcome, and places in which they are utterly alien to the spirit of a particular institution. Donald Trump, as a private citizen, could decide to invite only nativists to his own Fourth of July party. Other groups could decide to celebrate Cinco De Mayo in honor of Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Others can celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, which this year fell on May 12, 2016. But all those forms of deep personal identification play no role in judicial decision-making.

Even though it is probably impossible for any one of us to put aside our own personal allegiances, as public servants we darn well have to try, because each of us in his or her public role owes it to all citizens to do the best that we can to keep these preferences in check. There is every reason to think that Judge Curiel has honorably hewed to this tradition of adjudication — and all too much public evidence to show that Donald Trump has done everything in his power to tear it down. We cannot run a country in which everyone gets a judge of his own race, gender or political persuasion. Anyone who says the opposite is working nonstop to tear down the fabric of American public institutions. We need desperately to preserve our social capital.

So, what should be done? Right now, the Republican Party should take it upon itself to ask whether it can nominate any candidate that shows such terrible judgment and bigotry in dealing with public matters. If the answer to that question is no, as it may well be, then they should turn themselves as one person against him, by refusing to honor his primary victories. It is better to run an open convention after removing this cancer before it spreads. The gruesome alternative is that, if he becomes President, there is all too great a chance that his impetuous temperament will lead him to perform public acts that will indeed count as high crimes and misdemeanors, worthy of impeachment. In this campaign, if Trump survives, look closely at his vice presidential pick, for sooner than you think that person could well become President after a Trump victory. So, Donald Trump — even you can learn to back off a fight that you cannot, should not, and must not win.

There are 240 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @WBob

    It raises the interesting legal question: if you don’t like a judge hearing your case, can you just insult him publically to the point where he would eventually be ethically required to recuse himself?

    • #1
  2. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Is Judge Curiel a wise Latino?  And if he so considers himself, should he not have a place on the Supreme Court?

    • #2
  3. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    Richard Epstein: The gruesome alternative is that, if he becomes President, there is all too great a chance that his impetuous temperament will lead him to perform public acts that will indeed count as high crimes and misdemeanors, worthy of impeachment. In this campaign, if Trump survives, look closely at his vice presidential pick, for sooner than you think that person could well become President after a Trump victory. So, Donald Trump — even you can learn to back off a fight that you cannot, should not, and must not win.

    A sizeable number of Trump supporters on here (including reluctant supporters) argue that impeachment is more likely for Trump than Clinton.  For reasons I cannot fully articulate, this seems to be an argument for voting for Trump in their mind.

    • #3
  4. livingthehighlife Inactive
    livingthehighlife
    @livingthehighlife

    Basil Fawlty:Is Judge Curiel a wise Latino? And if he so considers himself, should he not have a place on the Supreme Court?

    Only if he identified as a wise Latina.

    • #4
  5. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Richard Epstein: So, Donald Trump — even you can learn to back off a fight that you cannot, should not, and must not win.

    What he does or does not do here could be a true determinant.

    • #5
  6. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Prof. Epstein’s indignation is righteous, indeed.  Hear, hear!

    • #6
  7. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Sotomayor tells us that her Latina ethnicity will influence her judicial opinions. Crickets.  Trump tells us that a Latino judge’s ethnicity may do the same.  Outrage.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Richard, every time he does this sort of thing, and especially right now when he is doubling and tripling down with obsessive concentration, I keep thinking something has to change. I don’t think the party has the guts to change the nominee. We’re stuck.

    • #8
  9. blood thirsty neocon Inactive
    blood thirsty neocon
    @bloodthirstyneocon

    Yawn. Are we still talking about this non-issue?

    • #9
  10. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    but, but, but….Hillary!

    • #10
  11. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Basil Fawlty:Is Judge Curiel a wise Latino? And if he so considers himself, should he not have a place on the Supreme Court?

    What is he propose of a comment like this other than to bring more heat than light?

    • #11
  12. BD Member
    BD
    @

    Conceding the obvious, that DT is an erratic cheeseball, shouldn’t all Republican politicians pledge that they will not vote to confirm any judge in La Raza, or a La Raza affiliated organization?

    • #12
  13. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    The sad fact, Prof Epstein, is that a large number of his supporters (reluctant or otherwise) think his behavior here is laudable and way past due.

    Its disgusting, but this is what white identity politics gives us.

    Well done, Republicans, hope it was worth it.

    • #13
  14. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Jamie Lockett:

    Basil Fawlty:Is Judge Curiel a wise Latino? And if he so considers himself, should he not have a place on the Supreme Court?

    What is he propose of a comment like this other than to bring more heat than light?

    To put a dagger into the heart of the sophistry and mock outrage.

    • #14
  15. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Guruforhire:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Basil Fawlty:Is Judge Curiel a wise Latino? And if he so considers himself, should he not have a place on the Supreme Court?

    What is he propose of a comment like this other than to bring more heat than light?

    To put a dagger into the heart of the sophistry and mock outrage.

    If you don’t understand why what Trump did is outrageous then you are part of the problem.

    • #15
  16. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    This supports my original contenion,  first expressed last fall, that mr Trump is a deliberate destroyer.   For a year he has been on the fringes. And now that he has sewn up the nomination, he is proceeding to destroy the Republican party.  It will only get worse.

    Friends, we must drop him now.  He is our destroyer, our Godzilla, our Stay-Puffed Marshmallows Man.  We don’t need a third party to split the vote; we must end him.

    No delegate should honor zis obligation to vote for Trump

    • #16
  17. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Jamie Lockett:The sad fact, Prof Epstein, is that a large number of his supporters (reluctant or otherwise) think his behavior here is laudable and way past due.

    Its disgusting, but this is what white identity politics gives us.

    Well done, Republicans, hope it was worth it.

    Gee, Jamie, I thought you had sworn off accusations of racism.

    • #17
  18. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Basil Fawlty:Sotomayor tells us that her Latina ethnicity will influence her judicial opinions. Crickets. Trump tells us that a Latino judge’s ethnicity may do the same. Outrage.

    There was so much outrage about Sotomayor’s  comment that it is amazing that you would suggest there wasn’t. Were you in a coma during that episode?

    Besides, the two cases are completely different. Sotomayor made her comments in speeches that were not directed at any one person or any one case. This is different. This is Trump engaging in intimidation of a sitting federal judge so as to improve his chances of winning his own case.

    I don’t like Sotomayor or her comments. I thought she was wrong to make them and I would have voted against her because of it if I were in the Senate, unless she explained them satisfactorily. I would vote against Trump for president if he cannot take back what he has said.

    • #18
  19. Ned Vaughn Inactive
    Ned Vaughn
    @NedVaughn

    Richard Epstein: His behavior against Curiel is the kind of onslaught that makes him unfit to govern. The entire episode is a nonstop travesty and should be condemned as such.

    His behavior against Judge Curiel is one of limitless examples that demonstrate he is unfit to govern.

    Trump’s campaign is a nonstop travesty and should be condemned as such. But his limber defenders stand ready to twist into the contortions needed to pretend their “strong” man is the genius he ceaselessly claims to be.

    • #19
  20. A-Squared Inactive
    A-Squared
    @ASquared

    Doctor Robert: This supports my original contenion, first expressed last fall, that mr Trump is a deliberate destroyer. For a year he has been on the fringes. And now that he has sewn up the nomination, he is proceeding to destroy the Republican party. It will only get worse.

    You say this like destroying the Republican Party is something Trump supporters oppose.

    • #20
  21. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Man With the Axe:

    Basil Fawlty:Sotomayor tells us that her Latina ethnicity will influence her judicial opinions. Crickets. Trump tells us that a Latino judge’s ethnicity may do the same. Outrage.

    There was so much outrage about Sotomayor’s comment that it is amazing that you would suggest there wasn’t. Were you in a coma during that episode?

    Besides, the two cases are completely different. Sotomayor made her comments in speeches that were not directed at any one person or any one case. This is different. This is Trump engaging in intimidation of a sitting federal judge so as to improve his chances of winning his own case.

    I don’t like Sotomayor or her comments. I thought she was wrong to make them and I would have voted against her because of it if I were in the Senate, unless she explained them satisfactorily. I would vote against Trump for president if he cannot take back what he has said.

    And the result of the outrage was to place her on the Supreme Court.  Some outrage.

    • #21
  22. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Doctor Robert: No delegate should honor zis obligation to vote for Trump

    Is that a typo, or do you live in New York?

    • #22
  23. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Professor Epstein, you, of course, are correct. I look forward to your discussion of this either on law talk or in your The Libertarian Podcast with Troy. What I am seeing in just the very few posts that have shown up is exactly what I expect. Trump supporters are simply unable to see reality. I really believe that the backlash against the last seven years of Obama has made them so angry that they want nothing but revenge, and Trump is the only person who is capable of exacting that revenge in their eyes. It isn’t about returning greatness to America, it is about punishing the left and it adherents. We are living in a very sick society, and Trump is a major symptom.

    • #23
  24. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Evidently a thousand Professor Epsteins can denounce Trump and all his works and not a Trump supporter will be moved.

    There is nothing, nothing Trump can do or say that they cannot spin to be something that “it’s about time somebody said (or did) that.” Denouncing a federal judge as racially biased is just one of those things. It’s about time somebody made it clear that Mexicans have no place deciding cases about white people who have previously denounced Mexicans.

    • #24
  25. BD Member
    BD
    @

    Ricochet commenters:  We are all La Raza now.

    • #25
  26. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    Guruforhire:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Basil Fawlty:Is Judge Curiel a wise Latino? And if he so considers himself, should he not have a place on the Supreme Court?

    What is he propose of a comment like this other than to bring more heat than light?

    To put a dagger into the heart of the sophistry and mock outrage.

    I think you credit Trump with a great deal more intelligence than he has ever demonstrated.

    • #26
  27. Tom Riehl Inactive
    Tom Riehl
    @TrinityWaters

    Ricochet unhinged.  It’s always the same.  The leftist viewpoint, no matter who it is expressed by is to yell RACISM whenever there is no argument.  It’s interesting to actually listen to what Trump said, get some background material, actually know something about the case before launching into yet another boring anti-Trump extravaganza.

    (Hillary and her goons would probably just kill the judge.)

    • #27
  28. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Randy Webster:

    Doctor Robert: No delegate should honor zis obligation to vote for Trump

    Is that a typo, or do you live in New York?

    Queens.

    • #28
  29. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Trump continues to be an embarrassment. It will only get worse.

    • #29
  30. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Basil Fawlty:

    Randy Webster:

    Doctor Robert: No delegate should honor zis obligation to vote for Trump

    Is that a typo, or do you live in New York?

    Queens.

    I wouldn’t want to see you get fined $250k for improper pronoun usage.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.