Donald Trump promised to bring some pizzazz to the White House. And last night he delivered, unveiling his selection for a vacant Supreme Court seat on prime time TV after teasing the American public with a reality show style whittling down of candidates. His selection, the Oxford-educated Neil Gorsuch, is an established legal mind who will sit well with Republicans.
It was the sort of night Trump needed after a torrid weekend, when the bungled roll-out of an immigration overhaul energised his opponents and exposed divisions in the White House. As the new president arrived on a red carpet before Congressional Republican leaders, he reminded them exactly why he won the election, combining his populist instincts with a rock solid conservative choice for Supreme Court justice. Even Ted Cruz called the choice a ‘home run’.
Although Gorsuch was the red hot favourite, Trump had used skills honed from years of ‘The Apprentice’ to keep his audience in the dark. CNN reported that both Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman, a judge in Pennsylvania and Trump’s other contender, were travelling to Washington. As tension grew, the station tracked Hardiman to a petrol station where he was trying to fill his car. He declined to comment. With clocks counting down to 8pm breathless TV anchors discussed the ‘big reveal’, the culmination of a very public process that began with Trump’s first list of candidates in May last year.
The announcement had been scheduled for Thursday but was hurried forward by a couple of days, presumably to wrest focus away from protests against the administration’s treatment of refugees and travellers from Muslim countries. As a result, Trump dominated much of the day’s news even before he paced down the red carpet to announce his selection. He arrived alone, breaking with the tradition that the president arrives with his nominee.