The author of Obamacare is back in the news...or at least the opinion pages.

Fresh off of a short stint as former President Obama's Ambassador to China,  former Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) is now attempting to weigh in on judicial nominations.

"Why is it so important to have only the best federal judges?" Baucus asks in an op-ed for The Billings Gazette. Well, according to a career politician like Baucus, choosing the “best” judicial nominees “with the requisite judicial experience, temperament, intelligence and character,” is what we should expect from our President. I happen to agree with the senator. But Baucus' record of judicial nominees when he was in Washington is a far cry from the “best and brightest” strategy he so proudly trumpets.  

Reminiscing on the glory days—you know, back when he was in power as a 30-plus year resident of the DC swamp—Baucus touts one of his hand-picked federal judges for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — Sidney Thomas. While his op-ed had little by way of substance, it was abundantly clear what his piece was really about: attempting to "throw shade" on President Trump's nominee for the 9th Circuit- Lawrence VanDyke.

VanDyke recently made national headlines as the latest target of the American Bar Association’s attacks on Trump’s picks for the federal bench. This is the same liberal dark money group that participated in the shameful smear campaign against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, shortly after his nomination to the bench last year.

Alright, Senator...err- ambassador. You went there. So, if you want "only the best federal judges" maybe we should take a look at who’s best qualified.

Let's compare backgrounds.

Here's Lawrence VanDyke's background, according to National Review:

VanDyke graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He clerked for Judge Janice Rogers Brown on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit before launching his appellate career.  VanDyke has the distinction of having served as both the solicitor general of Montana and Nevada, where he oversaw every important case affecting those states. He has argued over 20 appeals in the federal circuit courts (most in the Ninth Circuit) and has been the counsel of record on 28 briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court. Lawrence VanDyke is one of the standout appellate litigators of his generation.

And this was Judge Sid Thomas' background prior to his appointment, according to The New York Times:

Legal intern, Judge W. W. Lessley, Montana State District Court, 18th Judicial District; private practice, Billings, Mont., 1978-1995; adjunct instructor of law, Rocky Mountain College, Billings, 1982-1995; appointed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by President Bill Clinton on July 19, 1995; confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 2, 1996.

So, if Senator Baucus says we need "only the best" judges. It certainly seems President Trump's nominee is much more qualified

It’s hard to argue with a straight face that Judge Thomas had the top-notch credentials when nominated that Baucus seems adamant our federal judges must have.  Undoubtedly, Judge Thomas has proven to be a competent jurist since joining the bench, even if we don’t always agree with him. But to suggest his resume when he was nominated shows more “judicial experience” or “intelligence” than VanDyke is simply astonishing.

Why did Judge Thomas really get the job? Likely because he went door to door campaigning for Max Baucus.

Look, based on every interaction I've had with Judge Sid Thomas he seems like a fine individual, so this is not a criticism of him. Frankly, if President Obama was still picking Supreme Court Justices, I think Montanans would have stood behind a fellow Montanan and Westerner like Sid Thomas over some East Coast or other Left Coast whacko. But for Baucus to use him as a measuring stick by which Lawrence VanDyke somehow falls short is simply ridiculous. VanDyke’s credentials are impeccable. 

So, if we want "only the best federal judges," in America, I think Montanans will size VanDyke up and see he’s exactly the type of person qualified to serve on the bench. 

Oh, and while we're at it. Here's a good reminder that we also need "only the best" ambassadors.




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