Entrance exams

Matthew Spencer Petersen was one of President Trump’s nominees for district court judge. At a confirmation hearing of the Senate Judicial Committee, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) questioned him about his experience trying cases in court. The exchange went viral. Here is part of it:

KENNEDY: Mr. Petersen, have you ever tried a jury trial? I have not. Civil?: No. Criminal? No. Bench? No. State or federal court? I have not. Have you ever argued a motion in state court? I have not. Have you ever argued a motion in federal court? No. I have not. Civil? No. Criminal? No. Bench? No. State or federal court? I have not. Have you ever taken a deposition? Less than five. By yourself. No.

It got worse as Senator Kennedy asked Mr. Petersen legal questions about matters a district court judge would need to know to function with the least bit of competency in that capacity. His answers led Senator Kennedy to later observe: “Seeing “Cousin Vinny” doesn’t qualify somebody to serve as a Federal judge.

Jack Cafferty once asked:: “What if you had to pass a competency test in order to run for president? You know, prove to the voters that you have some sort of a clue?” What would it have been like if candidate Donald Trump had had to submit to a similar line of public questioning about his competence to be president, even from a fair minded Republican Senator?

After his self-induced humiliation, Matthew Spencer Petersen withdrew. Under similar circumstances, Trump would have claimed the hearings were rigged…and his supporters would have agreed. Scamming investors, banks, customers and employees to acquire billions and acting on “The Apprentice” don’t qualify someone to be president. Or does it?

The list of professions and trades that require licensure or certification for a person to do the job is endless. Author Thom Rutlege once raised the question: “Shouldn’t we require candidates for high political office to pass some basic exam to demonstrate a working knowledge of relevant national and world history and current events as well as a basic understanding of U.S. government, constitutional law and economics?” He wasn’t suggesting a hard test, “just something to help reassure us citizens that our Congressman, Senators and President do know something about the actual content of the jobs for which they are applying.”

Of course, it’s never going to happen. It’s so much easier to complain about the swamp.

Tim Mannello


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