Donald Trump wants to make America great again—or at the very least, make it entertaining. The US president, who first entered American living rooms via his reality TV show The Apprentice, is turning Supreme Court nominations into prime time television, upending the recent presidential tradition of somber daytime announcements for what is a supremely serious job.
On Monday (July 9), at 9 PM Eastern time, Trump is slated to announce his choice to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy on the nation’s highest court. Last year, in January, he also chose prime time to announce Neil Gorsuch for his pick to replace the deceased justice Antonin Scalia, deliberately building suspense throughout the day with deliberate misdirection. Right after his big reveal, he asked the audience assembled at the White House, “So, was that a surprise? Was it?”
According to Politico, Trump is “obsessed with keeping a tight lid” on his pick. He’s told aides that the Gorsuch announcement was one of the best moments of his presidency thus far, and reportedly has warned his associates against leaking his next Supreme Court pick to keep the people intrigued. “The president is smartly building up his Supreme Court nomination the same way Vince McMahon builds up WrestleMania,” Andy Surabian, a former White House adviser to Trump told Politico. “For President Trump’s supporters, this Supreme Court nomination is the main event.”
This approach is in stark contrast to Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. On March 16, 2016, Obama announced that he was nominating Merrick Garland to the court at an 11 AM press conference on the White House lawn. He named Elena Kagan at 7 AM on May 10, 2010. Sonia Sotomayor was also up early on the day she was named as Obama’s choice at 7 AM on May 26, 2009.
The tradition goes back even farther. Sunshine streamed through the White House windows when George W. Bush named John Roberts for Chief Justice on September 6, 2005. Bush junior also announced Samuel Alito’s nomination on October 31, 2005 at 8:30 AM.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg accepted her July 14, 1993 nomination by Bill Clinton outside the White House, also during the day. Likewise, Clarence Thomas stood beside George H.W. Bush in the sun outside the president’s Kennebunkport, Maine vacation home when he was nominated on July 1, 1991.
But perhaps it’s appropriate for Kennedy’s replacement to be named during prime time. Ronald Reagan, the movie star president, named Kennedy as his pick at a press conference that first aired on C-SPAN at 8 PM on November 11, 1987.