EDITORIAL: Donald Trump would be wise to tone down his attacks on the federal judiciary


While it’s certainly fair to debate the wisdom of the White House’s temporary travel ban covering seven Muslim-majority countries — and its ham-fisted execution — one thing is clear: Donald Trump’s rhetoric in attacking the federal judge who enjoined enforcement of the order was unfortunate and misguided.

Last Friday in Seattle, U.S. District Judge James Robart temporarily blocked President Trump’s executive order affecting immigration and refugees across the nation. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday heard the administration’s appeal of the decision and on Thursday refused to reinstate the president’s order. The issue now heads to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a tweet the morning after Judge Robart’s decision, Mr. Trump referred to him as a “so-called judge,” and wrote that his decision was “ridiculous and will be overturned!”

Nobody has ever accused the new president of an over reliance on decorum. But the episode highlights once again that Mr. Trump needs to work on his humility and self-restraint.

Democrats pounced, arguing that the president’s tweets showed disrespect for the separate but equal branch of the government. The Senate’s leading Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said Mr. Trump’s rhetoric “shows a disdain for an independent judiciary that doesn’t always bend to his wishes,” as well as “a continued lack of respect for the Constitution.”

OK. But, as usual, Sen. Schumer’s outrage seems rather selective.

First, the fact that a judge put the brakes on the president’s executive order indicates that the progressive mewling about the nation rapidly descending into fascism under Mr. Trump is more theatrics than reality.

Second, let’s flash back to President Barack Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address. With several U.S. Supreme Court justices in attendance, Mr. Obama publicly chastised the court for upholding the First Amendment in a controversial campaign finance case that didn’t go his way.

Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed the words “not true” during the president’s remarks, while Sen. Schumer stood up behind the seated justices and clapped vigorously in support. The fallout from the incident lasted for quite some time.

Mr. Obama was wrong to publicly call out the high court in such a manner. Mr. Trump’s tweets about the Robart ruling were similarly ill-conceived. There’s nothing wrong with criticizing a court decision, but name-calling can compromise even the most concrete of arguments. Mr. Trump’s penchant for personal attacks is counterproductive to his administration and agenda in the long run.