The season finale of "Supreme Court: Donald Trump edition" was — if I'm being honest — a little anticlimactic.
Trump announced Tuesday night that he had selected Colorado appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia 11 months ago. In the run-up to Trump's prime-time announcement, which was carried live by every network, most of the reporting pointed to Gorsuch as the pick — with most people hedging their bets only because Trump is, well, Trump.
But, if Trump's pick for the court wound up being predictable and traditional, the path that led to the Gorsuch pick was anything but that. It was, in fact, pure Trump — a highly staged production from beginning to end with all the swerves and dramatic flair of the best of reality TV.
It all began with a tweet from Trump last week announcing that he would make his Supreme Court pick this Thursday night. Then, the swerve — via tweet, of course. The announcement was being moved up to Tuesday night!
I have made my decision on who I will nominate for The United States Supreme Court. It will be announced live on Tuesday at 8:00 P.M. (W.H.)
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017
The coverage of the expected announcement was everything that Trump could have dreamed of. Countdown clocks! Speculation! Breathless reports noted that both Gorsuch and Tom Hardiman, the other judge considered to be a finalist for the court slot, were headed to Washington — a sort of judicial "Cannonball Run." (According to NBC, only Gorsuch made it to D.C. so perhaps the better comparison would be "The Hunger Games.")
As 8 pm approached on the East Coast, Trump, like any good entertainer, stoked the fires.
Getting ready to deliver a VERY IMPORTANT DECISION! 8:00 P.M.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 1, 2017
In the East Room where Trump was set to make the announcement, a virtual who's who of Trumpworld (the Trump sons, Rudy Giuliani) and the Washington establishment (senators galore!) were gathered to witness the spectacle.
"We are going to see a pretty dramatic reveal," said CNN's Jim Acosta just before Trump entered the room.
Trump emerged just after 8, slowly walking up to the podium and basking in an extended standing ovation. He delivered a relatively brief speech, noting that he had conducted the "most transparent judicial selection process in history."
Trump also took time to acknowledge Maureen McCarthy Scalia, the widow of the late justice who, of course, was seated front and center.
Brilliant touch to invite Mrs Scalia
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 1, 2017
Then Trump got to the main event. He named Gorsuch, who emerged from the wings with his wife — again to sustained applause. (One hiccup for Trump: He botched the introduction of Gorsuch. "Neil Gorsuch of the United States Supreme Court, to be of the United States Supreme Court," Trump said. Er, what?)
Trump, clearly pleased with both his pick and the production, couldn't help but engage in a revealing bit of self-congratulation. "So was that a surprise?," Trump asked no one in particular. "Was it?"
The stage, the show, the surprise. That's what defines a Donald Trump production. Today's Supreme Court Survivor delivered on all those fronts.