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July 22, 2005
Returning From Obscurity To Issue Inanities

Since the announcement of John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court, some pundits have grumbled about the fact that a white male has replaced the nation's first female justice. Of course, pundits get paid to grumble. Unfortunately, we have some sailing in from the waters of obscurity to claim another 15 minutes of fame -- and none less welcome to a Supreme Court confirmation process than the woman who attempted to scuttle one fourteen years ago. Anita Hill writes about her disappointment that George Bush didn't limit his search to minorities and women:

As Peter Canellos of the Boston Globe wrote, Roberts' career reads like "a 1950s Boys' Life primer on how to prepare for the Supreme Court."

But was John Roberts chosen because he's the best choice for the court or because he may easily be confirmed? And why not choose a woman to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court? Or use this as an opportunity to nominate the first Latino to the court?

Not surprisingly, the answer to these questions has to do with the politics of confirmability. One thing is certain: If nominees are selected based on the very narrow and elite credentials that brought us John Roberts, a wide range of equally qualified, more diverse candidates will never even be considered.

Let's recall that this woman did her level best to torpedo the confirmation of the second African-American nominated to the court and tarnished his reputation for all time, based on allegations that went back ten years and on which she had never previously acted. Nor do I recall her causing a stink about the nominations of David Souter before, or Stephen Breyer after, that of Clarence Thomas. It seems her commitment to diversity has much in common with her commitment to consistency.

However, let's take her complaints at face value and not as the cloaked attack on a conservative jurist (and administration) that it is. What does she find objectionable about John Roberts' background?

* Graduated from Harvard, both as an undergrad and as a law student

* Ran the Harvard Law Review as managing editor

* Ran the appellate practice of a DC law firm

* Clerked for a Supreme Court justice (the Chief Justice, in fact)

What do all of these point towards? For most of us, a sterling reputation and a great background for a Supreme Court justice. For Anita Hill, all it says to her is how exclusionary Bush's standards must be:

Had these "extraordinary" credentials set the standard for judicial nominations in 1982, Sandra Day O'Connor would never have been appointed. She never clerked. She never worked for a president. She never served as a federal judge.

Ideology notwithstanding, even Circuit Judge Edith Clement, whose name surfaced as the front-runner prior to Bush's official announcement, would not survive this standard, despite the fact that she has more judicial experience than Roberts. The first Latino U.S. attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, was also rumored to be a potential nominee. But like O'Connor's, his resume is missing a clerkship and his judicial experience was state, not federal.

If one takes Hill at her word (and takes her seriously), then the above qualifications do not benefit the United States but serves to damage us by ensuring a "return to an all-white-male Supreme Court". She actually argues that the President should have picked someone with fewer qualifications, ensuring that the next pick could meet lower standards. High standards, she tells us, encourages racism and sexism.

I'm not kidding. I wish I were.

Amazingly, she then goes on to scold Bush using "confirmability politics" in selecting Roberts for the position. The term irony does not begin to cover her nerve in arguing this point. Thanks in part to Hill and her unsubstantiated smear job on Thomas, all we have watched for the past five years is the Democrats playing hardball politics in keeping the Senate from voting on Bush's nominees. Instead of focusing on the traditional issues of qualifications and experience, now we have Senators and their supporters looking for dirt to dig up on every executive nominee, especially for the judiciary. What used to be a civil and informative process of introducing judicial nominees to the American public has turned into a gauntlet of smears and gotchas.

We can thank Hill for that, along with Ted Kennedy and others starting from the Bork nomination. And she has the chutzpah to complain about this administration attempting to avoid it with a nominee carrying such sterling qualifications that the nomination rises above politics?

I have one question for Hill, before she returns to the well-deserved obscurity she earned: Where was this column when Janice Rogers Brown got pilloried by Senate Democrats for four years? Priscilla Owen? Miguel Estrada?

Adios, Anita, and don't rush back.

UPDATE: David Souter came before Clarence Thomas. (h/t: CQ reader Bill)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 22, 2005 12:00 PM

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» Out of the Past from Penguin Proletariat
Captain Ed comments on an Anita Where Are They Now? Hill column in which she, of course, decries the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court. Capn Ed says: Lets recall that this woman did her level best to torpedo the confirmation of the... [Read More]

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