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September 8, 2005
Roberts Too Successful For Post

Richard Cohen at the Washington Post writes a column that should embarrass him to have under his byline at some later date. He tries in a weak way to argue against the confirmation of Roberts by pointing out his many successes -- and then wishes that Bush had nominated someone with a demonstrated track record of incompetence instead. It takes failure, in Cohen's estimation, to really know the people:

I sometimes think the best thing that ever happened to me was, at the time, the worst: I flunked out of college. I did so for the usual reasons -- painfully bored with school and distracted by life itself -- and so I went to work for an insurance company while I plowed ahead at night school. From there I went into the Army, emerging with a storehouse of anecdotes. In retrospect, I learned more by failing than I ever would have by succeeding. I wish that John Roberts had a touch of my incompetence.

Instead, the nominee for chief justice of the United States punched every career ticket right on schedule. He was raised in affluence, educated in private schools, dispatched to Harvard and then to Harvard Law School. He clerked for a U.S. appellate judge (the storied Henry J. Friendly) and later for William H. Rehnquist, then an associate justice. Roberts worked in the Justice Department and then in the White House until moving on to Hogan & Hartson, one of Washington's most prestigious law firms; then he was principal deputy solicitor general, before moving to the bench, where he has served for only two years. His record is appallingly free of failure.

Which would present a more qualified candidate for the highest position in the judiciary -- a college dropout or someone who graduated from both Harvard and Harvard Law School with flying colors? As a college dropout myself, with much the same experience as Cohen (except for the military service), I can say unequivocally that I prefer someone with a track record of success. Unlike Cohen, the lesson I learned by dropping out was that it was a stupid thing to do, and I don't think that lesson broadened my perspective on humanity. As for cute anecdotes about military service I can say nothing, but if Cohen wanted to sit down with Roberts for a friendly conversation, I'm sure Roberts has his share of those as well, especially from his days in the Reagan administration.

Cohen tosses in, almost off-handedly, that Roberts lacks political experience, having spent his life arguing law and -- I'm not kidding -- having holidays off. Cohen wants someone, he says, who "worked the beach on Labor Day." Five years ago, the Left screamed about the Court mixing politics into its positions in Bush v. Gore. Now suddenly, having a politician sit on the court is not only okay with Cohen but downright desirable. If it turns out that Roberts had worked the beach on Labor Day stumping on behalf of the GOP, would Cohen find Roberts more or less attractive?

Finally, Cohen deduces that Roberts only thinks of the poor in theoretical terms and then tries to tie Roberts to a glib remark by Barbara Bush, of all people, in what has to be the biggest stretch yet of the Roberts debate:

Failure has its uses. Among other things, it can teach us about the human condition. It took a certain kind of cold arrogance to come up with the evacuation plan that New Orleans devised: Get everyone out of town. But what about those who could not get out of town? What about those with no cars or those already living on the streets? In other words, what about the very poor?

The poor? It's as if the idiots up and down the line never heard of them. It's as if no one at the top of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or at the White House knew they existed. Check that. They knew, but it was theoretical: Oh, they'll manage. The thinking was summed up in the sorry remark of Barbara Bush while she was visiting flood evacuees at a Houston relocation site. Since the refugees sent to Houston were poor to start with, she said, "this is working very well for them."

In fact, the person responsible for the response plan for New Orleans and its implementation didn't come from an out-of-touch, wealthy neighborhood but from a poor section of New Orleans. Ray Nagin has built a reputation as a man of the people, one who knows and understands their plight. Yet when he ordered the evacuation of New Orleans, he not only failed to execute his own response plan, but he never bothered to gather any resources at all to get the poor out of town. Neither, for that matter, did Governor Kathleen Blanco, who once taught high school. In fact, she and Nagin still continue to block aid from entering New Orleans for the people who have been left behind. Apparently, modest backgrounds don't guarantee compassion despite what Cohen argues.

It seems that politics and populism doesn't guarantee anyone the compassion that Cohen believes Roberts lacks, with absolutely no evidence to back up his claim. Cohen simply and desperately wants to find something to stop Roberts from his confirmation that he finally wants to claim that Bush's standards are too high. And at the end, Cohen won't even take responsibility for this argument by demanding that Roberts get defeated for his perfection in favor of someone who has a demonstrated record of incompetence. It's hard to discern any point at all in Cohen's rambling incoherence, other than to waste space by damning Roberts with high praise.

At least we know that Cohen would support Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco for the Supreme Court. They've certainly demonstrated the incompetence he so desires.

UPDATE: John Podhoretz feels this is an award-winning column in a great snark-shot at The Corner.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 8, 2005 5:16 AM

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» Roberts' Failure Is a Lack of Failure from DOUBLE TOOTHPICKS
Here's a criticism of Judge Roberts I didn't expect to see. Richard Cohen writes in today's Washington Post that Roberts hasn't failed enough to understand American life.... what he means is: I wish we had a reason to reject this guy... Captain's Qua... [Read More]

Tracked on September 8, 2005 7:18 AM

» All Of Liberalism In 95 Words from Hard Starboard
From looking at his picture on his byline, you would think that Richard Cohen was the result of a bizarre breeding experiment hybridizing the late Foster Brookes and one of the Keebler elves, with Les Nessman's fashion sense thrown in for a lark. ... [Read More]

Tracked on September 8, 2005 8:20 PM

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