Friday, July 22, 2005

Is John Roberts too white and male?

In this Salon article "Not Another White Man!" Farhad Manjoo argues that Bush should have nominated a woman or minority candidate to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, to keep the Supreme Court from becoming too homogenous. I agree with his point that, sometimes, symbolism is important, and that it's disturbing when an "entire branch of federal government [is] ruled by a body composed of only one woman and just one member of a racial minority." However, he's being short-sighted here, and a little naive about the political climate. Bush is likely to have the chance to nominate another justice, quite possibly the Chief Justice. And, as Manjoo acknowledges, Bush has an excellent record of appointing women and minorities to high office. But Manjoo thinks that, for his first justice appointment, "diversity" should have been Bush's first priority. But this makes no sense. Bush's base has not been busily taking over the federal executive and legislative branches over the past decade so they can have more women and minorities on the court (although I don't think they object to that). They want a solid conservative like Scalia and Thomas. That's their reward, and that's clearly Bush's first priority.

And speaking of Thomas, I was annoyed when the first President Bush -- that's George H.W. -- nominated Clarence Thomas, a black man, to replace Thurgood Marshall, the coincidentally black Supreme Court justice. Particularly laughable was Bush Sr.'s assertion at the nomination announcement that Thomas was "the most qualified person in the country." Wow. Since Thurgood Marshall was made the first black Supreme Court justice, presidents had had a chance to nominate new justices nine times, without once nominating a black one. Yet, when the only black judge retired, the person at the top of this supposed List of People Most Qualified to Become Supreme Court Justice was...another black guy! Imagine the odds!

The problem I had with this was not with the intent to ensure that the Court continued to represent (sort of) the American population, but that the implication seemed to be, this is YOUR slot, black people. And you just get the one. What I'd like to see is serious consideration of all types of people -- minority, female, Jewish, whatever -- every time, not just when one of those "special spots" opens up.

So I have no problem with Bush choosing not to select a woman and send the message that "this is the chick judge slot." Assuming that the next time around he seriously considers candidates who are not white and male. And given his apparent love of Alberto Gonzales and desire to play to the Hispanic vote, there's a good chance he will.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?