Do We Need Elite Supremes?
The Reverend Frederick Poorbaugh sent me the following fine analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court and its current elite educational foundation. [NOTE: Commenter Mark G. reminds me below that this material appeared Oct. 11 on Hugh Hewitt's blog. Oops. I received it from Rev. Poorbaugh that same day, then lost the e-mail until today. As I posted the reverend's e-mail this morning, I thought it looked familiar. In any case, it's worth reading again.]
1. The Justices who served this year on the Supreme Court have highly elite educations.
The ten earned FIFTEEN degrees from Stanford, Harvard or Yale.
The highway to the SCOTUS goes through Stanford and Harvard. Rehnquist and O’Connor earned their undergraduate and law degrees from Stanford. Souter and Roberts earned both from Harvard. Kennedy and Breyer took a path that for elites constitutes diversity: Stanford, then Harvard. A secondary route goes through Catholic colleges to the elite law schools. Scalia (Georgetown/Harvard) and Thomas (Holy Cross/Yale) came up this way. The third way was geographically limited. Ginsburg stayed in New York State in the lower tier of the Ivy League (Cornell/Columbia). Stevens attended the best private schools in Illinois (Chicago/Northwestern).
Eight of the ten earned a total of fifteen degrees from Stanford, Harvard or Yale. The other two held degrees from very good private universities.
The ten Justices with their undergraduate and law degree universities:
Sandra Day O’Connor
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
John Paul Stevens
(The 15th degree: Rehnquist also earned a Master’s from Harvard.)
2. President Bush’s short list shows no such elitism.
These twelve hold TWO degrees from Stanford, Harvard or Yale.
Alito is elite (Princeton/Yale) and Wilkinson semi-elite (Yale/Virginia). The others hold degrees from good public (Virginia, Michigan) or private (Notre Dame, Baylor) universities, but also from some pretty obscure (Cal State Sacramento, Culver-Stockton College) institutions.
The twelve possible nominees with their undergraduate and law degree universities.
J. Harvey Wilkinson
Janice Rogers Brown
Cal State Sacramento
Washington and Lee
Univ. of Detroit
3. The President values quality jurisprudence over elite education.
President Bush earned degrees from Yale and Harvard. He knows the culture of the elite universities, and has decided that a Supreme Court Justice does not need it.
I believe he is acting wisely: not only from trusting his judgement, but because I happen to have earned degrees from Stanford (philosophy of law) and Yale (divinity). Both places are full of very smart people. Unfortunately, they have become so politically correct that they no longer offer liberal education in the classic sense. Worse, they foster an unspoken contempt for the great unwashed masses for whom they presume to speak. The President’s phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations” fits this culture of contempt. Their graduates can rationalize anything, but often lack common sense.
4. Compare Anthony Kennedy and Harriet Miers in intelligence, principle and courage.
Anthony Kennedy has degrees from Stanford and Harvard. He has intelligence, but he does not think clearly because he lacks principle: one day he is ready to reverse Roe v. Wade, the next day he is voting to establish abortion on firmer ground. His hazy worldview combines the guilty angst of a liberal Catholic with the lusting after legacy of an unprincipled politician. Hence, he lacks courage: instead of upholding the Constitution, he follows politically correct European opinions.
Compare Harriet Miers. Earning two degrees from SMU does not necessarily imply marginal intelligence. The top few percent of students at many universities may be equally smart; it’s the bottom 80% who differ vastly. Miers’ work record demonstrates the intelligence to function comparably to most of the Justices. (I would love to see a nominee like Scalia and Roberts - head and shoulders above the other Justices intellectually - who is also both an originalist and a conservative. I do not know of any since Robert Bork.) Miers should prove principled, because her evangelical worldview is firmly grounded in America’s Christian heritage. Will she have courage? My apprehension comes from having worked in the pro-life cause for decades without knowing anyone profoundly pro-life who has never said so publicly, but this apprehension applies equally to Roberts.
5. President Bush in nominating Miers raises the question: do we need elite Supremes?
He thinks not. He has a good case.
Like many others, I was looking forward to an in-your-face nomination followed by a hard fight and probable win in the Senate. When the President looked at the Senate and saw the Specter waiting in ambush, the Gang of Seven fragging Frist from behind, and the RINOs with their skirts over their heads (and those were his own troops!) he may seen too great a risk of a loss. President Bush appears to have chosen a strategy to win the War for the Court without fighting the Battle of the Senate. I hope his strategy succeeds. If it fails, it won’t be because we need elite Supremes.
Thanks, Fred. It is encouraging to find other conservatives who are willing to allow the president some leeway in exercising his Constitutional prerogatives.