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Changing the Definitions of Merit to Suit Republican Policy Preferences


I generally respect Ramesh Ponnuru, but his assertion that Sotomayor is “Obama’s Miers” is just appalling stuff, and is a classic example of the double standards that Sotomayor is likely to be subjected to. The comparison is indefensible on its face; Sotomayor’s formal qualifications are as impressive as any justice in recent decades (and considerably more impressive than those of conservative idols Thomas and Rehnquist, let alone Miers, who had virtually none of the experience generally expected of contemporary Supreme Court nominees.) We can argue about whether these qualifications are good ones, but to claim that Sotomayor is comparable to Miers is absurd.

So what is Ponnuru’s justification? He first cites Sotomayor’s utterly banal in context argument about circuit courts making policy, which doesn’t exactly compare with what Miers’s almost complete ignorance of federal constitutional law. The second point is (of course) Rosen’s poorly substantiated smear job, which should of course be given very little weight. The fourth talks about her reversal rate; he doesn’t say what he considers “high”, but as a more liberal justice in the era of a conservative Supreme Court this means very little. The third point — about Obama having a “litmus test” on Roe v. Wade is the silliest of all, not only because it would logically apply to any Obama nominee but because conservatives rebelled against Miers precisely because of she didn’t have a demonstrable record of consistency with various conservative litmus tests.

Ponnuru, like other conservatives, is welcome to disagree substantively with Obama’s pick (and, indeed, they should.) But the comparison to Miers is not merely transparently silly but offensive. And we’re going to see worse.

…Another example from Amanda Terkel here; the idea that Sotomayor lacks sufficient “qualifications” is about as close to explicit racism as you can get without crossing the line.

…in comments, Matt notes that Ponnuru’s unsubstantiated claim about reversal rates is not merely useless but also wrong.

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