Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Supreme Joke

It is now an oft-repeated maxim that elections have consequences. And so we arrive at the point where our newly elected President is entitled (indeed, obligated) to nominate someone to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. It is a momentous occasion and a sobering responsibility. Supreme Court Justices have life tenure and their un-appealable decisions become the supreme law of the land, binding on all Americans for years (or even for generations) to come.

Can there be another job which so obviously demands that it be filled people who are truly the best and the brightest that our nation can offer?

Instead, it looks like we're going to get Sonia Sotomayor, whose primary qualifications for the job appear to be her ethnicity, her sex, and her mainstream liberal views. Given all of President Obama's soaring rhetoric about a post-racial America, I would have hoped that we might actually move this nation forward to Martin Luther King's vision of judging people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. But apparently such hopes are naive.

The more we learn about Judge Sotomayor, the more obvious it becomes that she represents at once both the best and the worst that our "progressive" affirmative action society has to offer.

Judge Sotomayor freely admits that she gained admission to both Princeton University and the Yale Law School with standardized test scores that were well below average, and she credits affirmative action policies in giving her the opportunity to receive a world-class Ivy League education.

I think most of us would agree that excellent students from disadvantaged backgrounds (of any ethnic heritage) deserve extra consideration in college admissions as they pursue the best educational opportunities.

Unfortunately for Judge Sotomayor, and for the 300 million Americans that will soon be subject to her judicial whims, both she and those Ivy League institutions failed to take proper advantage of that golden opportunity. Although Sotomayor was "successful" at both Princeton and Yale (i.e., she got her degree), it is clear to those who have read her speeches or her judicial opinions that she did not receive at either school an education that most folks would recognize as "Ivy League." Her writing is filled with mistakes. Poor grammar. Improper word choices. Incorrect spelling of names. It is sloppy, and it is wholly unoriginal.

The question we as a nation have to ask ourselves is: When does affirmative action end?

So young Sonia Sotomayor is admitted as an affirmative action applicant to Princeton. That's great. Good for her. While at Princeton is she held to the standards of Princeton? Or is she only expected to perform to some lower "Princeton light" standard because she's a Latina? Do her professors at Princeton push her to bring her performance up to the standards expected of the rest of the student body? Or do they fail her by giving her really good grades for poor writing? Do they actually harm her by indulging in what President Bush called the soft bigotry of low expectations?

Is it really too much to ask that students receiving a degree summa cum laude from Princeton be able to write, not just passably, but well?

And after four years of summa cum laude work at one of the finest universities in America, if not the world, young Sonia Sotomayor scores below average yet again on standardized tests but is admitted to Yale Law School by virtue of affirmative action. Is that what affirmative action is all about? To make sure that top students from Princeton can get into Yale Law School? It seems to me that if you've spent four years on a full scholarship at Princeton you shouldn't be considered disadvantaged any longer. You ought to be able to compete on your own merits, not on your skin color.

While at Yale Sotomayor was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and was also managing editor of the student-run Yale Studies in World Public Order publication. Yet nobody at that prestigious institution ever taught her how to write well, judging by what she produces today.

Is it an indictment of affirmative action generally that a bright young woman can attend two of our most lauded educational institutions and emerge from them without being able to write? Or is it just Princeton and Yale that should be ashamed of the disservice they did to Sonia Sotomayor?

Having obtained the requisite Ivy League qualifications by virtue of affirmative action (and her own hard work, of course) Sotomayor now awaits confirmation to the highest Court in the land. But when the members of the U.S. Senate consider her nomination, will they judge her by the standards for the Court which have been set over the previous two centuries? Or will Judge Sotomayor again be held to some lesser, "Justice-light" standard because she's a minority and a woman? When does affirmative action end? Will she ever be held to the same standards as her non-Latina, non-female peers? Or will she, even at this moment, be treated with understanding and indulgence by a Senate that will view her race and sex as the equivalent of disabilities requiring special consideration?

Or will the U.S. Senate wake up, and realize that this is actually a pretty important moment, that their duties should be undertaken with utmost seriousness? Will the Senate realize that the American people deserve a Supreme Court Justice who is put there by virtue of demonstrating a superior legal intellect and who is considered an outstanding writer? Maybe that is expecting too much.

As I noted above, Sonia Sotomayor embodies the best and the worst of affirmative action. At its best, affirmative action takes exceptional young people from disadvantaged circumstances and gives them a little help as they start out on the path to success. Getting good minority students from disadvantaged backgrounds into excellent colleges is laudable.

At its worst, "affirmative action" gives minorities and other "underrepresented" individuals an undeserved competitive advantage even when those persons are a long, long way from their disadvantaged beginnings. Putting a graduate of Princeton and Yale on the Supreme Court because they are a Latina, when their body of work over a career as a Federal judge clearly demonstrates that they are not up to the standards of that institution is a travesty.


Anonymous said...

It's ridiculous, I am REALLY scared of where America is going with our leadership. Bush kept us safe, created more jobs than the past few decades! Yet, people hated him b/c he couldn't speak well. I'd rather good ideas than a good speaker... I guess we have a good speaker and look where it's taking us! I'm scared...

Anonymous said...
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Jack said...

This is the first time I've heard about this view. As you put it.."A Supreme Joke" summarizes the INFOS that I've never heard from any one else.. Maybe Bloggers can be better than 98% of the 'journalists'. Maybe 'Domer' implies someone who actually can think, & earned a degree at Notre Dame..

wsmitheGH said...

Only time will tell. At least we have the '09 season as a guarentee! Go ND!!

wsmitheGH said...
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