Over at New Majority, David Frum complains :
“What Obama did not do: pick the most learned or intelligent or wisest lawyer available to him.
>What he did do: pick the justice he deemed most likely to secure him a demographic constituency in 2008.”
I’ll reserve judgement on Sotomayor until I’ve actually, you know, read her decisions. When I do, I don’t think I’ll like them very much. But it’s absurd to suggest that presidents can be expected to select the “most learned or intelligent or wisest” lawyers available to them. Usually, they pick nominees who will win them some political advantage—and not infrequently, personal sycophants.
There, of course, some real “merit” picks. Chief Justice Roberts was among them. But seriously: Roger Taney, Hugo Black, Harriet Miers? As James suggest below, it’s no good pretending that the Supreme Court isn’t a deeply political institution. I’ll add: that’s nothing new, and certainly predates the Warren Court.