Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ed Gillespie: There was no woman quite like Samuel Alito

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On CNN yesterday, Bushie Ed Gillespie said this about the selection of Sam Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the SCOTUS:

I think that in the next round of the selection process, the person who emerged as clearly most qualified -- really head and shoulders above others -- was Samuel Alito, and there wasn't a woman who was of a comparable experience and skill and temperament and intellect.

The first round, of course, was the Harriet Miers round, which turned out to be a embarrassing disaster. But if Bush was all about merit, why not nominate Alito, supposedly some super-judge, in the first place? Because, as was abundantly clear, Bush wasn't looking for "the most qualified candidates," he was looking to reward a close friend who would protect him (if and when his abuses went up to the SCOTUS), qualifications be damned.

Alito was obviously a far more competent pick than Miers, but was there really no similarly qualified women? It is tempting to accuse Gillespie of sexism here -- sexism couched in the language of meritocracy -- but I suspect that he's actually quite right, at least in his own mind.

But let me explain: What Gillespie probably meant was that there was no suitably conservative (and, remember, Bush was, post-Miers, looking for a right-wing ideologue) woman with "comparable experience and skill and temperament and intellect" to Alito.

Was that really the case? Well, I don't know. And I'm not about to peruse the list of right-wing federal judges at this time. Maybe Alito really was "head and shoulders" above everyone else, men and women alike, maybe not. In the end, Alito was the right choice for the far right.

Just spare me the bullshit about merit. Given that Miers was nominated before Alito, merit had nothing to do with it, at least until some rationale had to be given for selecting Alito.

And, of course, lest we forget, merit had nothing much to do with anything in or about the Bush Administration, which was staffed to the rafters with unqualified, incompetent cronies.

As for what Obama should do, I'm generally opposed to selecting anyone for political office based on identity. (I generally find identity politics repellent.) I'd like him to pick a supremely qualified person, whatever that person's identity (sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.). And yet, given the diversity of America, it makes some sense that the highest court in the land should itself be somewhat diverse -- not a perfect mirror, but at least something other than nine aged white Christian men.

And, thankfully, in those terms (merit plus diversity), the pool of qualified candidates from which Obama is likely to draw is much, much deeper than the heavily straight white male Christian one from which Bush drew. There is genuine diversity among liberals and progressives, and it is a diversity that allows genuine merit to flourish.

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