Christian Science Monitor: "Snobbery" Allegations Should Be Sourced

With the exception of a few lines, this October 7 Christian Science Monitor story by Warren Richey about Harriet Miers could have been written by the White House. Its thesis is that prior judicial experience is not a reliable indicator of how well an individual will do as a justice if appointed and confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Among a number of reasonably thoughtful quotes from academics, however, this line stands out:

Snobbery is no small part of the debate over Miers, analysts say.

The "analysts" who said this are not identified, however, and the only support for a "snobbery" element to the debate is this line:

The fact that she attended Southern Methodist University rather than a top-tier law school like Harvard or Yale is seen by some as a mark against her.

"By some" does no better job of naming specific individuals than the term "analysts." Mr. Richey may simply be parroting the accusation being made by some White House supporters that criticism on the right is due more to "elitism" than concerns about philosophy, but if this is the case, the White House accusation should have been balanced with at least a brief acknowledgement of the right's defense of that particular charge. The article also contains a little howler that is one of the paragraphs this White House would never have written. In defense of the thesis that nominees who may seem unqualified turn out, in the verdict of history, to have been more than able to do the job of justice well, the article says:

"No one could possibly have thought in 1956 that William Brennan was on the top 100 list of people to become a justice of the Supreme Court," [University of Connecticut Political Science Professor David] Yalof says. "At the time of his appointment, William Brennan had been a little-known state supreme court judge in New Jersey for seven years. He was far and away not considered the most reputable justice on his own court," Yalof says. "Was he qualified?" Judge Brennan, appointed by President Eisenhower, went on to become one of the most influential justices of the 20th century.

"Influential," of course, says nothing about the quality of the work.