In 1984, [Supreme Court nominee John] Roberts twice wielded his wit to stop other White House staff members from writing letters for Mr. Reagan lauding Michael Jackson for charitable work.
"I recognize that I am something of a vox clamans in terris in this area, but enough is enough," he wrote in a memorandum in June 1984, using the approximate Latin for "voice crying in the wilderness." He added, "The Office of Presidential Correspondence is not yet an adjunct of Michael Jackson's P.R. firm."
Three months later, Mr. Roberts was batting away a new request. "I hate to sound like one of Mr. Jackson's records, constantly repeating the same refrain, but I recommend that we not approve this letter." He noted that a press report said that some young fans were turning from Mr. Jackson "in favor of a newcomer who goes by the name 'Prince.' "
Mr. Roberts asked, "Will he receive a presidential letter?"
1983 was pre-"Purple Rain," the time of "Little Red Corvette," "1999," "Delerious," and "Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)" ("Some people tell me I got great legs/Can't figure out why u make me beg"). Meanwhile, Jackson was at the peak of "Thriller" idolatry. Recognizing back in 1983 that Prince would overtake Michael Jackson — that's nicely prescient.
Nowadays, it's so obvious, Chris Rock gets a huge laugh saying:
"Remember back in the day when we all would argue who's better, Michael Jackson or Prince? Well, Prince won!"
Someday, maybe we'll be saying, remember back in the day when we all argued whether John Roberts would be as good as Sandra Day O'Connor? Well, Roberts won.