If you were to categorize Supreme Court nominees according to the reason presidents chose them, the slot for "Presidential Pal'' would quickly flood over -- while the category "Distinguished Constitutional Scholar'' would be significantly less populated than "Sop to Special Interests.''The problem, he asserts, is that the last 20 years have been a "new era of excellence":
The Supreme Court, in other words, has seldom been a showcase of intellectual distinction. To judge by her background and public writings, the choice of Miers appears in line with the court's most hallowed traditions.
What accounts for this new era of excellence? One possibility is that we really have created the meritocracy that successful baby boomers are always telling us about (it explains why they're so successful!).So what does this mean? The renowned scholar is the real hack, and the President's friend is a decent, valid, time-honored choice?
Another, more plausible explanation is the increasing importance of ideology.
The court having arrogated to itself the final say in many political and cultural matters, a president will want to be sure of a nominee's views. And intellectually engaged professors like Scalia and Ginsburg will have firmer and more predictable positions than professional networkers like Blackmun and Stevens.
(Aside: I note that the President did not pick his personal accountant to head the Federal Reserve.)